At school I was regularly in trouble for talking in class.
So it’s no surprise to me that, as an adult, I have always thrived on connecting with people – talking to them, hearing their stories and experiences, and (of course) sharing mine.
Networking events have always been something I have been drawn to, and in 2021, in the depths of the big Victorian COVID lockdown, I attended an online networking event for women in business, hosted by the wonderful Emma McQueen.
I came away from this event feeling really energised and enthused, but it struck me that I wasn’t seeing opportunities like this for not-for-profits to still connect and share and learn from each other amid the restrictions of lockdown. I am sure there must have been some around…but I figured if I wasn’t seeing them, plenty of others wouldn’t be either…
So I took it upon myself to create one! And in early September of that year, I piloted my Networking Lunches for Not-for-profit Leaders. These lunches were intended for people who sat on (or reported to) not-for-profit Boards or Management Committees, to have an opportunity to come together to discuss pertinent topics, to share their challenges, and to learn from each other’s experiences and the solutions they had found to their issues along the way.
The term ‘Zoom Doom’ had only just recently emerged at that time, so I wasn’t sure whether people would be interested in spending yet another hour in front of their computers talking to people, but clearly I had struck a chord as the interest in my initial pilot session far exceeded my expectations.
The success of the pilot inspired me to organise more of these online lunches, as I was clearly meeting a need for people to connect at a time when real-life meet-ups were not an option. And even after the lockdown ended, people were still keen, so these lunches have now become a regular monthly event in my calendar.
Initially, it was mainly my own personal not-for-profit contacts that attended, so participants were very much centred around Victoria. I remember being very excited when I had my first interstate attendee join us!
Since then, word has spread, and a number of organisations are sharing news of my networking lunches with their own audiences – big shout outs to Scott Lockie and The Australian Charity Guide, and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR).
Plus, doing more work online myself these days, my own not-for-profit contacts have grown to be much more broad, reaching all over Australia now.
So as a result, we are now seeing attendees zoom in from every state and territory across the country – we even had our first international attendees join us last month!
Using break out rooms and small-group discussions – sometimes it feels a bit like speed-dating for not-for-profits – attendees are able to have a much more in-depth discussion with just a couple of other people, and then we have a far richer collection of ideas to share, when we come back to the bigger group.
It is a simple model but people love it! I follow up with everyone after the sessions, and the feedback has been fantastic – check some of it out here if you are curious to know more.
These lunches are free to attend – I do them pro bono to create value for a sector I love.
But I also do them because I just love to hear people’s unique stories about the amazing work they are doing across our wonderful country to make the world a better place.
And it’s a great networking opportunity for me too!
Who would have thought that the characteristics that made me an unruly school pupil would have led me to providing such a fun and valuable to service to my community.
If this sort of event sounds like something you might enjoy too, then do get in touch with me on email@example.com or 0421 525 048 to book yourself in for the next one!