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The Glue that Holds it All Together

From Terry’s book, The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition.

In the Benevon Model, follow-up is the glue that holds the whole model together. When your goal is to build lifelong relationships with individual donors, the follow-up process never ends. Whether after the initial Point of Entry Event or after each subsequent donor contact, you will be asking your donors for their personal feedback and listening closely for clues as to how they might like to become more involved.

The first Benevon Follow-Up Call, which happens after the initial Point of Entry Event, is not just a polite thank-you call, in which case it could be made by the Ambassador or the person who invited each guest to attend. It is fine for the Ambassador to call their guest to thank them for coming. However, the official Follow-Up Call must be made by someone representing the organization, someone to whom the guest can give candid feedback, without any sense of obligation to the friend who invited them.

The purpose of the Follow-Up Call is to discover whether or not this person is interested in becoming more involved with your organization. If the guest does want to become more involved, the Follow-Up Call is the opportunity to determine the particular aspects of your work that most inspire them and who else they may want to invite to attend a Point of Entry Event.

If you discover during the Follow-Up Call that the guest does not want to get involved, the guest is “blessed and released,” but not until you have asked if there is anyone else they might want to invite to a future Point of Entry Event.

Selecting the Ideal Person to Make the Follow-Up Calls
As you begin implementing the Benevon Model, it is worth thinking through who will be responsible for making these critical Follow-Up Calls.

The official Follow-Up Call should be made by the one staff member who is the Team Leader accountable for the successful implementation of the Benevon Model within the organization. This person needs to enjoy building relationships—and talking on the telephone! This person will be each guest’s ongoing primary contact at the organization and will guide the cultivation process leading up to the Ask Event and beyond.

The ideal Follow-Up Call person must:

    • Attend every Point of Entry Event and have a speaking role, either as the tour guide, storyteller, or testimonial speaker
    • Enjoy talking to people on the phone
    • Be accountable for Ambassador recruitment and oversee the Ambassador Manager
    • Have access to the executive director or CEO to get responses to donors’ questions or ideas in a timely manner
    • Possess the maturity and ability to interact with all types of people
    • Enjoy developing relationships with people over time
    • Be detail-oriented and committed to tracking every donor conversation in your database

Choose your Follow-Up Call person carefully and be sure that every guest receives this call two to three days after attending their Point of Entry Event.

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Fitting Existing Donors into the Benevon Model

Dealing with Table Overflow at the Ask Event

Q: How do we fit our existing donors into the Benevon structure?

Brian in Maine

A: Existing donors are some of the first people you will want to introduce to the Benevon Model.

First, you need to connect or reconnect to them with a Know-Thy-Donor Program. Let’s say you want to integrate your direct mail donors into the model; take all of those direct mail donors from over a certain number of years (you decide—maybe the past three or five years), and then stratify them by how much they have given.

Next, have a handful of high-level people in the organization (like the executive director, board members, and long-standing volunteers) call those donors to thank them for their loyalty and ask each donor a few specific “Cultivation Interview Questions” over the phone. These are open-ended questions like:

  • How did you come to learn about our organization in the first place?
  • What more do you think we could be doing to involve people like yourself?
  • What advice do you have for us?

Through these interviews you will find out what it is about your work that most interests each donor and why they have continued giving to you. Conclude the call by inviting each donor to a Point of Entry Event. Then follow up and cultivate them further. Over time they might become Ambassadors, who in turn will invite others to Points of Entry.

After you’ve called your top tier of direct mail donors, you’ll have refined which questions to ask and determined your next tier of donors to be contacted. Continue to invite these loyal long-time supporters to privately hosted Points of Entry and follow the model from there.

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Quantifying Your Legacy

From Terry’s book, The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition.

We say that attaining sustainable funding requires each nonprofit organization to clarify its specific metrics, timeline, and plan for reaching the goal. Otherwise it will never happen.

To inspire each team to think big, we challenge them to imagine what life would be like at their organization if worrying about funding were no longer an issue. What if the basic day-to-day financial needs were handled and your organization could move onto fulfilling the next level of your mission—developing the programs you know would make a difference, staffing the departments that leverage the greatest results in the community, undergirding your infrastructure to sustain your operations going forward? How would that change the self-image of your organization, the quality of the work, and the outcomes?

What would have to have happened to make that possible? How much money would be in the bank and by when? How many months of operating reserves would it take for your organization to feel secure: three months, one year, two years? How many individual donors would you have? Would you want to have a big endowment?

Quantifying Your Legacy
Each group uses different metrics to track their progress in fulfilling their objectives. Some define sustainability as an endowment large enough to throw off in earnings enough money to cover their annual operating shortfall or gap. Their ultimate metric might be to have a $20 million endowment that will generate $1 million a year in income.

