I recently had a conversation with a nonprofit leader in the community who was struggling with the balance of sustainability. She is a natural connector but feels drained with all her energy going out and the return on her efforts feel to her to be a demand for more of her ability to connect.
Connecting/networking is a great concept, whether you are in fund development or sales. The premise is connecting with others and through mutual support the tide rises for all involved. The reality is, not everyone has a reciprocal mode of operation which can create a very draining dynamic.
For those in the nonprofit world mutuality isn’t usually the mission of the organization, service is. Subsequently, it can be challenging to break out of the service frame of mind and culture when networking, and focus on mutual benefit and sustainability. Challenging perhaps, but necessary, absolutely, as here is the thing, self-sustaining behavior is within the world of service as you have, especially in nonprofits, a limited amount of time and resources.
I’m not saying you interact only with those you know will connect, donate and/or support you and your organization in some way. I am saying there is a point of reasonability when you become aware of if the person is a “gardener” looking to support themselves as well as others, or a “flower” looking out only for their own benefit and growing their own immediate sphere.
As a leader, nonprofit or otherwise, you need to self sustain in regards to your own energy, mental health, physical health, etc. in order to support, serve and grow your organization. This requires the ability to factor in the best use of your time and resources. By all means network and connect, reach out to people whom you feel can be of mutual benefit to a relationship. But always be cognizant of where the point of reasonability rest as it is the line between fruitful and frustrating.