Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

Never underestimate the human element in your wealth screening.

All the prospect research in the world doesn’t outweigh the need to include the human element in your wealth screen. Fundraising is a relationship business. Getting to meet your donors to learn about them is crucial for cultivation and solicitation, and yet securing meetings is often harder than securing gifts!

We often don’t know where to begin in securing a meeting. We ask other donors or our trustees, and they too are puzzled. Many stakeholders don’t have a direct connection to the donor. Instead, it’s often the case that your stakeholder knows someone indirectly— “six degrees of separation.” Thankfully, the field of “relationship science” and the attendant software (RelSci) has found a central place in wealth-screening.

RelSci software allows you to compare a list of your stakeholders (board members, donors, corporate leadership) against your list of donor prospects, and map the relationship between the two groups. For instance, a RelSci map will let you know that Sarah (your board member) knows Michael (Sarah’s work colleague) who knows Laurence (your major donor prospect). It’s often quite useful.

Specifically, RelSci software allows you to:

  • Determine the best connections between your stakeholders and the donor(s) you are attempting to cultivate, providing a roadmap to the all-important major donor prospects.
  • Identify new donor and or/leadership prospects. In the example above, it’s the board member’s colleague (Michael) who knows the major donor prospect (Laurence). In leveraging Michael to reach Laurence, it’s likely that Michael might develop an interest in the project and have the capacity to give. After all, peer-to-peer fundraising is one of the most successful segments of U.S. philanthropy today.
  • RelSci technology also does more than just identify major donor relationships. If you’re working with a set of new private foundation prospects (some of which may be “do not apply”), RelSci can help you get your foot in the door. The same can be said of prospective board members or corporate donor prospects you may have your eye on.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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