Other groups define sustainability as a reserve fund or pot of money set aside that they can get their hands on when they need it. They may decide, for example, that if they had a reserve fund large enough to cover one year’s operations, they could manage the uncertainties of their multiple funding sources year by year. That one year’s reserve fund becomes their metric.

Some groups define sustainability as having a higher percentage of their revenue coming from individual donors. Instead of having 95% of their revenue coming from government grants, 4% from corporations and foundations, and 1% from individuals, their metric may be to increase the 1% from individual giving to 5%.

Still other groups define sustainability as a percentage increase in the number of individual donors they now have, for example, increasing their current number of 200 major donors by 100% to 400 major donors. Of course, each group would define “major” donor for itself.

Another metric might be increasing the raw number of individual donors by a certain amount, for example, adding 100 new major donors per year, or reaching a total of 500 donors. Groups might put specific conditions on these goals, such as requiring that each donor has an ongoing open pledge to contribute at least $1,000 a year for each of the next five years. Their metric is the number of new donors at these levels.

In addition to establishing hard financial and donor metrics, we encourage each group to quantify their goals for softer intangibles like broader community awareness, more people requesting to become board members or volunteers, favorable media coverage, and more support from foundations and businesses. For many groups, these softer benefits are more valuable than the money raised.

Far and away, the number-one benefit our groups report from implementing the Benevon Model is that they are no longer the “best-kept secret” in town. People know them now. One behavioral health organization we work with is located in a rural community with a population of only 2,500 people. Yet people in the town did not know what was really going on inside their building. By the end of their first year using the model, all that had changed. They now had business support, favorable media coverage, and many passionate advocates championing their work at public meetings and the state legislature at budget time. Those results are hard to quantify.

We also understand that each organization’s metrics for attaining sustainable funding may change over time. As they achieve one goal, such as having a reserve fund of a specific amount, they may decide next to embark on a capital campaign or build an endowment, goals which may have been unthinkable until now.

Here are the specific questions to guide this important discussion with your group:

  1. How will we quantify our legacy of sustainable funding for this organization?
    • Short-term goals for the next five years?
    • Long-term goals for the next 10 to 15 years?

    Be sure to include in these goals specific metrics, for example:

    • $25 million endowment
    • Reserve fund of one year’s operating expenses
    • 20% increase in individual donors
    • Diversifying funding sources by increasing funding from individual donors by 20%
  2. What would be the impact of attaining this legacy?
    • On the people we serve?
    • On our community?

The legacy you want to leave needs to be crystal clear before you begin to implement the systematic approach provided by the Benevon Model. Take the time you need to quantify—and get excited about—what sustainable funding would look like for your organization. You will need it to inspire your group as you embark on the work ahead!

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Printed Materials and the Benevon Model

I have a question that I haven’t been able to find an answer to in the book very easily. We just rebranded our organization and printed a few brochures, etc. Can you tell me what you recommend for each of the events? For example, at the Point of Entry, I think I’m giving out too much info, but as we get into more volunteer work days, cultivation events, and Ask Events down the road, I want to be prepared media-wise. If someone could give me some basic understanding here, I would greatly appreciate it!

Leigh in Michigan

A: Congratulations on getting started with the Benevon Model. Below is a basic list of the printed materials you’ll need for the various steps of the model.

Point of Entry:

  1. Sign-in cards

  2. Fact sheet: this provides a reference for guests after the Point of Entry and highlights some of the facts and needs you shared during the one-hour program. Make sure you have lots of white space and follow the format in The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right.

  3. Wish list: on the back of the fact sheet you will print your wish list. These are either in-kind donations or volunteer roles that guests can take on if they are excited about your work and want to get more involved. Be sure you have no more than ten items, and the first item on the list must be the “Volunteer Ambassador” role of being an Ambassador, which means they will host and fill a future private Point of Entry for a group of ten or more people in their life.

Ask Event:

  1. Printed program: showing your brief list of speakers, acknowledging any sponsors, board members, etc.

  2. Pledge cards: these are filled out during the ask for money and will highlight your Multiple-Year Giving Society.

Free Feel Good Cultivation Events:

There are no required printed materials.

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Three Easy Fundraising Roles Every Board Member Could Say Yes To

The fastest route to sanity and satisfaction when it comes to fundraising and your board members is to accept the 20-60-20 rule. That is, 20% of the board will enjoy being involved in fundraising, 60% will be neutral about it, and the remaining 20% will want nothing to do with it at all.

