By Lisa Alvezi • August 20, 2021


    GRAVYTY FUNDRAISING ACADEMYThis post comes from the Gravyty Fundraising Academy, a series that examines how fundraisers adapt and strategize to evolve what's possible through philanthropy.

    Gravyty Fundraising Academy: Lisa AlveziYour guide for the Gravyty Fundraising Academy is VP of Customer Success, Lisa Alvezi. Lisa has worked with countless fundraisers across Higher Education, Health Care, and Nonprofit organizations to transform fundraising. As a former frontline fundraiser herself, her goal is to help you see better results from your fundraising efforts.


    Uncover Hidden Donor Motivations & Insights with
    Relationship Mapping

    Whether we readily admit it or not, as fundraisers, the art of persuasion is closely tied to our work. And, when we think about the effectiveness of influence, it's often about a single donor at a time. However, that's not always the case. Especially as more of us venture out of the home office and conduct more in-person donor visits, we find that our conversations are often with a larger audience than one.

    It's not uncommon to meet with spouses, partners, siblings, in-laws, financial advisors, or even friends in addition to your primary donor contact when it comes to in-person visits. The more, the merrier, right?

    When we add more people to conversations, there are more dynamics. That's fine, but managing the relationship dynamics separate from your goals can be challenging if you're not prepared. I want to share a tool with you that I learned how to use as I began managing more extensive gift asks: relationship maps.

    Gravyty Fundraising Academy - How Relationship Maps Uncover Hidden Donor Dynamics

    What Is A Relationship Map?
    You may think you know the most influential people in a conversation, but first impressions can be wrong. Relationship maps help you tease out the hidden dynamics in a conversation so you can identify who you need to persuade and when.

    The best fundraisers I know all have a single defining skill. Whether they were born with it or nurtured the skill over time does not matter. They can all enter a social situation and recall it, often play-by-play, as if they had watched it on film. They don't embellish facts or leave nuances out of their retelling of the situation. Their emotional intelligence is finely tuned to understand the people in the group, the roles they cover, and the invisible tensions (or lack thereof) that exist. This objective image empowers them to focus their time actively listening, asking the right questions, and influencing the actual decision-makers in the group.

    How To Make A Relationship Map
    First, grab a notebook, napkin, or something to write on. Depending on your social setting, you may want to be somewhat discrete. Make a shape for each person in the meeting that correlates to how you are sitting. If I don't know someone that well, I like to use descriptive figures, like drawing a curly-cue ( { ) for someone with a mustache. Then, every time a person talks, make a tally mark next to their shape.

    Then, when someone is talking, draw an arrow from their shape to the shape of the person they're talking to. As the conversation gets going, not only do you have all of your landmarks positioned, but as the group dynamics get flowing, you start to see the inroads and routes that matter to each participant

    What Relationship Maps Tell You
    Right off the bat, you get to see who talks the most – that's easy to know without a map. But the map gives you insight into who is "talked to" the most and even who is being left out of the conversation.

    I often know my donor well before I enter a conversation. But relationship maps help me uncover the underlying and personal influences that help them inform their giving decisions.

    For example, there have been times when I wondered why my donor brought their son or daughter to a meeting. Relationship mapping helped me piece together insights that allowed me to see that this parent wanted to instill an understanding of what giving back looks like in their child. In another situation, I uncovered that a mother and daughter were aligned on giving, but the daughter (who did not control the purse strings) drove the emotional connection to the gift. After looking at my map, it was clear that I had to prove the gift's impact to the daughter, who was not the actual donor.

    As you engage with your donor and bring more people into your conversations, I encourage you to try relationship mapping. Like me, it can help you clearly define who you need to persuade and help you grow EQ skills that (to the untrained eye) look like magic.

    If you’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can empower your organization to have a culture of philanthropy, personally reach new donors, and inspire giving at scale, connect with Gravyty today.

    Posts by Topic

    see all