Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

Don’t Write Your Phone Number On The Bathroom Stall

June 23rd, 2014 by Karen Climer
Fort Lauderdale beach office

The view from my temporary office. Part of attending a convention is meeting new people. It’s not about amassing a business card collection.

I’m writing this blog post from my Fort Lauderdale Beach office.  I’m down here to give a presentation at Planet Philanthropy, which is the statewide AFP conference. Last night at the opening reception, I was talking with a few other people. I noticed three business cards on the table that had the name of the development manager of a cultural organization.  As I looked around, I noticed they were on every table.  One person mentioned that they saw this person placing her business cards on the tables.  Maybe she hoped that the person she needed to meet would pick up her card and call her.  This is like writing your phone number on the bathroom stall in hopes of finding a hot date.  Someone might call you, but it’s not going to be a good thing.

There is a group of grant writers that meets monthly in Orlando to network and learn from one another.  At most meetings, we go around the room and introduce ourselves.  One month, someone said, “I’m Jane Doe.  I’m a new grant writer, so if everyone can pass me their business cards, that would be great.  I might need to call you.”  Seriously?  You want to call me for help, but it’s too much trouble to walk up to me, shake my hand, and introduce yourself in person?

There must be people who collect business cards.  Maybe they even trade them like baseball cards.  (I’ll trade you one major gift officer and one development manager card for your planned giving officer card.)  I don’t know much about this hobby.  But if it were your hobby, I suppose it would be helpful to find random cards lying on a table or to have a dozen cards passed to you from everyone at the meeting.  But this is collecting.  Don’t confuse this with networking.

When I go to a networking event, I meet people and talk to them.  After the event I write the date and event on the back of your business card.  If there is anything else I want to remember about you, I write that down.  For example, if you mentioned that you had a three-legged dog named Lucky, I’ll write that down.  If you mentioned that your organization is about to begin a capital campaign, I write that down.  If you mention that you have two kids in middle school, that goes on the card too.  I want to remember this information for when I follow-up.

As I am doing this, if I look at a card and can’t remember you, I throw the card away.  If I can’t remember you right after the event, I’m not going to remember you in a few months.  I don’t know if that’s the best method, but it’s the one I use.  If I haven’t met you, or if I can’t remember you one hour after I met you, I don’t want your business card cluttering up my rolodex.

Don’t be a business card collector. Don’t write your number on bathroom walls.  Don’t leave your business card in random places hoping the person you need to meet will pick it up and call you.  If you want to build relationships, you have to actually meet people.

Posted in Relationships

2 Responses

  1. Lauren


    I’m glad you were able to score a beachfront office this week! 🙂

    Great post. I already take notes on the back of business cards but I really like the idea of ditching a business card if you don’t recall why you’ve got their card in the first place. I can think of my current business card stack and I definitely need to do a purge – sooner rather than later.


  2. Karen Climer

    Do the purge! You will throw away those cards and not even miss them. You will feel liberated! You will feel so good, you might be inspired to clean your life of other useless junk. You might even clean out a closet – or even the attic! All of this just because you threw away a few business cards from people you didn’t remember. 😉

    Thanks for reading, Lauren. Good luck with your purge.

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