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Sizzling, or Just Nice?

We say your Point of Entry Event must be sizzling, but what do we mean by that? We mean memorable, compelling, and gripping, even life-changing. It has to leave a visceral imprint on the guest—something they will never forget.

The event needs to tug at the heartstrings several times by including four or five stories, told first person, by letter or using audio tape.

In addition to inspiring people, the Point of Entry needs to let each guest know that you would love to have them get more involved with your organization, in whatever way works for them, ideally by becoming an Ambassador and hosting and filling a private tour with ten or more of their friends or colleagues.

Guests need to know that no matter how nice your surroundings look, you are not “handled.” The mission you are here to fulfill still urgently needs them: you haven’t yet cured that disease yet, ended child abuse or homelessness. There’s still more work to be done.

Unfortunately, not all the Point of Entry Events we visit are that sizzling. Although our groups often give themselves high marks when they rate themselves on their events, our coaches don’t always agree. We see Point of Entry Events that may be technically correct in that they follow the proper one-hour agenda, but they don’t knock your socks off.

These lackluster events leave guests saying, “What an interesting group. Those people obviously know what they’re doing.” But they aren’t compelled to take action. Guests need to leave your Point of Entry saying, “I had no idea,”  or “Wait until I tell Jane—this is just the kind of thing she would love.”

In other words, even if guests choose not to become personally involved, they should be so excited about what they saw that they think  of other people they’d like to tell about it: people for whom your issue is “just their thing.”

I recall an exceptional Point of Entry I visited for a residential treatment home for children who had been abused and neglected. It had a wonderful theme: hands. I was greeted at the front door by an adult and child. The child took my hand and walked me over to the sign-in table. I was both physically and emotionally “touched” from the minute I arrived.

There were handprints of children used as metaphors throughout the Point of Entry. As victims of abuse, these children had come to associate hands with bad things. This residential program aimed to transform that image for these children. They wove this theme into the stories told, and we viewed pictures of handprints in the bedrooms and hallways as we toured the building.

The most memorable moment for me was the finale of that Point of Entry. Each guest was escorted by a child to a tray filled with colorful finger paint, where we got to make our own handprint on a big group poster. I will never forget that little five-year-old boy holding my hand proudly as we walked over to the paint, rolling up my sleeve, covering my hand with the slippery red paint, pushing down on the back of my hand to be sure every single digit was imprinted on the paper, and then walking me over to the bucket of warm soapy water, washing off the paint, and carefully drying my hand.

Before I left, I knelt down and gave him a hug, thanking him for the wonderful experience. It was such a proud moment for this child to know he had made a difference with me. Talk about memorable! It had been a long time since I’d done any finger painting, and the love and care that little boy took in helping me make a beautiful hand print spoke volumes about the work this organization does every day.

I went right home and told several people about this organization and, had I lived in that town, I would defintely have volunteered to serve as an Ambassador and host my own Point of Entry Event.

Keep asking yourself—and other people whose opinion you value: “Did our Point of Entry Event move you to tears?”

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Follow-Up Calls: Keys to Success

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

As your guests are leaving the Point of Entry Event—inspired, informed, and rushing off to their next appointment—the person who will make the Follow-Up Call says to each of them, “Thank you for coming. I’ll give you a call in the next couple of days to get your feedback.”

Remember your objective in making these calls: to have a minimum of one new volunteer Ambassador come forward out of the ten or more guests that attend each private Point of Entry. Now, to ensure that call is successful, let’s look at what must happen before, during, and after the Point of Entry Event.

Before the Point of Entry Program Begins
Review the guest list. Make sure the primary person who will make the Follow-Up Calls—we’ll call her Delia—knows each guest by name or, at a minimum, knows the name of the person who invited each guest.

Delia stands in the reception area and greets each guest warmly as they arrive: “Welcome to Abilities in Action. I’m Delia, the person you talked to on the phone!”

Note that Delia is not the official greeter stationed at the front door of the building, nor is she the official sign-in person who is stationed at the table to be sure each guest fills out a guest card. She has the flexibility to move around. She chats informally with as many guests as possible before the event begins, asking questions like, “How are you connected to _______________ (the Ambassador host)?” Five minutes before the program is scheduled to begin, Delia ushers the guests into the meeting room and asks them to take a seat at the table.

During the Point of Entry Event
The Ambassador opens the program following Benevon’s script on (page 104 of The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition), welcoming the guests, introducing Delia, sharing their own story, and asking guests to introduce themselves briefly, including what connection, if any, they have with the organization. Ask the guests to be thinking of others who would want to know about your work as they take the tour today.

During the tour portion of the Point of Entry, Delia serves as the tour guide, first introducing herself by sharing her personal connection to the organization.

