Relationship Mapping and Prospect Research
What is relationship mapping
Relationship mapping is a visual representation of connections among individual items. Most often relationship maps are used to show how people and organizations are connected, but they can be used to represent connections amongst almost anything. Family trees and workplace organizational charts are examples of relationship maps most of us are familiar with.
Relationship mapping is useful because it allows the mapper to not only visualize connections, but to realize and utilize connections. A person looking at his extended family tree is able to visualize his connection to his third-cousin, realize how he connected to his third cousin , and utilize family members they share connections with to get in touch with her. A manager looking at her company’s organizational chart is able to visualize her connection to an employee in another office, realize how she is connected to the employee, and utilize those connections to solve a work-flow problem.
How can it be applied to philanthropic prospect research?
Relationship mapping has a strong application in philanthropic research. In a world where the maxim ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ approaches a truism, understanding and using relationships is essential.
Mapping the relationships of a major donor, board member, or friend of the organization provides valuable fundraising intelligence. Depending on the types of relationship you decide to map, you can answer the following questions:
- Who are my subject’s immediate family members? (family map)
- Who in this network sits on the board of a family foundation? (philanthropic board map)
- Who is my subject’s strongest professional acquaintance? (employment/corporate board map)
- Has anyone in this network made a $100,000+ gift? (donation history map)
Connecting to donors
Connecting with potential donors is another useful way relationship mapping can be applied to philanthropic research. Picture a scenario where two organizations are both researching a company they feel would make a great sponsor. Organization 1 uses relationship mapping and learns that one of their former board members currently serves on a unrelated board with a VP at the company. Organization 2 has a similar connection, but doesn’t map relationships so is unaware of the connection. All other things equal, Organization 1 has an advantage over Organization 2 in the pursuit of this sponsorship.
Relationship mapping is a simple concept most of us are familiar with in some capacity. Applying relationship mapping to philanthropic research can yield serious benefits. Relationship mapping allows philanthropic researchers to visualize, realize, and utilize connections for the benefit of their organization.