It’s Always About Relationships
Being a student and practitioner of the nonprofit world, at times, I feel like I am on the international space station. I am constantly working with staff, boards, administration and volunteers, along with internal and external stakeholders of nonprofit entities. I feel that my knowledge is an inch wide and a mile deep. While I am an expert in my field, it is very important to visit other fields from time to time to get a perspective on the entire business world of which we are a part.
In the last month and a half, I have either listened to or participated in several webinars relating to current issues facing all of us. Until recently, I was exclusively engaged with several nonprofit leaders, discussing important issues. It was not until recently when I was invited to participate in a virtual forum hosted by Affinitates that I felt engaged on a broader perspective.
The concept of Affinitates is to connect community leaders in every arena possible, to share information, ideas, mutual problems and concepts with each other. Talking to a nonprofit professional about an issue is one thing. Talking to many business, government and other sector leaders about different issues is critically important.
I met Jerry Knoop, president of Affinitates, several years ago. His early career was in IT, and he found himself translating communications between the user and technical communities. He always wanted to help others be understood. His roles evolved over time to working with a variety of community executives and business leaders. He wanted more people to engage and have meaningful discussions on a deeper level. His philosophy was that it is more about relationships and less about transactions. It is about who you are, as opposed to what you do. He was on a mission to link executives in different fields together for mutual benefit.
Through his leadership in the past three years, the Affinitates community in Central Indiana has grown to nearly 1,000 participants engaging 11 to 14 leaders at a time in intimate groups, having different participants each time. There have been 80 Affinitates events and more than 100 videos produced to provide positive exposure to others. For business and community leaders valuing relationships, Affinitates offers a vehicle for engaging with clients, prospects and supporters at a deeper level that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
We are all concerned with the current state of nonprofits and larger issues in the broader community, such as public health, the economy and when everything will get back to “normal.” I was recently asked by Jerry to join a group to participate in an Affinitiates virtual forum. The purpose of the forum was to virtually meet executives in a variety of sectors, share mutual ideas on selected topics and see if further engagement with specific individuals was possible. One key question for this group was, “How do you currently deal with all the challenges facing your organization?”
There were 12 participants in this forum. These individuals represented the areas of private consulting, investment banking, nonprofit leadership, marketing and communications, government, publishing and general business. Everyone had an impressive resume and could have easily led this forum. Yet, everyone listened and participated with thoughtful exchanges.
The Affinitates forum lasted 90 minutes. Following this forum, each participant was asked to complete a survey. The highlights of the forum were shown as video clips on LinkedIn. I received emails from each participant after the event and when allowed, several of us plan to meet for one-on-one meetings. Jerry did a great job as moderator and kept everyone engaged in discussions.
The Affinitates experience proved to me that it is always about relationships that are authentic. People in a variety of areas want and need to have conversations with those outside their subject matter area. I loved to learn what executives outside of the nonprofit arena thought about the direction and timing of charitable giving moving forward, for example.
Everyone agreed the economy and stock market will need time to rebound before the nonprofit sector ramps up accordingly. The Affinitates experience allowed me to meet others that have passion, energy and deep thoughts about issues that affect all of us. The typical Affinitates experience is not virtual. It includes luncheons, special events and other ways to meet in a relaxed setting.
I am fortunate in my geographical area that I have a progressive community of executives that want to meet, engage and learn from each other. As I expand my horizons beyond knowing nonprofit peers, I get a greater appreciation for the bigger picture. All of us solicit corporations, foundations, associations, organizations and individuals.
We need to know leadership at these entities in order to build friendships, have empathy for others and improve ways to seek and engage partnerships. I thank Jerry Knoop for his leadership of Affinitates, which provided a channel for me to accomplish this goal.
If you do not have this concept in your area, you might contact Jerry through me to learn more about how to build this relationship building program in your area — the right way!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.