Ten Minutes to Sustainable Funding

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Hi. I'm Terry Axelrod, the founder of Benevon. Thank you for joining me for this brief overview of the Benevon Model, a systematic process for engaging and developing relationships with individual donors who truly believe in your work and will support your organization for the long term.

This model was developed at an inner-city school and can be customized to any organization that is committed to getting off the year-to-year fundraising treadmill and willing to follow this evidence-based, step-by-step process. If, after watching this video, you are serious about implementing the model, I encourage you to watch our full 55-minute video on the Benevon website.

Okay. Let's get started. First thing you'll notice: It's a circle. Think of it like an old-fashioned toy train track. Donors get on that track and go round and round for life. They get on the track at step one, with something we call a Point of Entry, a sizzling, one-hour, get-acquainted event. Rather than being a tour of your programs or your facilities, this is a one-hour tour of your mission. There are three basic ingredients that must be present for this event to qualify as a Point of Entry. First, the facts about your organization, but only at the 101 level. Second, an emotional hook, which is kind of a crass term. You see, as individuals, we are emotional donors looking for rational reasons to justify our emotional decisions to give. And third, capturing the names of the guests with their permission. It's the end of leaving your business card in the bowl for a drawing.

This model is permission-based. You don't ask anyone for money at a Point of Entry. Guests must be invited word-of-mouth by a friend. And they're told in advance they'll be called afterwards for their feedback. In the course of the tightly-crafted hour, guests learn about the three broad areas of impact of your work. We call them "buckets." You share myths, facts, stories, and needs in an authentic, deeply moving way, which leaves the guests saying, "I had no idea you did all this here. I have ideas for you, other people who should know about this, but I've got to go." "No problem," you say. "I'll give you a call."

Which leads to the second step of the model. Step two is a one-on-one follow-up call with every guest that's come to a Point of Entry within two or three days. If you adopt the model, you'll be having two Point of Entry Events monthly, with 10 to 15 guests at each one. That means your development director or Team Leader will be making 20 to 30 follow-up calls a month. This is not a polite thank-you call. We refer to it as a one-on-one focus group. The purpose is to determine the person's level of interest in becoming more involved with your organization.

The call has five points. First, "Thank you for coming." And you better mean it. It's amazing they took the time.

Next, "What did you think?" Of our cute kids, the teachers. What did you even think about the weather?

Third, be quiet and listen. Listen for the hot buttons the tour might have triggered. One of our groups is working to cure a disease with seven strains. When they make their follow-up calls, they might hear, "I'm most interested in that third strain of the disease, because that's the one my mother has." That's a big hot button, and you won't tune into it unless you're listening closely.

Next, "Is there any way you can see yourself getting involved with us?" Any way at all. You've got no hidden agenda.

And finally, "Is there anyone else you can think of we should invite to a similar Point of Entry?" Those who aren't interested, we do what we call "Bless and Release." There's no need for begging for a one-time gift. Even those who are not interested in becoming involved themselves may have others to refer if your Point of Entry is, as we like to say, "sizzling."

Let's move on to step number three: asking for money. Notice we didn't do any asking at steps one or two. We wait until the fruit has ripened at step number three. Everything between steps two and three is what we call the Cultivation Superhighway, where we hasten the ripening of the fruit. What makes the fruit ripen faster are contacts. Research shows the more contacts you have with a donor after they've been educated and inspired at your Point of Entry event, the more money they'll give you when you finally ask. What is a contact? A newsletter? An invitation to an event? The best contacts are in person and based on what they told you they were most interested in on the follow-up call, like the strain of the disease their mother has.

We had a lady at the school who cultivated herself right through the process by inviting her friends to take the tours. And then, as her friends got more involved, she got more involved. They donated backpacks, shoes, jeans, a covered outdoor play area, and a physical education teacher for the kids at the school. These are people who cultivate themselves, and before you even get to the third step, they're wondering, why hasn't anyone asked me for any money yet?

