Posted on

How to Think Like a Donor

To get insights into how to cultivate a donor, look at what motivates you personally as a donor.

Here is a simple but powerful exercise:

  1. Make a list of the organizations you give money to. Not just the obvious one or two—go a little deeper. Come up with at least five.
  2. Next, take the time to answer the following questions for each contribution you make.

What patterns or trends do you notice in your giving? For example:

      • For how many years have you been giving to the same organizations? Have you increased your giving over the years? What, if anything, have these organizations done over the years that have led to an increase or decrease in your giving?

      • Are you a loyal or a fickle donor? Or a little of both? Do you give faithfully to your old standby favorites? Do you intersperse them with new ones? If so, what does it take to become a new recipient of your gift?

      • Is there any correlation between the amount of your time and money you give to an organization? Do you feel differently about giving money to the places where you also volunteer in some way?

      • What kind of thanks do you receive? Are you thanked more or less than you would like? Do the thanks feel personal enough? Does it seem like the organization knows you or wants to know you better?

      • Is your name prominently displayed in places that matter to you? On plaques, or in annual reports? Though this may not seem important to you, how would you feel if your name were inadvertently omitted.

      • In terms of ongoing connection, is there more each organization could be doing? Do they invite you to other events throughout the year? Do you feel sufficiently connected to their mission? If it’s a national organization, are you part of a larger national ‘society’ or group recognition program?

      • What more would it take for them to receive a larger gift from you? More information, more direct contact, more recognition? Maybe just a phone call?

Notice what makes you tick when it comes to giving away your money.

Notice what more an organization could have done to get to know you and your passion for their work. Often just a phone call or a personal invitation to a meeting or program of interest will make a big difference. Perhaps you’ve already done that with some of your favorite organizations and now you need something more. Perhaps they’ve missed your cues and their attempts to “cultivate” you feel too heavy-handed.

As you begin the cultivation process with each donor, remember, first and foremost, that you are a donor. Your name is on a list at each of these nonprofit organizations. Someone within those organizations may be trying to “cultivate” you right now!

Posted on

Are We Ready to Have an Ask Event?

Q: What should be our biggest consideration in deciding if we are ready to put on an Ask Event?
Andrea in Georgia

A: Your biggest concern needs to be the number of people that attended your private, Ambassador-hosted Point of Entry Events so far. The success of the Ask Event will depend on having a minimum of 40% of the guests attend a prior Point of Entry Event. We call this the 40% critical mass rule, and it is not hard to achieve.

Furthermore, you should aim to exceed 40%. Of course, the higher the percentage of guests at your Ask Event who have been cultivated through the first two steps of the model, the better. Many groups we work with already know that 50-80% of their Ask Event guests have been cultivated sufficiently so that they will arrive at the Ask Event predisposed to giving.

Posted on

Key Metric #4

Think you already know what the Benevon Model is? Think again!

We have distilled five key metrics to ensure your success. Here’s the fourth one:

Minimum of 40% of Ask Event guests have attended a Point of Entry Event in the prior 12 months

Answer these questions to see how your organization is doing at meeting this fourth key metric:

  1. Before you set your goal for the number of guests at your Ask Event, do you know how many private, Ambassador-hosted Points of Entry you will need to have to ensure your success with this metric?

    ‌Assume that 50% of Point of Entry guests will be “blessed and released” in the follow-up call. If you have 200 Point of Entry guests attending Ambassador-hosted Points of Entry, you will likely end up with 100 whom you cultivate further. These are the 100 that are invited to the Ask Event by the same Ambassador that hosted their Point of Entry Event.
  1. Do you encourage successful Ambassadors to host more than one Point of Entry Event in a year in order to ensure their success in having at least 40% of their Ask Event guests be prior Point of Entry attendees?

    ‌If you have already had an Ask Event, have you calculated what percentage of your guests had attended a Point of Entry in the year prior to that Ask Event?

