There’s no way around it: relationships are at the heart of successful fundraising.
Think about who you would rather give a donation: someone you know personally and whose hard work and passion you see first-hand, or someone who randomly sends you a GoFundMe link?
That’s why every time I sit down with a startup nonprofit, I encourage them to map the relationships of their stakeholders and create a donor prospect list. So, where do you start?
What is relationship mapping?
Mapping out the relationships of your team - your board, volunteers, and even your staff - is a powerful fundraising tool that can effectively grow your donor base.
Think of relationship mapping as Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for your nonprofit fundraising. It’s how you’ll find key stakeholders and discover yet undetermined donors, influencers, and volunteers. It’s the beginning of a prospect list that will help you land your first donors.
Getting your team together
Your Board is key to this exercise. Each and every board member needs to be fully invested in fundraising. Enthusiastic volunteers, committee members, and fellow staff are also effective in creating a robust network of potential donors.
The best way to get this done is in person, maybe at a Board Retreat. Be explicit about why you’re gathering - to build your donor base. Get everyone in the same room, perhaps bribing them with snacks.
Start your relationship mapping exercise
Now for the actual relationship mapping!
- Draw a circle with your name in the center.
- Draw six to eight spokes from the center of that circle. Label each one with a group of people you know, i.e. family, friends, business contacts and list 3-5 names.
- Identify one person from each circle that has these characteristics:
- They could make a gift of $100 to $1,000.
- They are interested in the work of your nonprofit.
- You can reach out to them in the next 30 days and ask for a meeting (or a gift).
Complete your relationship mapping worksheet and schedule outreach to your top ten prospects.
Moving from spreadsheet to solicitation
The hardest part of your relationship mapping exercise is following up with everyone on your list! At the end of the exercise, make sure every Board Member has actionable next steps with each person on their list, and clear deadlines. Now it’s time to start cultivating and soliciting your growing donor base. Good luck!
P.S. Here's some help to get started. Download our free toolkit + checklist for a relationship mapping exercise, worksheet, and more.