Are you leveraging your organization’s board of directors as part of your major gift strategy?  You should be, and you can start with relationship mapping.

In many ways, board Relationship Mapping | Fundraising Softwaremembers represent the kind of major gift donors you are continually searching for.  However, a common belief persists that board members influence fundraising success through their own giving.  And while this is true, research from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative shows that board members have more impact when they influence others to give.

Some of our clients suggest that involving their board isn’t worth the hassle.  Directors are often business owners or executives, with numerous commitments of time and energy (not to mention money) to various people and organizations.  Maybe you’ve tried reaching out to a board member without success, or perhaps the thought itself is too daunting.

But these people are directors of your board, right?  That means they care about your cause and the people surrounding it.  This is your “in,” and there are many strategies to get your board involved in your fundraising efforts.

The Value of Board Members

According to NRC research, 63% of nonprofits with fundraising committees including or led by board members met their fundraising goals.  Organizations without board support tended to fall short.

In the same study, organizations named several board engagement strategies, including having members:

    • Write personal thank-you letters to donors;
    • Help organize or volunteer at fundraising events;
    • Share the organization’s content on social media and other online platforms;
    • List contacts in their network for relationship mapping purposes;
    • Participate in face-to-face meetings with donors; and
    • Ask their network to donate gifts to the organization 

If you are familiar with the concept of mind-mapping, think of your board as the map’s nucleus.  Each member has a personal network of connections.  Some are connections with other board members, and others are connections unique to that member.  They may include family members, close friends, other boards served, club memberships, religious involvement, and of course, business partners and colleagues.

Here is where a board member can reach out to his or her network for donations.  As James Yunker, Chair of the Giving USA Foundation and a member of the NRC, says, “That simple step is probably the single most important thing an organization can do to engage board members in fundraising. It is associated with meeting fundraising goals for all sizes of organization, proving again that fundraising is all about relationships.”

From any one member of your board, you can trace a line to countless new connections, known and unknown.  If you’re making this map on paper, however, it won’t take long for the page to get too cluttered.  We recommend another solution.

Relationship Mapping

Relationship mapping is not a new concept, but it is worth discussing here.  Major gifts can come from unlikely sources, but they are already rare enough that holding out for a miracle major gift is not a sustainable strategy.  As far as your board is concerned, mapping their relationships could open doors to new major gift prospects.

While asking your board members for their help reaching out to their networks is beneficial, it can also be time consuming.  Several tools exist to help you more efficiently map relationships.  One of these tools is Relationship Science.

Relationship Science

Relationship ScienceFundraising Software (“RelSci”) is a technology platform that enables institutions to harness the power of their relationships to accelerate development success.  It is also one of two new datasets coming to PRO in early 2017.

You can search RelSci for the top connections of each of your board members.  This helps you build relationships strategically, maximize your investment in fundraising events, and leverage your current board members to find new board members.  Learn more about RelSci’s relationship strategies here.

Remember when we said affinity was all about relationships?  PRO now includes a subset of RelSci featuring just a few of the full product’s capabilities.  Within the RelSci dataset in PRO, you can see up to the top 50 connections of a board member (or any prospect you search, for that matter).  You will also see whether those connections are “strong” or not.  As Jen Filla notes in her blog post on relationship mapping: “Strong connections suggest that the person can influence the other person.  In the triad of Linkage-Ability-Inclination (Affinity-Capacity-Propensity), relationship mapping provides the piece research has not always been so good at delivering in the past: Linkage.”

If you are interested in more comprehensive relationship mapping capabilities for your organization, we suggest you visit RelSci and try out the full product for yourself.

“It’s who you know…”

Leveraging your board is not a case of asking them for more money or to take on the work of fundraisers.  Rather, it means empowering your board to become more actively involved in influencing the organization’s success.  This could be as simple as identifying members of their network who may support the organization for fundraiser follow-up, or it could involve introducing fundraisers with contacts and even being present during prospect and donor meetings.

In any case, it’s the human touch that counts.  Your board members don’t just direct your organization; they are stewards to your cause.  When prospects and donors see that everyone is passionate, involved, and committed from the top down, more doors will open to your fundraising efforts.

Did you know?  PRO now has relationship data from RelSci.  Learn more.

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About the author: Ryan McCarvill joined the iWave team in 2016. Ryan enjoys meeting and learning from nonprofit professionals, researching trends in the nonprofit community, and offering strategies for development teams to use iWave’s solutions to meet and exceed their fundraising goals.

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