    ‌Do not count guests who attended Points of Entry more than one year prior to the Ask Event—these must be well-cultivated recent guests!
  1. Do you provide your Ambassadors who agree to become Table Captains with a list of their prior Point of Entry guests whom you have been cultivating?
  1. Do you give these Ambassadors a script or talking points to use when inviting their prior Point of Entry guests to join them at their table at your Ask Event? See Chapter 15 of The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition.

Once your team successfully meets this fourth key metric, you will never need to default to asking Table Captains to fill their tables with “new” people.

Many organizations aim to have 80% or more of their Ask Event guests be this year’s prior Point of Entry attendees and they raise far more money at their Ask Event. There is a direct correlation!

Posted on

Dealing with Table Overflow at the Ask Event

Q: What happens if a Table Captain asks 14 people (as you suggest) and more than 10 of them show up that morning for the Ask Event? How will they all be seated at a table that is set for 10?

Jensen in South Carolina

A: Most organizations find that if a Table Captain starts with 14 confirmed guests, by the time the event comes around, they will end up with 10 at their table. Some guests will back out in the weeks prior to the event and some will not be able to make it on the day of the event due to unexpected circumstances.

If someone does end up with more than 10 guests, here’s what to do. First of all, have an overflow table or two set in the back. This will allow you to seat guests who come to the event that were not registered, and could also be a place to put a guest if a table is too full. It also may be possible to seat an additional guest at the full table. It may be a bit tight with 11 people sitting around it, but the event will only last one hour!

Have plenty of volunteers available to troubleshoot, as challenges and the unexpected will happen. In this case, have one of your volunteers work with the Table Captain to move a few of their people to a nearby table with empty seats.

Ideally the Table Captains will have served as Ambassadors prior to hosting their table, meaning that they’ve brought many of their guests to their privately-hosted Point of Entry Event before inviting them to the Ask Event. In that case, the guests have already established some relationship with your organization and you could seat them with a board member or high-level staff member that welcomes them warmly and serves as their table host for the hour.

Posted on

Having a Donor Database You Love

Q: How do you define a “good donor database?”
A: Have you—personally—used it in the last 24 hours?

I clearly recall, way back in 1992, purchasing the first database program for our school with my own money. I knew then that if I was going to be successful as the sole staff member working on fundraising, a great database would be essential. Most of my days were spent sitting at a little desk in front of my computer screen with my headset on, reconfirming Point of Entry guests, making follow-up calls, making phone calls to supporters and donors, and tracking every single conversation in our database.

Years after I left the school, subsequent development directors thanked me for setting up that database and for the quality and detail of my notes, which taught them the importance of entering such critical information.

Rather than regard the database as a burden or annoyance or something to be “managed” by someone who is peripheral to the process, I have always thought of my database as the full-time equivalent of a super-smart staff member or member of my team.

I recommend you design it to be something that you and each team member can rely on as your personal memory bank, diary, or journal.

In other words, consider that your tracking system could be something you love!

Use your database to track Point of Entry guests, information gathered from each question in the follow-up call, cultivation contacts, volunteer involvement, Ambassador activity, Ask Event Table Captains, gifts and pledges, ongoing major gifts cultivation, and one-on-one Asks.

Furthermore, if it is properly secured, easy to use, readily accessible to everyone on your team, and linked to a calendar function, it can become an easy and natural way to communicate updates on donor contacts, manage the next contacts for each donor, and manage your overall cultivation calendar as well.

Here are Benevon’s minimum requirements for your donor tracking software if you are serious about implementing the model.

Tracking System—Minimum Requirements:

  • Has a sufficient notes section for tracking conversations and relationships over time, not just basic contact information and gift history
  • Tracks follow-up call dates, messages left, and what was said on the call
  • Easy to use by everyone on your team
  • Interfaces with your website, so that website information is captured directly into the database
  • Delivers and stores individual and mass emails
  • Provides a log of contacts
  • Built-in tickler system, so that all notes have dates and action items that link to the appropriate date in your daily planner
  • Tracks relationships between people
  • Tracks which events people attended (when invited and by whom)
  • Tracks which mailings/contacts people responded to

To summarize, your tracking system should be the one solid, reliable repository for the chronology of every contact with each donor, potential donor, and volunteer. That is the only way everyone who has access to your database will come to count on this as the sole source for up-to-the-minute information on each donor.

