The most effective kind of referrals are those where a board member or friend of the organization directly introduces you to someone else. You will be the very most successful meeting new people if your board members take the time to prepare the individual you’d like to meet. However, that is not always the way that it works. Many times I will have people suggest I talk with someone in the community that they know but they are not willing to send an email to introduce me or make a phone call to let them know I’m going to call. This often happens during a research session where a number of names are identified and they don’t have the time to make an introduction to all of them individually.
A great way to connect with an individual that you will not have an opportunity to be introduced to is to connect with them on behalf of your board member. This can be done through mail, on the phone, or via email.
Before you reach out to a list of people on behalf of someone else, make sure that they know you are going to use their name. Ask permission to send a note or make a series of phone calls on their behalf. If you have a copy of the note, ask them to take a quick look at it. Make sure that your board member has a good idea of what you are going to say and believes it is the right message. Let your board member know that some of his or her friends may follow up with him/her and ask about the message and that he/she should be in full support of it.
Have you used this technique? I recently used this technique in inviting a number of individuals on some tours of my organization and it was rather successful. I found that it worked maybe 1 in 5 times where as a direct referral worked probably ever other time.