Special Feature: Winning at the Benevon Model—Five Ways for Getting it Right

This article is available until December 1, 2017
Tired of the Fundraising Treadmill? From Terry's just-released book, The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition, this is Part Three of Chapter One.

Perhaps you have never heard of the Benevon Model and have been hired as the new development director for a nonprofit organization that believes they have been implementing the Benevon Model correctly, yet they are only doing one piece of it: the Free One-Hour Ask Event. You have been hired to put on a successful Ask Event three months from now.

Or perhaps you are already familiar with the Benevon Model and have been hired by an organization that is not using this model at all. Their annual gala is coming up in the spring, the holiday mailing needs to go out next month, and four grant deadlines are rapidly approaching. Your marching orders from the executive director are, "Please save the day and do it all." You care deeply about the work of this organization and, even though you are planning to work here for only a year or two, you want to use that time to free them of the old-reality fundraising treadmill and build a lasting legacy of sustainable funding. Your goal is to leave them with the Benevon Model firmly in place.

You want to do it right. You are one person with the best of intentions. Be forewarned: you are embarking on a process that is fundamentally different from the way fundraising has always been done. And like a bold explorer venturing out to discover new lands, there is much unknown territory ahead.

Many other smart people before you have tried this. Here are the five rules that those who have been successful would share with you:

  1. Assemble a great team. Do not try this alone. You need a team. Take the time at the beginning to get others on board with the model and form a working team of 7 to 10 board members, staff, and volunteers. Have them all watch the Benevon video or read this book so they understand the larger implications of what they will be setting out to accomplish. Ask them to make a one-year commitment to work with you to implement the entire model successfully.

    Make sure they know this is not just about putting on an Ask Event. In fact, the Benevon Model is not about events; it is a systematic process for engaging and developing relationships with individual donors who will want to support your organization for the long term.

  2. Insist on full team participation. Do not let the Benevon Model or the process of implementing it become staff-driven. Yes, the executive director and development staff need to be fully committed to this approach, but without equal involvement from board members and volunteers, it will never work, so take the time to educate them and get them on board. If you find that the staff is doing all of the inviting of guests to Point of Entry Events, you are on the wrong track.

  3. Preserve the integrity of the Benevon Model. Make sure all your team members understand the complete Benevon Model and agree to follow it exactly as it is designed without getting creative. At first, your team may not understand the significance of never deviating from or improvising on the Benevon Model. Over the first year, especially, there will be innumerable temptations to modify and tweak the model, even if ever so slightly, yet in ways that can derail your entire implementation.

    Granted, we all like to be creative, we all have good ideas, and we certainly are always on the lookout for shortcuts. But the Benevon Model is a whole and complete system, as precise as the system a professional organization would use for managing accounting or healthcare protocols. No matter how well-intentioned you and your team members are, you cannot know all the subtleties and many counterintuitive aspects of the Benevon Model that we have tested and refined in our work with more than 5,000 nonprofit teams.

  4. Prepare thoroughly for the Ask. Do not rush into the Ask Event, or into one-on-one Asks for Leadership or Challenge Gifts. You must allow for 9 to 12 months of successful Point of Entry Events before your first Ask Event.

  5. Implement every formula. Follow all of the data-driven formulas we have worked out for you in the Benevon Model:
    • Two "sizzling" Point of Entry Events per month, each hosted by a volunteer Ambassador who fills the event with 10 or more friends or colleagues.
    • A minimum of one new Ambassador is recruited in the follow-up calls after each Point of Entry Event.
    • 100% of Ask Event Table Captains have served as successful Ambassadors in the prior 12 months, having at least 10 guests attend Points of Entry.
    • At least 40% of each year's Ask Event guests have attended a Point of Entry Event in the prior 12 months.
    • A minimum of 10% of Ask Event guests join the Multiple-Year Giving Society newly each year.
    • Multiple-Year Giving Society: the minimum gift level to join is $1,000 a year for a five-year pledge; levels are either: $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 or $1,000, $10,000, and $25,000, all for five years.
    • Expect 40 to 50% of Ask Event guests to make a gift of any amount. Expect the remaining guests to give nothing.
    • Have a Challenge or Leadership Gift of at least $5,000 to announce at the first Ask Event.
    • Meet or exceed Benevon's definition of a successful Ask Event: take your final actual number of Ask Event guests, divide by two, and multiply by $1,000 to get your expected total (e.g., an Ask Event with 200 people should raise a minimum of $100,000 in cash and pledges).

If you and your team are not seriously committed to following these five basic rules and implementing the Benevon Model according to the detailed process laid out in this book, I strongly recommend that you stop reading now.

Implementing the Benevon Model takes a dedicated team, time, money, and hard work. Without a firm, long-term commitment—especially when the going gets tough—your board and donors will confuse this model with the fundraising fad of the day and change courses when they hit the first speed bump.

If you choose to keep reading, however, you will have in your hands a step-by-step guide to getting it right the first time and building a lasting legacy for your organization.


Contact Benevon today to learn how the Benevon Model for nonprofit fundraising can help you develop an effective fundraising campaign and cultivate committed lifelong donors.



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