For any organization with a fundraising goal, the recognizable axiom that ‘it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know’ is applicable. Effective fundraising is so reliant on good relationships that before I advise clients on how to diversify their funding base, I advise them on how to build better relationships first. In some cases, having a good relationship is hard to define. How would an organization with multiple layers in its structure, perhaps a Board of Directors, or associated members, truly be able to determine which relationships exist and how to utilize them?
In a recent client meeting, the President and CEO of the nonprofit organization I had been advising stopped me mid-presentation to point out one of the complexities he faces in fundraising. He has personal relationships with key potential donors, his Board has other touch points within the donor population and his staff maintain other communication. How can he accurately track, maintain and advance donor relationships if he does not have a clear sense of who is talking to who?
His point is a valid one and probably one of the most important issues as CEO he can consider as he diversifies his funding base away from more traditional donors. The question, though, is how to handle the task? My suggestion is a simple approach that can be used by any organization, big or small, private or public, to manage relationships and keep track of progress toward a specific goal.
1. The first step is to identify a top tier target list that matches your organizational goal development. This allows you to select those targets that upon recruitment will allow you to match new resources with need. Prioritization at this stage is important, because it takes time and patience to capture all ongoing activity and developments with each target, so being clear about which targets are most strategic is key.
2. Once this list is agreed upon by your organization, the next step is to clarify who among your organization is the preferred relationship lead for each target. This keeps communication funneling through one channel, rather than multiple, and promotes relationship building that allows for efficient and effective growth.
3. Next, the head of the organization must identify all of the touch points within the institution where engagement with the target is or has been possible. In other words, it’s important to determine whether Board members, advisors, staff, and/or others within the organization should be part of relationship cultivation. Putting parameters around who within the organization can be tapped for relationship building keeps the process from getting too unwieldy.
4. Finally, each relationship lead must initiate a process of investigation among each of the organizational touch points to determine who knows who within their target institution. From there, the relationship lead strategizes the best method for relationship building with this core group of colleagues.
Utilizing this approach may take some time and effort, but once in place it allows for a stronger and more strategic targeting process that can sustain itself in the long run.