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Capturing Names at a Holiday Banquet

Leaning Too Heavily on Your Board?

Q: How do we capture the names at our annual holiday banquet fundraising dinner and can we use it as a Point of Entry Event? We expect to have over 200 people, and we do a great emotional program about our work, but we’ve never been very successful at getting people to give us their cards for more info.

Neil in Massachusetts

A: In order to consider an event a real Point of Entry, people must be invited personally by someone they know, they must attend knowing they are coming just to learn about your work, you must have time to do the full Point of Entry program, and you must have permission to follow up with all of the guests afterwards.

Your holiday banquet is a great example of what we call a Point of Entry Conversion Event, which is often a great feeder strategy for your Points of Entry if you can successfully follow up with attendees and invite them to come.

At a moment in the program when you have people’s attention, have your emcee say that you wouldn’t be doing your job if you didn’t take a moment to share what the support raised at this event will make possible for the mission. Have them introduce your Visionary Leader, who should give a brief Visionary Leader Talk. Following the Visionary Leader, you should have a testimonial from someone who was supported by your organization.

Once those two program pieces have happened, the emcee should come back out and say that people have now gotten a glimpse of what your work is about and that some of them might find themselves wanting to get more involved. Then direct them to cards in the center of their table or under their plates, which they can fill out to indicate that they would like to talk with someone from the organization. You will then follow up and invite the people who gave you a card to a Point of Entry.

To shortcut the process, you can recruit your table hosts to become Ambassadors who agree to host and fill one private Point of Entry Event after the holiday banquet for those guests who want to attend.

Have the dates for their private Points of Entry pre-scheduled for January and work with each person to invite the folks they bring to the banquet back to a Point of Entry in the new year. Tell the hosts that it will be a great way for their guests to learn more about the organization and feel proud of what their support has allowed them to do.

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Motivating Ambassadors

What Size Tables for the Ask Event?

Q: We are having a hard time keeping Ambassadors motivated to actually follow through on hosting and filling a Point of Entry Event with ten or more people. We only have three active Ambassadors. What advice do you have for us?

Melanie in Texas

A: An Ambassador is someone who has attended a Point of Entry Event, believes in your work, and accepts a short-term volunteer assignment to host and fill a private Point of Entry Event with ten or more guests in the next two to three months.

The key to making your Ambassador program successful starts with the personal invitation they received from their friend to attend the initial Point of Entry. Their friend who is hosting the event (for example, a friend from their book club) tells them that they are serving as an Ambassador by hosting a private one-hour tour of an organization they love, to give them a first-hand experience of the work of the organization. They will not be asked for money at the event and they will receive one follow-up call from someone at the organization to get their feedback and to see if they might like to serve as an Ambassador by hosting and filling a subsequent Point of Entry with their own group of ten or more.

At the Point of Entry, the Ambassador welcomes everyone from the book club, shares why they are so committed to the organization, introduces the Visionary Leader. The person who will be making the Follow-Up Calls has a speaking role during the Point of Entry, sharing their personal connection to the work of the organization, and perhaps serving as the tour guide.

It is very important that the person making the follow-up calls be someone who enjoys talking with people on the phone and is good at building relationships. Their goal should be to identify one new Ambassador from the follow-up calls to the ten or more guests who attend each Point of Entry Event.

When someone tells them that they would like to become an Ambassador, the person making the follow-up calls must be sure to talk through three things: who do they plan to invite, when and where would they like to have the Point of Entry event. Make sure the potential Ambassador can visualize this event in detail before hanging up the phone! Let them know you they will be receiving ongoing support from your (volunteer) Ambassador Manager—someone who has been a successful Ambassador themselves. Tell them the name of that person and to expect a phone call in the next day or two.

The Ambassador Manager must keep in touch weekly or every other week until the big day!  They should also work with t each Ambassador to identify in advance one or two of their guests who might want to become an Ambassador after they learn more about your organization.


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Converting Board “Strong-Armers” to Ambassadors

Rather than having board members rush to the “Ask,” soliciting their friends and business associates following the traditional strong-arming approach of the past, what if your board members and volunteers used that same trusted relationship to invite their friends and colleagues to your organization’s engaging and compelling one-hour Point of Entry Events and let the guests decide for themselves if your work mattered enough to them to get involved?

That is precisely what happened during the two years I worked as the first development director at an urban academy in Seattle, where I began to develop the Benevon Model.

