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Charity Schmoozing…


Are you a schmoozer?  Do you use schmoozing to work a room full of potential donors or partners or just when attending an even or conference?  According to an article I saw recently, schmoozing is a vital networking skill and is not in fact a load of old cobblers!  The art of schmoozing is defined as:

“To converse informally, to chat, or to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favour, business, or connections.”
For most of us involved in communications, fundraising or general management, this seems like an important skill to have.  However, schmoozing has a bit of a reputation for not being appropriate in the third sector, even though certain aspects make a lot of sense.

Ever keen to learn from the best of both the commercial and other sectors, I’ve suggested a few thoughts as to what might constitute acceptable schmoozing when networking in the third sector…

  • Don’t gatecrash conversations – look for introductions if you can get them or if you can’t take a moment to gauge the ebbs and flows in a conversation before interjecting.
  • Ask questions which enable people to talk about themselves or their organisations; most people’s favourite, or at least most comfortable, subject.  If you are good, ask your questions in a context that relates to your cause or organisation so you can then respond to their answer by linking it to what you do or need.
  • Tell a story of a beneficiary rather than your organisation or yourself.  We always talk about the importance of real-life impacts so use them here.
  • Take along a picture or two to show what you do.  Showing the impact you have on people’s lives can be a really useful prop during a conversation.
  • Don’t insult anyone’s intelligence – if you’re fundraising, be open about it and respect their response.
  • Don’t use third sector jargon! (why is this so prevalent?!?)  Talk as if you are talking to your mum, in human and layman’s terms.
  • Relax!  It’s OK to accept a glass of wine from someone without panicking about propriety (a two week holiday in the Bahamas is different, of course).  People will want to schmooze you too so just be polite and go with the flow.
  • Don’t hog anyone’s time – most people will be polite but don’t monopolise their attentions.
  • Be gracious and flattering in a subtle way – a real skill this one.  I’m not talking about telling a potential high value donor they’re gorgeous; more paying attention to what they say and telling them if you think an idea is a good one and why.
  • Reciprocate tone of voice, body language and style of the conversation if you can.  Sub-consciously it makes people feel more comfortable, particularly when meeting others for the first time.

What do you think?  What’s worked for you?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 30/10/2010 1:08 pm

    Great post Kevin.

    I completely agree that schmoozing is an essential lifestyle for anyone who works with people or values networks and connections. Great relationships start with networking.

    You make some fabulous points to help us all be more successful at it. These subtle techniques are important to learn and take work. But once mastered some great relationships can follow.

    Honestly I try to give myself one objective before a networking event. Such as: for the next hour I’m going to listen more or observe body language or ask questions about them. Or the best: be genuinely curious about the people I talk too.

    It takes practice but can be well worth it.


  2. 03/11/2010 11:13 pm

    Hi Kev

    Some really good tips there and it’s an important skill for fundraisers to have – especially major donor and community fundraisers.

    I think another key thing to say is that most people really struggle with this and can really fear being put in a room of strangers (I know I did for a long time) and the only way to get over it is to practice and get on with doing it.

    I’ve just finished a book called ‘Never Eat Alone’ by Keith Ferrazzi and it was surprisingly good and had some fantastic tips about building relationships, making small talk and things to avoid, such as looking all round the room for someone else when you’re talking to them (a pet hate of mine!)



    p.s. UK Amazon link is:

    • Kevin Baughen permalink*
      04/11/2010 9:53 am

      Great tip, thanks Craig. I really must try to read ‘business books’ more often but somehow they never hold the same appeal as a great novel!

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