OneTenth Consulting
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Thoughts & Musings

It's All About Relationships!


Years ago as a young consultant, I remember leading a discussion at a small nonprofit saying how technology was going to “revolutionize the way we fundraise.”  And I was immediately interrupted, when a seasoned fundraiser turned to me and said, “technology can only change so much about’s all about relationships.”

It was a teachable moment for me, that although the “science” of fundraising has advanced considerably and there’s a myriad of models and scoring methodologies out there, at the end of the day, it’s the relationships that matter the most.  It’s how you connect with your donor and the story you tell that makes all the difference.

Although technology can’t replace relationships, CRM can do wonders in tracking those relationships and ensure you’re making the most of them!

CRM can be used to track family relationships across the constituents in your database, or where an attorney or financial advisor may work with many of your donors.  You can track account relationships as well, like where a donor may have previously worked.  It can also capture where a constituent may have gone to college, what foundations they may be associated with or other organizations they may sit on the board of.

Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack uses its “Relationships” feature to track Contact-to-Contact relationships and its “Organization Affiliations” feature to track Account-to-Account and Account-to-Contact relationships.   

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Why are these relationships important?

  1. They are talking points in cultivating a relationship with your donor.  “I see you sit on the board of Habitat for Humanity...I was a volunteer there for years!

  2. They can surface ideas for marketing events.  If hundreds of your donors are graduates of Yale University, perhaps you can host a fundraiser specifically tailored for Yale alumni.

  3. They can identify influencers for major gifts.  If one of your donors sits on the board of a large corporation you've been trying to pursue a sponsorship with, perhaps you can ask the donor to put in a good word.

  4. It can help you define your proposal (ask).  With a little research, you can find out what other organizations your constituents donate to.  This can help you narrow down the cause area or program you should solicit for.

These are just some of the insights relationship tracking can unlock!

Bloomerang also uses “Relationships” as part of its constituent management functionality.

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Many organizations I talk to are sold on the idea of tracking relationships, but years later, the functionality is often underused.  The key thing to remember is that this information doesn’t populate need to track it down.  What are some good ways to do so?

  1. Ask for it.  Whether it’s through sign up forms, periodic surveys, or just through conversation, get in the habit of asking what organizations your constituents may be affiliated with (employers, alma maters, boards, advisors, etc.).

  2. Find it.  Lots of relationships can be found through a simple Google or LinkedIn search, from previous employers, board positions, advisory positions and other nonprofits they may volunteer with.

  3. Pay for it.  Tools like DonorSearch and WealthEngine can do the heavy lifting for you, especially in terms of relationships with other nonprofits and publicly held companies, as well as where your donors made other charitable contributions.

Gone are the days where relationship building was only important for major giving and planned giving prospects.  "Relationship-mining" has to become part of your culture as a development team.  With each nonprofit fighting for every dollar they bring in...who you know, how well you know them, and how well you can relate to your donor can make all the difference in securing that year-end gift...and retaining them for years to come!

Is your nonprofit looking for a CRM to track relationships?  Or looking to get more out of your current CRM?  Let us help!  Contact us today!