Our board members all truly loved the school and had joined the board because they really cared. They had each already spent time at the school and had listened to and responded to the powerful vision of the school’s founders.

So once we created and began to hold our introductory tours, now called Point of Entry Events, on a regular basis, the board members happily volunteered to invite their friends to their private Points of Entry, often taking their friends to breakfast or lunch afterwards.

I remember the first time one of their guests, Martin, fell in love with the school. As he was leaving his first Point of Entry Event, Martin turned and said to me, “This was amazing! How do I get on the board here?” When I called our board chair, John, to tell him what Martin had said, he was stunned. “He actually said that? Do you know how great that makes me feel? To think that someone of Martin’s caliber fell in love with the school in his own right and could carry on the leadership of our board—that is remarkable!” Martin, like many others after him, joined the board and provided strong leadership for many years.

Compare that outcome to the old approach. One of our board members could have taken Martin out for lunch and asked him to write a check to this great inner-city school. Martin would have obliged dutifully. End of story. Or perhaps a board member and his wife could have invited Martin and his wife to join them at an annual gala or golf tournament, where there would be even less of a connection with the school’s mission.

Instead, we cultivated the relationship with Martin after the Point of Entry Event. I made a Five-Step Follow-Up Call three days later and asked him what he thought of the school and the tour. How else might he like to become involved? Was there anyone he might like to invite to attend a tour?

The result was that Martin became what we now call an Ambassador, inviting first his family and then his business associates to private Points of Entry he hosted at  the school. As we followed up with his friends and family, many of them got involved with the school, and Martin became more involved as well. He was a Table Captain at our first Free One-Hour Ask Event about nine months later; seven of his nine guests had already attended Point of Entry Events. Three of them joined our Multiple-Year Giving Society, pledging $1,000 a year for each of the next five years. One other guest, in addition to Martin himself, pledged $5,000 a year for five years.

That one referral—based strictly on one board member’s relationship with Martin—led to pledges totaling $65,000. And the ripple effect was just beginning. Martin sat on the board of a private foundation, ran a company, and had many other relationships with people he was excited to introduce to the school. Each of our board members was discovering the same thing: it was far more effective to invite their friends and colleagues to their private Point of Entry Event and then leave it to their guest to choose to become involved or not, than it was to ask them prematurely to write a check to the school.

Because they had each attended at least one Point of Entry Event themselves, board members knew their friends would be inspired and educated about the school in that hour, whether or not they ever chose to become involved. They also knew that after the Follow-Up Call, I would “bless and release” those guests who did not want to become involved, so there would be no awkwardness the next time they saw their friend. At that point, it would be the organization’s job to develop an ongoing relationship between the donor and the school, and ultimately for asking for money if that was appropriate.

The first year, we did that asking at the Ask Event. The people who came to the Ask Event were the same people who had already attended the Points of Entry and had specifically expressed interest in staying involved with the organization. They knew they were going to be asked for money. In fact, many wondered why no one had asked them sooner. The same friend who had initially invited them to the Point of Entry—their  Ambassador—became their Table Captain at the Ask Event.

Those relationships between board members, volunteers, staff, and their friends and colleagues had been used to build new relationships between potential donors and the organization itself. Now it would be up to the staff to develop and manage those relationships skillfully, over time, involving volunteers as appropriate, to cultivate each major donor and grow a strong major-gifts program.

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Engaging Ambassadors

Recognizing Major Donors

Q: How do you keep Ambassadors involved after they bring their ten people (especially if the Ask Event is months away)?

 Janet in Texas

A: A successful Ambassador is someone who has met their goal of hosting a private Point of Entry Event for ten or more people. Some of these Ambassadors may be so engaged and committed that they actually want to host and fill additional private Points of Entry. Others may want to continue their involvement in other ways.

You could ask them to be an Ambassador Manager, someone who provides support to other active Ambassadors in meeting their goal of having at least ten people attend their private Points of Entry. This is a volunteer role that would be a natural next step for someone who was a great Ambassador and who is committed to helping you continue to get the word out about your work.

You can also have your development director or a volunteer from your team go to coffee with the person to thank them for being a great Ambassador, get feedback, and see how else they might want to be involved with your organization, for example volunteering on a committee, advisory board, or board.

Some organizations we work with host Ambassador social events once a year. Here you can recognize everyone who has successfully served as an Ambassador in the prior year and also encourage the people who are working towards that goal.

You can also invite them to join your Benevon sustainable funding team if appropriate!