Learn more about Bloomerang for Benevon, a special version of the Bloomerang software that incorporates Benevon’s model for engaging and developing relationships with individual donors.

Posted on

Ask Benevon: The Ask Event is Not a First Date

Q: If you only have two months until your Ask Event, and only half of the people on a Table Captain’s list of invitees have been through a Point of Entry, do they still invite them to the breakfast? Or do they invite them to a Point of Entry instead and then try to invite them to the breakfast in the follow-up call from the Point of Entry? Relatedly: If you have a new Table Captain that hasn’t had a single person on their list come to a Point of Entry, do they invite them to the breakfast or still try to do the Point of Entry first?

 Kimberly in California

A: The only reason to have an Ask Event is to “harvest” all of the good cultivation work you have been doing with the prior year’s Point of Entry guests. The Ask Event is not a substitute for a Point of Entry. Inviting people to the Ask Event as their first exposure to your organization is akin to having first-time guests to your home enter through the back door.

Many nonprofits that attempt to “self-implement” our model, without having a system for developing Ambassadors who fill their Points of Entry, get boxed into a pre-established Ask Event date and then default, out of necessity, to filling that event with traditional Table Captains who dutifully call friends and colleagues to reciprocate prior favors by joining them at their table.

You need a minimum of 50% of your Ask Event guests to be people who have attended a Point of Entry in the prior twelve months. You also want 100% of your Table Captains to have served as Ambassadors in the prior year; this is a key factor in accomplishing the prior goal.

If someone hasn’t invited a single person to a Point of Entry, we would not suggest having them serve as a Table Captain. Engage them in serving as an Ambassador by working to get at least ten people to a Point of Entry and then continue to cultivate them towards being a Table Captain at next year’s Ask Event.

I hope this helps to clarify. Good luck with your event.

Posted on

Benevon’s Key Metric #3

Think you already know what the Benevon Model is? Think again!

We have distilled five key metrics to ensure your success. Here’s the third one:

One hundred percent of Ask Event Table Captains have been successful Ambassadors in the prior 12 months.

Answer these seven questions to see how your organization is doing at meeting this third key metric:

  1. How many Ambassadors does your organization have? An Ambassador in the Benevon Model has attended a prior Point of Entry Event and has then hosted and filled a private Point of Entry with a minimum of ten guests in attendance.
  2. Are you having a minimum of two sizzling private Point of Entry Events per month, each hosted and filled (with ten or more guests) by an Ambassador?
  3. Are you recruiting a minimum of one new Ambassador out of every Point of Entry Event?
  4. Do you have a process for supporting these eager new Ambassadors in being successful at hosting and filling their Point of Entry Event or are you expecting them to follow through on their own?
  5. Have you calculated how many Ambassadors you will need in the next nine to twelve months to ensure you will have enough Table Captains for the size of Ask Event you want to have?
  6. Have you committed to an Ask Event venue that is too large for the number of successful Ambassadors you will likely have this year? Do you have the flexibility to reduce the size of your event to meet this metric, i.e., are you willing to scale your event to the number of true Ambassadors you will have by the time of the event?
  7. Or conversely, are you counting on board members, prior years’ Table Captains, and staff to help you out in the end by “filling tables” with their friends and colleagues who have never attended a Point of Entry?

Organizations that are rigorous about meeting this metric may have smaller Ask Events but they are able to meet Benevon’s formula for a successful Ask Event:

  • Formula: take the number of people who attend your Ask Event and divide by two, then multiply by $1,000.
  • For example, a 200-person Ask Event would yield $100,000 in cash and pledges.
Posted on

What Size Tables for the Ask Event?

Q: Our organization has been utilizing the same venue for our annual fundraiser for four years now, and my supervisor and I are looking at a different venue for next year.

