6 Degrees of Separation and Fundraising

A week or so ago a discussion came up on the AFP Group that I belong to on LinkedIn. A member’s organization was debating whether or not to participate in the Benevon method, a rather pricy series of workshops and coaching.

Benevon, formerly known as the Raising More Money model, uses the method of intimate donor get-togethers culminating in one big yearly “ask” event. It requires enormous commitment. Indeed, for many smaller nonprofit organizations, the staffing and time commitment to Benevon would almost preclude them doing any work in any other fundraising endeavors.

I took the Benevon training a few years back and implemented it for an organization I was working with. And, while I do not recommend the program as the “be all/end all” for sustainable funding that they tout themselves, I learned a lot and I believe that their model – on a smaller scale – can and should be integrated into every organization’s individual giving program.

One of my takeaways from the training was what I like to call the “6 Degrees of Separation” exercise.

According to Wiki: “Six degrees of separation (also referred to as the “Human Web”) refers to the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth. It was popularised by a play written by John Guare.”

I don’t recall what Benevon called this exercise, but it is a useful one that I have implemented for board meetings, staff meetings and retreats.

Basically everyone in your organization wracks their collective brain.

What groups, organizations, individuals do you know and come into contact with on a regular basis? What resources do they have? Expertise, goods, money? What organizations or types of projects do they support?

This usually takes 15-20 minutes and results in plenty of ideas and additions to the database. For one organization it resulted in a very successful separate annual campaign to an entirely new target group.

And when it comes to grants, I always keep the board regularly apprised of which foundations I’m approaching next and give them a list of the foundation’s trustees (and sometimes staff as well if it might be relevant) to see if there are any connections.

Good development is all about relationships. Think of how you can use the “6 Degrees of Separation” exercise to build yours!


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3 Responses to “6 Degrees of Separation and Fundraising”

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  2. As a former Raising More Money/Benevon senior coach and training I’m very familiar with the exercise you are referring to. It’s called the “Treasure Map” exercise.

    It could also be called a Network Analysis or I refer to my verion of it as an “Opportunity Chart”. It’s a great exercise to do to see who your organization is communicating with and where you might be missing opportunities to invite members of your community in. It’s also great to do the exercise from an individual perspective and the organization perspective.

  3. Anna Pileggi says:

    I am currently looking for fundraising trainign ideas for my board to engage them in this process. Your 6 degrees, treasure map, and Opportunity chart exercises all sound interesting. What is a raising more money/Benevon coach? what type of training do you need and where do you get it?

    I look forward to your feedback and comments. This certainly is of interest to me. thanks.