Networking for young nonprofit professionals—getting out of your comfort zone and getting out there

July 31, 2017

Emily Barnes, Communications Manager, M&C

Emily has always had a passion for strategic thinking and creative communication. Prior to joining M&C, Emily pursued a career in nonprofit event planning, fundraising and communications, and most recently worked at a local agency on marketing, copywriting and business development. She loves to help clients develop effective messaging and increase their marketing impact. Emily has spoken at and facilitated workshops with local and national audiences on branding, marketing and social media. 

She currently serves as the Director of Educational Relations on the board of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and as a board member on Friends of the River – Kansas City. She also enjoys volunteering with Community LINC, ArtsKC and NKC Now. 

Emily graduated from the University of Kansas with a BS in Journalism: Strategic Communication and a BA in Spanish. 


Get over your fear of networking rejection and put yourself out there. Depersonalize the situation and remind yourself that it’s just business. If someone doesn’t call you back, maybe they’re just having a busy week. Try again (but don’t be a pest, either). Be open to connecting with anyone and everyone. You never know when and how people will come back into your life, and by putting yourself out there you will create opportunities to connect with future bosses, colleagues, collaborators and friends.

Maintain your relationships proactively. Don’t just call your mentor when you need a reference. Ask him to grab coffee, call to let her know you reached a new career milestone or send a message asking for advice on a new project. By keeping the lines of communication open, you won’t be a stranger when it’s time to ask for help or you have an urgent request.

Make young professional stakeholders feel valued and give them different ways to engage (for nonprofit organizations). Just because they’re not sponsoring luncheons doesn’t mean their contributions are less valuable. Young professionals are your future (and sometimes current) donors, board members and volunteers. Acknowledge them often, privately and publicly, and give them different ways to engage according to their skills and passions, as well as your organizational goals and objectives.

Encourage good boundaries and provide flexibility to your young professional employees. The millennial generation has really championed these workplace ideals, but they’re something we should all strive for. Setting realistic expectations, providing sufficient support and giving your employees freedom in how and when they work will set them up for success and boost morale in ways that few other incentives can.

Be kind. People will always remember others who treated them with kindness in the workplace (and outside of it), and you’ll build your reputation as someone with integrity who’s enjoyable to work with.