Onto step three: asking. There are two ways to ask: one-on-one in person, and at an Ask Event. The Ask Event is free and one hour—60 minutes—long. Its purpose is strictly to give these well-cultivated new friends of the organization an opportunity to become donors. It's not a substitute for a Point of Entry event. Guests are invited to the Ask Event by the same person who invited them to attend the Point of Entry. They know they will be asked to give at the Ask Event, but that there's no minimum and no maximum.

The program for the Free One-Hour Ask Event is tightly crafted, with a welcome from a board member, an inspiring Visionary Leader talk, a moving video with three testimonial stories showcasing your three bucket areas, and a live testimonial, culminating in the last ten minutes, what we call the pitch, where people are invited to join your Multiple-Year Giving Society, with three giving levels starting at $1,000 a year for five years and going up from there. There's also a fill-in-the-blanks box for people to give whatever they'd like. You're not trying to persuade people to give you anything at the Ask Event. The people who join the giving society have been well cultivated and feel honored to give. We expect about 50% of the guests at the Ask Event to give. The average group we train and coach raises $200,000 at their Ask Event, including pledges. We teach our groups to cultivate one or more donors for a Leadership or Challenge Gift, which is announced at the Ask Event, as well. The purpose of the Ask Event is to launch and then grow your base of Multiple-Year Giving Society Donors, some of whom, with personal cultivation, will become more major donors over time.

The day after the Ask Event, you're on the phone calling your new donors, thanking them for their generous gifts, asking for their feedback about the event. What I heard when I made these calls the day after our first Ask Event at the school was, "If I had known how great that event was going to be, I would have invited other people." They had specific people in mind, so I asked them, "Would you be willing to be a Table Captain next year?" and between now and next year's Ask Event, you could introduce those other people to the organization. How? By becoming an Ambassador and inviting them to a Point of Entry, where we will educate and inspire them, we will follow up, bless and release those who don't want to get involved, and cultivate those who do, so that by the time they're sitting at your table next year at the Ask Event, they'll be ready to give.

Having these donors who have chosen to join your Multiple-Year Giving Society by pledging at least $1,000 a year for five years lets you know which donors have committed to supporting your work over time. It lets you know where to focus your donor cultivation efforts. We do that by inviting these multiple-year donors to small, mission-focused, Free Feel-Good Cultivation Events at step four in the model—like an awards ceremony or school graduation, program-related events you're already doing—to reconnect these multi-year donors to your real work. This Free Feel-Good Cultivation Event serves as a Point of Re-Entry that has facts, emotion, and you'll already have their names, because you invited them to attend these events.

Therefore, three days after these Points of Re-Entry, just like after a first-time Point of Entry, you follow up, constantly deepening your relationship leading up to the next ask. If you keep following this model over time, your base of multiple-year donors will grow very organically.

At the school where the model was started, once we exceeded 100 donors in our Multiple-Year Giving Society, we were able to complete a capital campaign for a new building, raising $3.2 million in six months from eighteen of the same donors that had just joined the giving society. And by the seventh year, we had over 500 donors in our Multiple-Year Giving Society, and we were able to complete an endowment campaign raising $15 million from a subset of those same donors. That $15 million, when invested wisely, threw off in interest enough money to cover our operating gap each year, allowing our little school to get off that year-to-year, hand-to-mouth treadmill. In other words, these same donors who make unrestricted gifts in your Multiple-Year Giving Society become the pool of donors you cultivate for capital, for endowment, and even restricted major gifts, like the library or technology center at our school, allowing you to leave a legacy of a self-sustaining, mission-based individual giving program for your favorite nonprofit organization.

So, there you have it: a brief overview of the Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding. I hope you can see how this model could work for you. We have many other resources available to help you learn more and share this approach with others on your team, including a 55-minute video overview of the model recorded at one of our live introductory sessions. If you'd like more information, please contact us at benevon.com. Thanks again for joining me for this brief overview of the Benevon Model. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you are ready to learn more and are unable to attend a live, in-person seminar, watch the complete video, 55-Minute Recorded Seminar: Creating Sustainable Funding for Your Nonprofit, which outlines the Benevon Model, presented by our Founder and CEO, Terry Axelrod.

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