I had the great pleasure of having coffee/lunch with a friend today, someone who I have not seen since last fall when the campaign we worked on together came to a triumphant close. Since that was my first major campaign (a very intense 10-month $1.25m with no pre-existing donor base to speak of), I considered B one of my teachers/mentors. It was wonderful catching up with her, hearing about her professional experiences in the last 12 months, sharing my incredible experiences in the last 12 months, discussing the latest trends in our field, and who has moved to where and when (you know, the usual stuff development people talk about when they get together).
We also talked about the importance of networks, mentoring relationships, and community. It dawned on me that I’ve written quite a bit about the importance of building and maintaining relationships between organizations and constituents, but I haven’t written much about the importance of building and maintaining relationships within the professional community.
What does my professional community mean to me? It means that I have friends who do the same type of work I do, face the same type of challenges, experience the same type of joy, and have the same desires to see their organizations thrive and missions be fulfilled. It means I can always find someone to ask for advice or ideas, and if no one in my current network can answer a question, usually three or four people will put me in touch with people who can (and the network expands). This goes the other way, too, which is joyous to me. Just in the last month, I have shared things such as tote bag and sign manufacturing companies, a PR opportunity to tie with someone’s end-of-year letter campaign, working through an event ticket snafu, and even connecting friends with job opportunities or a recruiter.
And isn’t it great to know that even when you just need to vent about your CRM database crashing or a phone call you received from an angry donor… that you have community who will listen and understand, and pour you that third glass of wine?