How to Be a Connector

Last year, I read an article called Forget Networking. How to Be a Connector. Since then, I have developed and offered a class on just that. It’s been a popular class – surprisingly so – and I’ve learned a lot through teaching it. For instance:

  • People have a hard time realizing their existing network.
  • There’s genuine interest in developing stronger connections with people, but fear of going about it the ‘wrong’ way.
  • It’s a tough sell on why you’d want to go out of your way to connect two people with each other, because people want to unveil the hidden agenda.

I’ve also fine-tuned my definition of a Connector. I didn’t previously parse out what exactly makes me a Connector, nor did I think about why it is an asset that I can leverage in my career or otherwise. Here’s how I define it:

Connector is a person who…

  • has lots of great people in their network
  • naturally introduces members of their network to one another
  • is socially fluent
  • is known and respected in their communities

…and who uses that power to bring individuals in their network together constructively and with overall success.

I’m proud to have connected people over ideas, shared interests, collaborative potential, accountability, research, and resources. I enjoy connecting good people, and am fortunate to have (or to create) many opportunities for doing so. It’s a science, an art, and an energizing delight. Most exciting to me is that connecting people unleashes unlimited potential. It’s amazing to see what partnerships, conversation, and social change are sparked through catalytic connection.

I challenge grants managers to use the power of connecting to advance the goals of your organization. Think of this as a deeper, more sincere form of networking. Here are three active steps you can take NOW:

1.     Figure out who you know. It’s more than you think; your local coffee guy, friends’ parents, panelist from a recently attended event, twitter followers, and book club members are all people in your network. Who else? Figure out who your contacts are, organize them, and make a goal to connect with 10 of them in the next month about anything.

2.     Think about what’s needed. Do you, your organization, or a close contact need something that would benefit from people-power? Cull your network and see who you might be able to introduce (politely! and without commitment!) to one another to get the job done.

3.     Offer something to others. The best way to build strong connections is if you bring something to the table. Volunteer for a friend’s cause; tip the coffee guy; share a colleagues published journal article on your social media networks; provide professional services to a family member who could benefit. Do it sincerely and without expectation of something in return.

Happy Connecting!

This blog post was repurposed from content originally appearing on jenbokoff.com.

Jen Bokoff

Jen Bokoff is the director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center. She develops partnerships and projects that build knowledge and strategy in the social sector, with an eye specifically on grantmakers. In other words, she goes to sleep thinking about how brilliant curation of qualitative and quantitative data can drive smarter decisions in philanthropy. She also runs GrantCraft, a free service that taps the practical wisdom of funders to improve the collective knowledge of the philanthropy field. In her role, Jen regularly speaks at conferences and facilitates workshops with funders, and connects people to resources, ideas, and one another. Connect with Jen on Twitter: @jenbo1