I’m often asked about my influential network. While I’ve had to learn many lessons along the way as a Latinx nonprofit leader, there is one thing that comes naturally to me. Networking.

4% of all nonprofit leaders are Latinx and less than 2% of philanthropic dollars go to Latinx organizations. Very few people like me are capturing dollars. And when we make the effort, it’s a months-long process. Nonprofit leaders need to be in strategic spaces where influential people spend time. We have to be creative about where we show up—in venues that normally would be hard for Latinx leaders to navigate.

Here’s my best advice when it comes to getting in those spaces, and building a network:

  1. Show up and be present. We all get invited to events, speaker series, networking events, nonprofit fundraising events, chamber mixers and a lot more. Allocating time to show up means evenings, sometimes weekends. I negotiate my schedule with my family to accommodate my busy travel schedule. And it’s worth it—I was recently invited to the advisory council for Aspen Institute Technology Accountability Coalition. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t shown up.
  2. Be yourself. Don’t force your way into the room. You don’t have to talk to the most important person or be the loudest voice. Act as though you are among friends and respect people’s space—it makes them comfortable and puts them at ease.
  3. Follow up with everyone. No matter who it is, I follow up the next day after a conference with every person I meet. I connect with them on LinkedIn or send an email. Don’t discriminate—you never know who you’re meeting. I was talking with someone at a conference recently and I didn’t know her organization. Turns out when she gave me her card, she was with a prestigious foundation. We now have a call scheduled to discuss collaborating. If someone gives you their business card, they’re inviting you to connect.
  4. Connect others. Networking is a two-way street. Be open and generous with your own network. Offer to help connect others, no matter who they are. And always ask permission before making a connection to respect people’s time.

Networking takes practice, but with these simple actions, you’ll find yourself in the right places, meeting people you didn’t think you would. Once you’ve tried these steps, let me know how it’s going. It’d be great to hear from you.