We like the new venue because it has a bigger space (since the past years have been a bit tight); however, they can only provide ten round tables that seat ten to twelve people. The remaining tables can only seat up to nine. Do you have any suggestions for how we can work around this in regard to the Benevon Model?

We think perhaps trying to recruit more Table Captains for more tables, but they would only be able to invite up to eight people instead of ten to twelve.

Nicole in Oregon

A: The number one criteria for someone to serve as a Table Captain at the Ask Event is that they have been a prior Ambassador, hosting and filling a Point of Entry Event for ten or more people in the prior twelve months. Before you look at expanding your event and recruiting more Table Captains, we would recommend that you look at how many of last year’s Table Captains had been prior Ambassadors.

If it wasn’t 100%, rather than having more tables, we’d coach you to focus instead on having 100% of your Table Captains be prior Ambassadors. We find that Table Captains who have been prior Ambassadors bring people to the Ask Event who have already been cultivated by attending a Point of Entry and receiving at least one follow-up call. Guests who have attended a prior Point of Entry give on average two to four times more money when they come to the Ask Event. Perhaps you can make do with fewer tables and focus on quality over quantity when it comes to guests at the event.

Assuming that you will need more than ten tables, we’d suggest you use the nine-person tables and just squeeze in a tenth seat. It might be a little tight, but the event is only one hour, and we find people will understand. You could also look into renting additional ten-person tables if you are more comfortable with that set-up.

Posted on

The Art of Blessing and Releasing

“Blessing and Releasing” people who are not interested in becoming more involved with your organization is one of the many counter-intuitive aspects of the Benevon Model that will leave guests feeling respected and more favorably towards your organization.

At Step 2: The Follow-Up Call, many Point of Entry Event guests may have a hard time telling you directly that they are not interested in becoming involved, even though that is their preference. They do not want you to think they are mean and uncaring.

Therefore, it is critical that the person making each Follow-Up Call listens carefully to read the signals from a guest who is trying to tell you “No.”

What might these signals look like? They include hesitating, being polite but not forthcoming with any suggestions or responses, being quiet or noncommittal.

If you are listening closely during the Follow-Up Call, you will start to develop radar for those guests who are nicely asking you to “bless and release” them.

However, even if the person does not want to become involved, before you bless and release them, don’t forget to ask them the last question in the Five-Step Follow-Up Call: “Is there anyone else you would suggest we invite to another______ (Point of Entry Event) like the one you attended?” If they give you a name, ask, “May I ask you to contact the person (or group) first to let them know I will be calling?”  Any suggestions, names, or ideas they have given you need to be acted on immediately and, in turn, reported back to them quickly.

Thank them for their time and ask them to keep your organization in mind, and then put a note in their file in your database saying you have blessed and released them.

Do not put them on your mailing lists or attempt to contact them further. In the long run, they will respect you a lot more for valuing their time and involvement in other organizations.

If you do not connect with the initial Point of Entry Event guest:

  • Leave one phone message and send one email message offering to arrange a time to talk.
  • If you do not hear back, leave one more phone message.
  • Then note in your database that you have blessed and released this person.
  • Do not put this guest on your mailing list or follow up with them in any way after this, unless they request it.
Posted on

Recognizing Major Donors

Q: One of our donors made a generous gift in October, which we announced with a press release and online news story. Six weeks later, the donor added to that gift. What would be the best way to announce this increase in the original gift?

Ann Marie in Michigan

A: Recognition of major donors is an important element of the cultivation process. You want to be sure that the recognition is appropriate, timely, and most of all, meaningful to the donor! If they appreciated the press release, it might be best to do another one announcing the additional gift. If the increase was nominal in comparison to the initial gift, a press release might not be appropriate, but perhaps a personal visit or call from your CEO or a key board member would be. Many times, donors have a specific type of recognition in mind. While we could spin our wheels trying to guess what would be most meaningful, it is often best to just come right out and ask, suggesting one or two options, yet leaving it up to the donor to choose. We find that major donors appreciate that consideration.