At the end of the Point of Entry Event, the Ambassador who made the opening remarks thanks people for coming and reminds them that Delia will call each of them in the next few days to get their feedback, including their ideas for who else they might know who would want to attend a future Point of Entry Event, and whether they might like to become an Ambassador.

Immediately Following the Point of Entry Event
Set aside time immediately following each Point of Entry Event to meet with your team to go through the guest cards and decide who will make each Follow-Up Call. For the most part, these calls will all be made by your designated staff Follow-Up Call person who is also the Team Leader, like Delia.

If you have a prominent person or elected official, a board member, or major donor whom you feel would respond better to receiving a Follow-Up Call from the CEO directly, this is the time to make these important call assignments. Remember, whoever makes the first Follow-Up Call will be responsible for the ongoing relationship with this guest.

When to Make the Official Post-Point of Entry Follow-Up Call
The Follow-Up Call must be made on the second or third day following the Point of Entry Event. Give the guests a day or two to digest what they experienced and yet not so long that they will have forgotten the impact of the event.

What to Have on Hand when Making the Follow-Up Call
Be sure that the Follow-Up Call person has on hand a copy of the Wish List (see page 117) each guest will have received at the Point of Entry. This list should include several volunteer opportunities, starting with Ambassadors, as well as 8 to 10 tangible items you really need.

Also, you will need a copy of the Ambassador Invitation Script nearby (see page 86).

The Detailed Follow-Up Call Script
Think of this as a research call with a specific list of points to cover. Consider yourself a detective on a mission to determine how each person might like to become involved, even if only a little bit, with your organization. This must be a customized type of involvement, tailored to their needs and interests. You must have your radar detector turned up to high intensity for this call. You are listening for clues. You may need to practice asking people questions and then not talking so you can listen closely to the essence of what they are saying as well as what they are not saying.

Here is a more detailed outline of the Five-Step Follow-Up Call that will be helpful to have nearby when you make these calls.

  1. Thank you for coming.
  2. What did you think?
    • Of the stories you heard?
    • What area of our work most interested you? Was it (bucket #1, #2, or #3)?
    • What new thoughts or ideas did you come away with?
    • Do you have a personal connection to our work? Tell me about it.
    • Did you leave with any questions I can answer for you?
    • What advice do you have for us?
  3. Be quiet and listen.
    • Take notes on what they say.
    • Enter notes into database.
  4. Is there any way you can see yourself becoming involved with us?
    • Invite others to Point of Entry Events.
    • Have a list of things people could do, such as volunteer opportunities; making reminder calls for Points of Entry; or volunteering (e.g., tutoring or mentoring a child).
    • Reference the Wish List items.
    • Host a Point of Entry or a Point of Entry in a Box.
    • Become an Ambassador.
    • Activity related to their bucket area of interest (e.g., meet with the program director or tour the facility, invite to a small event).
  5. Is there anyone else you can think of that we ought to invite to a Point of Entry?
    • Who else in your daily life? Other groups you participate in, etc.?
    • Maybe a family member, someone you work with or a friend?
    • Someone you know who has a personal connection or a real passion for our work.
    • Example: “You mentioned you work in the healthcare field. Is there anyone else from your work—or from your book club, for that matter—who you think should know about our work?”

Good luck and happy calling. Remember, it’s all about building long-term relationships!

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Inviting Busy People to Tours

Q: Currently we invite individuals to come on a tour of our regional clinic and then invite them to a small benefit dinner, where they are asked to consider monthly support of the ministry. A tour is also conducted during this event, which is also held onsite.

Many of the people I contact are busy professionals and not always available to do both a tour and a dinner (which of course we try to schedule within just a few weeks of their initial tour).

How crucial do you think it is to get them to the initial tour prior to the tour included in the dinner?

Linda in Virginia

In the Benevon Model, your goal is to have all of your Ask Event guests attend a Point of Entry prior to being asked to give.

The Point of Entry is—very intentionally—the first step of the model. Rather than happening after someone has been asked to give, the true Point of Entry—one that is hosted by an Ambassador who brings a group of ten or more people to a private, invitation-only event that they are hosting—gives people a powerful initial experience of your mission and lets them control the flow of their ongoing engagement with your organization.

Rather than having your small dinners, where many guests are asked to give before they have attended a Point of Entry, our model would have you asking your biggest supporters (e.g., prior Table Captains) to serve as volunteer Ambassadors by hosting their own Point of Entry Events.

In the follow-up phone calls, you can find out if their guests are interested in your work and how they’d like to be involved. Stress your need for more Ambassadors (both at the Point of Entry and in the follow-up) and ask if they have a group of people they’d like to bring together to learn more about your work. Whether or not they choose to be an Ambassador, you will find out how they want to personally be involved in your work going forward and get them engaged.

