Relationship Mapping: Putting Your Board to Work

No matter what size your organization, your board of directors serves a variety of important functions, but from a fundraising perspective, a board member’s personal and professional networks can be a huge asset. Whether you’re trying to assess a prospective board member’s network or figuring out whether you can make a connection through a current board member, even a little research can go a long way.

Have you ever asked a board member “Who do you know who can be helpful to our organization?” and got the answer: “Oh, I don’t really know anyone….”?

That’s probably not because your board member is being cagey or never leaves the house, it’s just hard to answer that question in the abstract. A good way to spark a fruitful conversation around a board member’s network is to prompt ideas with a list of potential donors or partners. Here are a few helpful ideas for research to conduct on your board members that will help you build that list and come away from that “Who do you know?” conversation with some real action steps:

  1. What schools did your board member attend? Are they now a trustee or otherwise actively engaged with their alma mater? Were they in a fraternity or sorority? Even that bit of information can give you a sense of some of the people you might find in their social network, the contacts they’ve held onto from their earliest pre-professional days.

    Once you have this information, look at your current prospect list – Who was in the same graduating class with them? Who shares the same field of study with them? Who was a member of their sorority? Bring that list to your meeting, and see where the conversation goes.

  2. What is your board member’s career history? How long did they work for specific corporations and what positions did they hold? This can often be an indicator of who their professional contacts are, potentially including corporate board members. LinkedIn can be helpful in searching for a list of those connections.

    Additionally, were they in a client-facing role at any of those organizations? If the client list is public knowledge, that may be another list of possible prospects.

  3. Finally, are they trustees of other nonprofit organizations, foundations, or corporations? If so, those board lists are public information and you’ll have an entire roster of names of the people with which they already have relationships, people who are already pre-disposed to community leadership and a high level of involvement with nonprofit organizations. Depending on the culture of those organizations, these may be long and deeply-held relationships.

A good Google search can go a long way toward finding some of these answers, and if your board member has a comprehensive and up-to-date LinkedIn profile, you’ve hit the jackpot.

If you’re not so lucky, donor research services like those that Donorly provides can help. Our in-house tools can scour databases for verifiable information that may not turn up clearly or easily in a Google search.

Regardless of how you go about it, we cannot stress enough how important it is to take the time to do the research.  A little prep work on the front end can lead to a productive conversation and some exciting next steps for cultivation and solicitation of some new prospects.

Happy researching!