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Get the most from your network

Michael Quest of Ivy Rock Partners shares examples and ideas to help get the most from your network.

A narrated version of this blog is available at the bottom of the page

Over the past 15 months, I have seen how CEOs have conjured creative solutions and done so to great effect at low cost. It has never been so clear that civil society is full of generous and talented professionals that can help one another – particularly if connected at the right moment.

I’ve seen this work in practice and have great results:

  • Mutually beneficial arrangements: when a small cultural venue required support reviewing their retail strategy but had no budget – they enlisted the (free) help from a previous head of financial planning & strategy from one of the leading retail companies who happened to be completing a masters in charity finance and needed some practical experience.
  • Reducing advisory costs: when a royal chartered charity sought external support to review their reserves, financial plans and investment ToRs (all with fairly niche technical considerations relating to their chartered status) but had ruled out costly advisory firms, they directly enlisted the help of an experienced CFO from the royal chartered arena to complete a 10 day ‘diagnostic review’ and a long-term support and implementation plan – at a fraction of the typical advisory costs.
  • A fresh pair of eyes from an expert: last week, Ivy Rock Partners enlisted the support of an external advisor with decades of people strategy (and every psychometric testing qualification under the sun) to run a workshop and follow up sessions with the team to ensure we know how to work with one another best to overcome the drawbacks of partial remote working.

The utility of your network has never been more needed, but the networking events arena and being able to organically grow your networks has never been trickier. This is why communities like the ACEVO network are such a valuable resource to draw from and we should all be fostering a culture of finding ways to help one another.

How to kick start your ‘amplified networking’

Start by proactively stating how your own contacts could help your network, whether this is a public statement, emailing relevant peers, sharing a post on the ACEVO Community or your personal LinkedIn profile. I would encourage you to try this and watch how others reciprocate.

Explore how your charity can benefit from your wider network, exploit the talent of your 2nd/3rd degree of networks but do so by first making it clear to others how your own contacts and talent can support them.

So, following my own advice, a little here on how you can utilise our network – Ivy Rock Partners is an executive search firm committed to the not-for-profit sector, with over 30 years of combined networking across different specialisms within the philanthropic world. We have hundreds of seasoned experts and executive strategists with charity experience one call away. Sometimes you will need to pay a consulting fee, but often the support and insight that can be shared can be given over a single call (for which I know many would offer for free and be able to give you a valuable steer on who to speak with at the least).

It won’t always be free, but it will always be better value for money than taking the expensive typical route for review, and there might be a creative solution we can suggest putting you in touch with someone willing to support at no cost at all (a silver lining of the pandemic has been seeing so many wanting to help others where possible).

Typical scenarios that an external expert can support when there is a need for review/advisory on:

  • Organisational health, cashflow and diagnostic review
  • Financial and strategic change
  • Strategic projects and process improvement

This translates into 3 different types of engagement:

  1. Free council – we could simply ask around and connect you directly with a subject matter expert that is happy to share their advice (for free)
  2. Advisory/Trustees/NED – securing external council on an ongoing and periodical capacity (often for free)
  3. Project delivery – hiring external council on a set piece of work that you lack internal skills to take on/prefer a 3rd party expert view for (often paid)

I hope this proves helpful in some small way and I would welcome ideas on how we can make the best of our respective networks/how you can use our connections to help your charity.

If there is anything we could help with, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at

Narrated by a member of the ACEVO staff

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