You can ask people to invest in your work one-on-one whenever the time is right. Or, if you have held many Points of Entry, hosted by Ambassadors, you can put on a larger Ask Event where you ask people for money. In either scenario, we recommend asking people to join your Multiple-Year Giving Society, pledging to contribute a minimum of $1,000 a year for five years. This can be fulfilled through a monthly pledge (similar to what you are doing) but more importantly asks donors to commit to supporting your work long-term, not just for six months or a year.

This sounds quite different from how you’ve been doing it but would be following the Benevon Model.

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Your Treasure Map: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

One of the best ways to identify people to engage through your Point of Entry Events is to create a Treasure Map. In other environments, it might be called a network analysis or a mind map. We call it a Treasure Map because the purpose of the exercise is to unearth the buried treasure that your organization may have.

Create a Treasure Map by writing your organization’s name in a small circle in the middle of a large sheet of paper, and draw out spokes (like a wheel) around that. At the end of each spoke, put the name of a group that your organization naturally comes into contact with. Examples include board, volunteers, donors, vendors, community partners, and staff. Some groups should be further divided into subgroups. For example, “board” could be broken down into former board, advisory board, and governing board. Volunteers could be broken into all of your different types of volunteers. Donors could be broken into events, direct mail donors, special event donors, lapsed donors, etc.

Once you have fully fleshed out the Treasure Map, next to each group write the resources that group has in abundance. Are they tangible resources, like goods and services, or non-tangible resources, like passion or connections? List out two things each group has in abundance.

Next, look at the self-interest of the people in this group for being involved with your organization. This self-interest is not good or bad, it just is what it is. Self-interest might be that it feels good, that it pleases their boss, that they want recognition, or that they are learning a new skill or maintaining a social connection. Go from one group to the next and identify what might be their unique self-interest for being involved with your organization.

Once you have completed the Treasure Map exercise, how should you use it? For starters, identify one or more individuals per group who could naturally serve as Ambassadors to easily reach out to other people who fall into the same group, for example, all of the Tuesday afternoon program volunteers. Find one great ringleader from that group and ask them to host a Point of Entry for all of those other volunteers. Even if they are already involved as volunteers, once they attend the Point of Entry Event, they will likely learn something new about your organization, and, in their follow-up call with your Team Leader, they will likely volunteer to serve as an Ambassador.

Beyond using the Treasure Map to identify Ambassadors, you can use it to identify other individuals or subgroups of people to invite as guests to attend your Points of Entry.

Your organization should complete a Treasure Map exercise at least once a year—although some groups choose to do this exercise more often. Even after several years of implementing the Benevon Model, if you create a new Treasure Map with your current board, staff, or volunteers, they will have different and unique input. Your organization’s network is always evolving and changing, and even if you are looking at groups that have been involved with your organization long-term, there will be new people (think new board members, new event sponsors or donors) who will bring a fresh perspective.

Be sure your team is set up to do a deep dive into this exercise a minimum of once a year and always go back to it when you are looking for people to invite to Points of Entry!

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What to Do With Ambassadors After They Host a Point of Entry?

Leaning Too Heavily on Your Board?

Q: What should I do with an Ambassador once they have brought their ten guests to their private Point of Entry Event?

Miriam in Arizona

A: You can always ask them if they would like to host another private Point of Entry and bring another group of ten guests or more. If you think they would make a good Ambassador Manager, ask them to take on that role. They could help in the training of new Ambassadors or they could join your Benevon team. See if they would like to become a program volunteer.

Whatever you do, continue to cultivate them, because they have obviously done a lot of work for you and care about your mission. Eventually, if they have been a successful Ambassador, you would want to ask them to consider being a Table Captain.

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Three Questions to Prevent Ambassador Fallout

In the follow-up call made to each of your potential gold-standard Ambassadors, after they have come to their first Point of Entry Event, many will volunteer enthusiastically to be Ambassadors.

From the moment an enthusiastic new Ambassador volunteers until the day they host their private Point of Entry Event for ten or more guests, “life” will inevitably happen and there will likely be many temptations for the Ambassador to change their mind, potentially leaving you in the lurch.

To avoid this “Ambassador fallout” here are three things the Team Leader must clarify before you hang up the phone and count this person as a confirmed Ambassador:

When would the Ambassador like to have their first Point of Entry Event? Would the Ambassador prefer to host a private Point of Entry Event or invite guests to the organization’s regularly scheduled Points of Entry? The ideal scenario would be for each Ambassador to host one private Point of Entry Event at your location, with at least ten guests in attendance, within three months of becoming an Ambassador. If the Ambassador is excited and has developed a guest list, there is no need to wait to have the event. Schedule their Point of Entry to take place as soon as possible. Choose the soonest date that works for everyone and make the event happen, capturing the initial momentum.

