Relationship mapping is a side-interest of mine, one which I’ve only rarely been able to apply in my work. In major-gifts research, I’ve used software to map connections between prospects via the corporate and non-profit boards they sit on together, to create visualizations that are similar in appearance to Muckety, TheyRule and other online apps. These visualizations were half exploratory (searching for the best point of entry to a prospect) and half illustrative (as in showing likely points of connection in a briefing memo).
(WellStar Foundation’s David Broussard reviews a number of relationship mapping applications here. He represents one of the products he reviews, Market Visual, but seems to have a genuine interest in keeping up with everything that’s out there.)
Naturally I was intrigued by NodeXL, an Excel add-on which makes it a snap to visually portray the relationships between and among hundreds or thousands of entities at once. Unlike the products David reviews, NodeXL works exclusively with the data you feed into it.
It’s cool, it’s free, it’s easy to use, and it’s been on my list of blog post ideas for months. I have played with it a bit, creating a visualization of the cross-references in our database. The result looked like a giant knot of black spaghetti. I thought that was cool, but doubted anyone else could be convinced of its coolness. I didn’t find an application for it at work.
I think Jason Boley at Purdue has, though. (Twitter: soam) He’s worked with it a lot more and taken it far beyond what I was able to do. His explorations will be of interest to fundraising shops, so a little while ago I asked if he would contribute a guest post on the topic, and he has obliged. Read it here.