Thursday, October 22, 2009

November Conference Workshops - Social Network Analysis

Today I would like to highlight two exciting events that will be happening at the November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. Both of them will be on Friday November 20th and will discuss how you can use your social network to your advantage.

The Friday lunchtime keynote will be presented by Valdis Krebs and Jean Russell. Valdis is an expert on social network analysis and mapping and Jean helps companies and non-profits with weaving and thriveability. What does this mean exactly? Well, Valdis and Jean are concerned with how companies and non-profits can use their networks to their best potential. We all have networks - our work networks, school networks, family networks, etc. Some of them overlap, some of them don't. But sometimes people act as if they have blinders on and don't see who in their various networks might help them reach their fullest potential.

There are many tools you can use to help reach your fullest potential in social networking. Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, Blogspot and Twitter are all tools that I have used online to reach out to people who I know from my hometown, college, and who I have met in the working world. But many people do not use these connections to their full advantage. This is what Valdis and Jean want to help you do in their keynote and in their workshop, which will be Friday afternoon. As they say, sometimes we shut out people from our network when they could have ideas or connections that could help you out. For example, when a non-profit applies for a grant offered by a corporation, it often helps to have someone in that corporation that you know be an advocate for your grant. In fact, many grants will have you list volunteers and board members, both current and former, who work at that corporation. But in order to utilize that tool, you have to work your social network.

A great personal example of working social connections is how my boyfriend Nick and I fundraised for the marathon. We started out by listing everybody we knew who might donate and making spreadsheets indicating when a person was contacted for a donation, how they were contacted (online or by mail), whether they donated, and whether we wrote them a thank you note. We started out with immediate family, close family friends, and our close circle of friends. This resulted in $830.20 in donations by early September.

Then, when funding was starting to dry up in early September, we delved deeper into our social networks. Nick took donation letters to work and e-mailed co-workers about helping Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. 8 of his co-workers donated totaling $430 in donations. I then asked my mom and dad for their connections. My dad sent me the addresses of friends and former co-workers who he thought might donate. 3 of my dads former co-workers donated totaling $103.60. My mom then sent me the addresses of childhood friends parents and teachers, which resulted in $339.40.

We also made a push on facebook, twitter, gchat, and general e-mails about the need for funding for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. Our high school and college friends came through in a pinch! Three friends I met through the Northwestern Public Interest Program Fellowship hosted a party for Cabrini Connections which resulted in raising $232! Friends told their parents about donating and before we knew it we had raised a total of $2,783.20 before the Chicago marathon.

Moral of the story is - you don't know who in your social network might be able to help you out - either with their own talent, ideas or funding, or with connecting you to people THEY know with talent, ideas or funding. I learned this lesson in fundraising the marathon, but I know I will want to attend Valdis and Jean's workshop on Friday afternoon, the 20th. See you there

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