Where will the Point of Entry Event take place? Although the easiest location for your staff will no doubt be in the organization’s office, where your team will already have practiced and refined your Point of Entry program, once you have refined your Point of Entry in your office, and tested it over several months, you can begin to offer private Points of Entry in a Box in your Ambassadors’ homes, offices, or other meeting spaces. (See Chapter 16 in The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition.)

Who will the Ambassador invite to attend? Be sure your Team Leader takes time in that first phone call to help the new Ambassador brainstorm their full Personal Treasure Map, identifying specific social or professional groups, book clubs, etc., that the person belongs to. Do not assume they will do this without you.

Have them walk through the same steps as the Treasure Map you made for your organization, starting by putting themselves in the center circle, adding the groups they naturally come into contact with, what each group has in abundance, the benefits for the groups in coming to a Point of Entry Event for your organization, and the lines connecting those who know each other. Give them enough time to go through all the steps. They probably will be surprised by all the treasure they have.

Then, ask them to make a list of ten to twenty individuals from the various categories on their Treasure Map who they would feel comfortable inviting to a Point of Entry Event. It’s often easiest for people to start off by inviting the people closest to them: friends and family. Beyond that, is there a ready-made group they are part of? Does that group have a standing meeting time? Would that be a group that might have an interest in coming to your Point of Entry Event?

Once you have answered these three questions and you can tell that the Ambassador is excited about hosting the event and has a vision for how it will look and feel, you can refer the Ambassador to your volunteer Ambassador Manager, who will keep in close contact with the Ambassador to ensure the success of their private Point of Entry Event.

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High-Impact Follow-Up Calls

After all your work putting on a brilliant Point of Entry Event, how can you make the most of your Benevon Follow-Up Calls? Here is a more detailed guide for how to ensure you will gently discover whether or not your guest is interested in becoming more involved with your organization and, if so, in what way. I’d recommend keeping this beside your phone as you make your calls. Be sure to enter all your notes into your database to track the entire donor cultivation process.

Detailed Five-Step Follow-Up Call

  1. Thank you for coming.
  2. What did you think?
    • Of the stories you heard?
    • What area of our work most interested you? Was it (bucket #1, #2, or #3)?
    • What new thoughts or ideas did you come away with?
    • Was there a particular aspect of our work that resonated with you? Tell me about it.
    • Did you leave with any questions I can answer for you?
    • What advice do you have for us?
  3. Be quiet and listen.
    • Take notes on what they say.
    • Enter notes into database.
  4. Is there any way you can see yourself becoming involved with us?
    • Become an Ambassador—host and fill a private Point of Entry with ten or more guests.
    • Have a list of things people could do, such as volunteer opportunities; making reminder calls for Points of Entry; or volunteering (e.g., tutoring or mentoring a child).
    • Reference the Wish List items.
    • Activity related to their bucket area of interest (e.g., meet with the program director or tour the facility, invite to a small event).
  5. Is there anyone else you can think of that you would like to invite to a Point of Entry?
    • Who else in your daily life might be interested in learning more about what we do?
      • Are there other groups you participate in, individuals you talked to about the tour, perhaps a family member or friend, someone you know who has a personal connection or a real passion for our work?
      • Example: “You mentioned you work in the healthcare field. Is there anyone else from your work—or from your book club, for that matter—who you think should know about our work?”
    • As you heard at our Point of Entry, our biggest need is to have people help us spread the word about our organization by serving as a volunteer Ambassador. Is that something you might be willing to help us with?
    • [If they answer “yes,” talk through when and where they would like to host their private event and make a preliminary list of who they would like to invite. Remember, the easiest way to fill a Point of Entry is with a ready-made group they are already a part of, like their book club. Schedule a next call to take place within two weeks.]
    • [If they answer “no,” then arrange a next contact—either a second visit to your offices to meet with a program person in the program that interests them, or to attend a special program like a graduation, or to volunteer.]

If you are certain that they are not interested in any further contact, thank them for coming and “bless and release them.” You can enter their name in your database but do not mail them or call them again. Trust that they will come back if and when the time is right.

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Qualities of Great Ambassadors

Q: We read the book, and thought that the Ambassador concept made a lot of sense. We’d like to start implementing an Ambassador program at our organization. Before we start, we wanted to know: what makes for a great Ambassador? What are the characteristics of a strong Ambassador?

Natalie in Florida

A: The most important quality of an Ambassador is that they have an abundance of passion for the mission of your organization. Perhaps they have shared that they have a personal connection to your mission, or they have volunteered or been a donor, but in some way they have demonstrated that your mission is their mission too. You also want to look for people who say yes to being involved with you, and who follow through by doing what they say they will do. Maybe they have asked, “What do you need?” or “How could I help?” They may be people who are already “natural ambassadors” for your organization in that they have shared your work with others and invited them to come and get involved. Ambassadors need to be passionate about spreading the word in the community about your mission!