Menu Close

Building a Philanthropy Relationship Network

3 little girls
Don’t you know all the people who have money? This is both wishful thinking and sometimes the refrain from a non-profit CEO or volunteer during a job interview.

Every successful philanthropy development enterprise must utilize the personal and business networks of board members, volunteers and staff in order to find and build connections with potential supporters. In the sage words of the late Massachusetts Congressman and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil, “make friends BEFORE you need them.”
As a development professional you know this to be true, but you also know you cannot do it alone. Building a relationship network is both easy and enjoyable, and is a tremendous staff team building and donor cultivation strategy. Just think how valuable it would be to know who knows your top 200 donors, to know the depth of the relationship, and to learn all this using a quick and novel screening process.
A relationship network, for purposes of philanthropy development, provides you with a master map of your top donors/prospects, all the volunteers and staff who know each, and a metric value that indicates the actionable depth of the relationship. You are able to see, for each donor/prospect, which volunteer or staff “link” have the strongest relationships. With this important information, you can gather your strongest links and together devise a strategy to bring the donor/prospect along toward greater involvement and giving.
During this process, your development staff members are out of the office meeting with and getting to know key stakeholders who will be instrumental in building gift officer portfolios. They are building relationships with your first tier supporters in order to reach your second and third tiers of opportunity.
Why go through this effort? All successful and enduring donor development efforts must rely on relationships between people representing your organization and your donors. Development officers have their own relationships to be sure, but to achieve the numbers and scale necessary to ensure an endearingly successful effort, not to mention a campaign major and leadership gift portfolio, you must use the relationships of others.
Your Takes…
  1. Carve out regular time to create and nurture important relationships.
  2. Understand the depth and breadth of the relationship networks of your key volunteers.
  3. Use the relationships of others to further your organization’s mission.
For more information about Copley Raff and its spectrum of not for profit consulting services, please see
Have a development, executive recruitment, or campaign strategy or management challenge? Let’s talk! Click here to connect with Rebekah Kaufman, Director of Consulting Services at CRI.