Association and networking in the Gluten Free world

CSA Lifeline article 6 Mar 15. Lifeline is the quarterly publication of the Celiac Support Association, a membership driven group of over 4,000 members and 9,000 who participate with us in Chapter Support Group meetings, on line and via our Hotline. Our website is


This issue of Lifeline focuses on association. An association can be a group of people organized for a joint or common purpose; fellowship, human contact or cooperation; a mental connection between ideas. Actually, the latter is how most of us process thoughts. So, we know how to associate. However, we often shy away from doing so in some circumstances. Public speaking comes to mind. Leaving one’s comfort zone, or going beyond a skill set can be automatic fight or flight stimulators, and blocks for associating.

Networking is another way to associate. Speaking of networking, by other names it can be:
• collaboration
• outreach
• coalition
• conference
• strategic alliance
• one to one
• CSA Telephone Hotline (at least 4200 calls a year)

Strategic Alliances could include CSA Recognition Seal participants, CSA Benefactors,
DDNC (Digestive Disease National Coalition), NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases), DOD,(Department of Defense), FDA, U.S Senate and House of Representatives, CSA Chapters and Resource Groups, other support groups, EXPOS, visitors and potential members to our Chapter meetings, and the people we haven’t met yet. These are all groups and individuals that CSA staff and Directors on the Board are constantly working with.

Just think about the numbers of people we could reach and help if each CSA member recruited at least one other member every year, if our Recognition Seal businesses cloned themselves, and our Benefactors went forth and multiplied. That’s what networking is all about. The more than 300 diseases and symptoms related to CD and NCDS is an associative talking point, with the possibility of bringing people together, increasing membership, and building CSA’s strength and recognition with all those we reach out to. A manufacturer, restaurant, school or university, Co-op, business serving staff meals does not want to do damage control if a patron becomes ill with a gluten reaction. You can ask a decision maker “would you be upset if someone became ill on your food?” Then apply the remedy—contact info for CSA. Then call CSA to share who you talked to, and why, and how we can make contact. Simple.

Blogs, Facebook, Linked In, YouTube, Pinterest, and many more, are social associations that could fit all of the above descriptions. These are useful, often the preferred, tools for bringing people and ideas together in a big way. Many people have these instruments in the background all day (and night). People and media can become a contribution to others, one to one or to the masses.

How can we effectively network?

First, why network? To…
• be friendly
• get a job
• obtain information
• advance your position
• increase revenue streams
• create an opportunity
and much more.

Networking creates an opportunity to learn about people, the one you are talking with, or someone they know. Learn about them, their wants and needs, their hot and cold buttons, and how you might help/assist them. You are gathering info and creating ideas for later application. You don’t want to firehose your person with info, nor try to close a sale at this time. Of course, there are exceptions, but not often.

Plant seeds, create interest and curiosity. Get their contact info. Water and fertilize the seeds during follow through. It is always a good idea to clarify a callback time-“is Tues or Wed better, what’s the best time, will you take the call? If this is a referral, asking if they will take the call is a neat way to bypass any gate keeper.

People are always more receptive when we approach them in a manner of making a contribution to their interests and needs. Most of us don’t like, don’t feel comfortable, and resist or run away from being sold—on anything.

The contribution part is about them. It can be as simple as a referral, or an intro to another person or idea. Your part/benefit should come later, during of after the follow through.

Relating to CSA, what could be your purpose in talking with this individual or group?
• potential member
• potential Recognition Seal/Benefactor
• a place to hold your Chapter meeting
• a restaurant that wants to safely serve gluten and allergy free
• a restaurant to have a gluten free themed dinner for your support group and guests
• the possibilities are endless

We can always have our eyes and ears open, our radar on, so to speak.

A great book changed the way I seek out people and start relationship building. The book is: The Art of Possibility by Zander and Zander. Penguin Books, 2002. Chapter 4, “Being a Contribution” has been the change agent that has made a significant beneficial difference in my people skills. The book has an introductory poem by Emily Dickinson. She lived near my home. It is an interesting coincidence. “I dwell in Possibility”…

Possibility is just that, unless there is action. Focus and purpose grease the ways for action.

Association, networking, et al, is fun, creative, works well. It is how business is done, jobs are obtained, and moves civilization along.

As the Nike mantra goes “Just Do It!”/

The first one may not be easy, certainly not perfect. Do the first one and you are on a roll. Now I am not thinking of a small piece of bread, individually baked. But if you are, make it gluten free.

Remember, Givers Gain. A law of Nature and the Universe.

Bruce Homstead, MS, RDN, LDN
President, Board of Directors, CSA

About admin

Graduate of Cornell School of Hotel Administration MS in Bio/Nut, RDN, LDN, AFMCP Former paramedic, chef, baker, ski patrol leader, Master Trainer- MenuTrinfo and AllerTrain, Director- Board of Directors, National Celiac Association, In private practice
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