Here are three easy ways for every board member to participate in the fundraising process, without ever having to ask anyone for money themselves:

  1. Serve as Ambassadors by hosting and filling a private Point of Entry Event for ten or more guests. If your board members did nothing more than this, they would be making an enormous contribution to the future of your organization. Help them identify an existing group—like their work colleagues or book club—and choose a date and place to have it—either at your offices or their home or office. Be sure they start with a list of 20-30 in order to ensure ten guests or more in attendance.
  2. Thank donors for gifts. Ask your board members to telephone recent, happy individual donors just to thank them. Not all board members will want to do this, but once a few of them report at the next board meeting on how rewarding the experience was, others may offer to jump in.
  3. Give money themselves. You need to be able to tell your community that 100% of your board members give money personally to your organization, regardless of the amount. We do not recommend setting a minimum gift expectation for board members. If you cultivate and ask each board member individually for their gift, you will be treating each board member as if they will become your most cherished major donor, thereby abiding by the Benevon Golden Rule. Note: You may choose to make board giving a requirement, not an option.
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Should all board members be on our fundraising team?

Ask Benevon: The Ask Event is Not a First Date

Q: We are starting to put together a team to implement the Benevon Model. I am wondering, why wouldn’t all or most board members have team member responsibilities?

Jamie in Washington

A: Not all board members will want to be part of your fundraising team. Many may already be serving on a board committee. Those who are already on your fund development committee would be the natural candidates for serving on your Benevon team.

Having said that, ideally, every board member will serve as an Ambassador at least once, if not once a year. Serving as an Ambassador means hosting and filling one private Point of Entry with ten or more friends and colleagues.

Beyond serving on your Benevon team and being an Ambassador, board members can contribute by making thank-you phone calls to donors and giving money themselves.

We treat board members like donors, and you would never require all of your donors to get involved on your fundraising team—only those who want to.

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Seven Great Ways to Get Your Board Started with the Benevon Model

We are often asked how to involve the entire board in the Benevon process. Here are seven key ways to get started that do not include having board members ask other people for money!

  1. Have every board member watch the free online video, Eight Minutes to Sustainable Funding, or the full fifty-five-minute video, Creating Sustainable Funding for Your Nonprofit, to get themselves up to speed on the Benevon Model.
  2. Allow time at each board meeting for your Sustainable Funding Team members to talk up the model within the board. Have them talk about the importance of long-term sustainable funding and the impact it would have on your community. Give board members an opportunity for real discussion about their frustrations with the year-to-year fundraising treadmill and begin to quantify what sustainable funding would look like, using specific metrics.
  3. Ask each board member to become an Ambassador for your work in the community. Ask them to think about groups of people in their lives who would love to know more about your organization and make a plan for hosting and filling a private Point of Entry Event for ten or more guests.
  4. Organize a board retreat about sustainable funding.
    • Start by having each board member say why they are involved with your organization and why they feel its work is so important.
    • Explain the model or have them watch one of the Benevon videos.
    • Tell them your plan to start putting on Point of Entry Events.
    • Invite them to attend a kick-the-tires Point of Entry just for the board.
    • Do a Treasure Map exercise with the board to identify groups in the community and people they think should be invited to Points of Entry.
    • Remind them that the model is mission-based and permission-based. Your organization will not be asking people for money until each potential donor has been educated and inspired about the work of your group.
  5. Invite board members to join your official Sustainable Funding Team, involving them in Point of Entry Events, follow-up, asking, and cultivation.
  6. Have one or two board members each month make calls to thank donors and to ask for their input and feedback after events. Follow the specific Benevon Follow-Up Call protocol. With every “thank you” be sure to include a story or example about the impact that gift made. There is no substitute for a board member calling a donor. Repeat: there is no substitute for a board member calling a donor.
  7. Ask board members to give money personally to the organization every year. Your goal is to have your organization be one of the top three places each board member supports.

Remember the Benevon Golden Rule: treat each board member as if they were your most cherished major donor. In other words, take the time to find out their specific areas of interest in your work and tend them carefully.

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The Benevon Model in Small Communities

How can we prepare our board for getting started with the Benevon Model? How do we explain to them what’s different about it?

Q: Our city has a population of fewer than 100,000. There are only a handful of people with significant money. How can we be successful with the Benevon Model?

Tara in Colorado

A: Start by getting to know the donors you already have. Aim to deepen your relationship with them, by inviting them to a private Point of Entry Event hosted by a board member, for example. Aim to have some of these longtime supporters become Ambassadors who host their own private Points of Entry.

Let these existing supporters, very organically, lead you to the next group of interested people. Then follow the steps in the Benevon Model.

Rather than starting by identifying the few wealthy people (who may not have any natural connection to your organization anyway), work to engage your existing supporters first and trust in the power of their relationships and passion for your mission to fan out into the broader community.