Guest Post by Emma Griffin and Cheo Rose-Washington, RelSci

Nonprofits spend a lot of time and valuable resources on fundraising, but as this iWave paper on prospect screening points out: “About 90% of your major gifts will come from less than 15% of your donors.”

The key to successful fundraising is focusing on the highest-potential prospects in your network, and thinking strategically about how to connect with them.

This post will explain how nonprofits can leverage their relationships with board members and current donors to more effectively target high-value prospects.

The importance of relationships for nonprofits

For many nonprofits, securing major gifts of $25,000 or more is critical to their sustainability and success.

One approach to securing such major gifts is through cold outreach to potential donors. But because this level of donation usually requires a warm connection, the cold outreach approach often leads to wasted time and effort, missed opportunities, and ultimately fewer meetings and donations.

A much more effective approach is for a nonprofit to use its network of board members and current donors to secure referrals and warm introductions to prospects.

The challenge here is that while a nonprofit’s board members and current donors potentially have a large number of prospects in their collective network, it can be difficult to identify these people, and even harder to find which person is best positioned to make an introduction.

The rest of this post will describe how you can use iWave and RelSci to make the process of getting in touch with key prospects easier and more effective.

Overview of RelSci and our partnership with iWave

RelSci is a technology company that helps organizations make smarter decisions by leveraging an under-utilized asset that we call “relationship capital”: an organization’s unique network of personal and professional connections to influential decision-makers.

RelSci’s software platform includes a curated dataset of more than 1.7 million organizations and over 9 million decision-makers. We use advanced algorithms to help organizations surface new business development and fundraising opportunities by mapping their relationships to the people and organizations profiled.

The RelSci-iWave partnership gives iWave subscribers access to the following RelSci features:

  • Access to limited profile data on RelSci’s curated dataset of organizations and decision-makers.
  • The ability to view up to 50 connections of a given donor or prospect
  • A look into the individual’s top relationship sources and the types of those relationships.

A separate subscription to the RelSci platform gives users a range of additional capabilities, including: the ability to upload prospect lists and map your organization’s relationships to them, deeper search and analytics features, news alerts providing insights on your organization’s network, an expanded list of connections, complete profiles of organizations and individuals, and access to RelSci’s Path Finder functionality that illuminates connections between organizations and influential people as well as the strength of those relationships.

RelSci’s non-profit customers leverage the platform to secure warm introductions from board members, current donors, and others within their networks. Here’s how your organization can do the same.

How to leverage your nonprofit’s board members and current donors to get connected to new prospects in 5 steps


Non-profits are naturally resource-constrained, and it’s important that they focus their time and efforts engaging those prospects who are most likely to have the greatest impact.

But identifying the prospects who are the best fit for your nonprofit can be challenging – how do you know which ones to spend your time on?

You can use iWave’s Screening feature to generate and curate a list of potential donors.

If you’re having trouble coming up with criteria to create your list, this Wealth Screening 101 ebook suggests some potential screening projects, including:

  • Donors in specific geographic regions
  • New donors giving above a certain threshold
  • Attendees of a fundraising gala

The RelSci platform can be used to generate additional prospect lists. For example, one available tool highlights people who have previously given to your cause – you can select a minimum donation amount to ensure giving capacity—but have not yet given to your organization.


Now that you have a list of your target prospects, the next step is to figure out the best way to get in touch with them.  Cold outreach via email, snail mail, or over the phone isn’t nearly as effective as having a warm connection – especially when you’re seeking a major gift.

In order to secure a large donation commitment, you will need a strong relationship with the potential donor. They will need to trust you and trust that your organization will use their gift responsibly. To build trust right from the get go, it helps to have a warm introduction.

But how do you know who can make that introduction for you? With your prospect list in hand, you can log into your account on the RelSci platform.

RelSci’s “Lists” feature allows you to upload any number of lists with a variety of data, and provides an Excel template to standardize the formatting. Once you’ve uploaded the list, RelSci’s algorithms will match your prospects to individuals profiled in RelSci. Then, you’ll be able to map your relationships to those prospects and identify the best introduction.


Fortunately for many nonprofits, there are a lot of people who are interested in their success — from current donors and board members, to advisors and other professional contacts who support their cause.

This group of people is a great place to start for getting warm introductions to the people on your prospect list. As this article by the marketing software company Hubspot points out, referral leads have a 30% higher chance of converting than leads generated through other channels.

The key to taking advantage of this broader network is being able to see all of your nonprofit’s connections and the possible introductions they can lead to in one place.

The RelSci platform allows you combine your proprietary relationship data with public data available in RelSci to create a Relationship Web that centralizes and visualizes all the key relationships that your nonprofit has. Key relationships can include current and former board members, current major donors, personal and professional connections of your executives, and more.

By default, your Relationship Web will include any contacts your organization has tagged in the platform. Many non-profits also choose to add board members, top donors, and others who can provide additional introductions and referrals.

For example, if you worked at the American Red Cross, you might start by searching for that organization’s name to add key affiliated people to your Relationship Web. Once you’ve selected your organization, you can specify which contacts should be included.

You’ll now be able to see all of the contacts, along with their names and nonprofit affiliations, in your Relationship Web in one place.


Among all of the contacts in your nonprofit’s network, your current donors in particular can be especially helpful in securing warm introductions to your target prospects. 

That’s because they’re already committed to your success, and they’re likely to know other people who have similar interests and the financial resources needed to support your cause.

If you have a separate existing list of your nonprofit’s current donors (e.g., in an Excel spreadsheet downloaded from your donor database), then you can upload it as a list to RelSci using the same steps as referenced in Step 2 above.

Once you’ve uploaded the list, you can add it to your Relationship Web to create an even more comprehensive web of contacts and relationships in your RelSci account. Simply click the plus sign in the “Lists” section of Relationship Web management and select your donor list.


You’re now ready to use the power of the RelSci platform to uncover the warm introductions that are so crucial to your nonprofit’s fundraising success. Now that you have both your target prospect list and your nonprofit’s Relationship Web, you can use Path Finder to map your relationships to each prospect.

Just type the names of the lists into the respective search boxes to show the paths between them. Hover over a path to see details on the relationship.

RelSci’s pathing algorithms include over 50 different relationship types. You might see that one of your board members and a prospect worked together before, served on the same corporate board, or have a personal relationship. Each relationship also has an associated likelihood of knowing – the paths you’ll see first are those where we’re most confident that a warm introduction will be available to you.

Once you’ve used RelSci to identify your warmest introduction to each major gift prospect, you can reach out to your board member or donor to request referrals. The non-profits we work with often find that it helps to approach a board member with multiple referral requests at once, enabling them to pick and choose which introductions they feel most comfortable making.

Learn more about RelSci

RelSci is the most effective tool for relationship-driven prospect research. If you would like to learn more about how you can use RelSci’s Relationship Web and other features to more effectively reach key prospects, we’d love to hear from you.

Request a demo to speak with one of our sales representatives.