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Ambassador Managers

Q: We are working on improving our Ambassador program and see that you recommend in the book having an Ambassador Manager. Do you recommend that be a volunteer, staff member, or Benevon team member? What have you seen other organizations do to find success with this role?

Nathan in New Jersey

A: The Ambassador Manager is key to a thriving Ambassador program and to assuring that each potential Ambassador fulfills their commitment to have at least ten guests attend their private Point of Entry Event in the next two to three months. The Ambassador Manager should be a volunteer who has served successfully as an Ambassador in the past. Ideally this would be a volunteer or board member who is already on your Benevon implementation team.

Once this volunteer agrees to take on the role of Ambassador Manager, they will be responsible for following up with each new Ambassador within two days of when they commit to participate, which will most often happen on the follow-up call made by the staff Team Leader after the Point of Entry. On that call, the Team Leader will talk through the who, when, and where of the Point of Entry the new Ambassador wants to host. The Team Leader lets the new Ambassador know 1) to be expecting a call the next day from the Ambassador Manager, noting that person by name and 2) that the Ambassador Manager has served as a successful Ambassador and will support the new Ambassador through the process.

On the initial call, the Ambassador Manager will confirm the details of the Point of Entry, review how to effectively invite someone to attend a Point of Entry Event, and establish weekly or bi-weekly check-ins. With support and encouragement from your Ambassador Manager, your Ambassadors will have what they need to be successful!

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The Gold Standard: Creating an Extraordinary Ambassador Program

This week’s feature is an excerpt from The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition. For more information and to buy the book, visit our store.

Ambassadors are the people who are so passionate about your work they will happily invite others to attend your Point of Entry Events. Once you develop a system for recruiting and managing a self-generating group of Ambassadors, the job of implementing the Benevon Model becomes a lot more enjoyable and successful!

There are only two requirements for being an Ambassador: having passion for the mission of your organization, and the ability to fill and host a private Point of Entry Event for ten or more guests over the course of the next three months.

The Gold Standard
The best way to identify potential Ambassadors is to first clarify the attributes of an ideal “gold-standard” Ambassador. Make a quick list of the top five to ten people who most love your organization and will say yes to pretty much anything you ever ask them to do. These are the people who follow through on what they promise, keep in touch, tell their friends about you, and offer to help you with special projects, for example.

For these people, your organization is at the top of their list. You may notice that some, but perhaps not all, of your board members belong on this list. Also, some of your volunteers and past board members may belong on the list, although their current affiliation with your organization is loose at best. Regardless of their official role with your organization today, these people feel as if your work is their work, and they feel as if they are part of your family. Do not screen this list by wealth or contacts. The only screening criteria should be their demonstrated passion and follow-through.

Now, step back and look at your list. What are the common attributes of the people you have named? Write them down on a separate list. Usually people identify qualities like: they always show up, they return our calls, they tell their friends about us, they ask how else they can help, they do what they say they’re going to do, they have a personal connection to our mission, they feel like insiders, we can talk openly with them about what’s really going on.

Think about those attributes. Notice that the list does not necessarily include giving money. The people who fit this description are the natural champions for your mission, your ideal potential Ambassadors. These are the gold-standard attributes that you will look for as you recruit all future Ambassadors.

Keep one or two of these people in mind as you expand your list of possible Ambassadors to remind you of the qualities you are looking for. Your goal is to find and develop as many more people as possible who have these same types of attributes who will in turn invite others to your Points of Entry. Do not lower your standards.


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Asking for Ambassadors at the Point of Entry

Ask Benevon: The Ask Event is Not a First Date

Q: Isn’t the Point of Entry a little premature to be asking for Ambassadors? Wouldn’t it be better to wait and ask people further down the road?

Jim in South Carolina

A: Ambassadors should come as no surprise to first-time Point of Entry guests. When their friend or colleague invites them to the event, they are told that the main purpose of the Point of Entry is to get the word out in the community about the group’s remarkable work. Their host Ambassador also tells them to be thinking of others who should know about this organization.

Then, at the start of the Point of Entry, the volunteer Ambassador host, who has filled this event with ten or more people they know well, reiterates the purpose of the event and the request to be thinking of others who would want to know about this. She tells her guests that she hopes they will be so inspired by today’s event that they will consider becoming an Ambassador and hosting and filling a private Point of Entry event themselves. “That is the very best way you can help us.”

You can also mention Ambassadors when you show guests your Wish List, which has Ambassadors prominently listed as the first thing you need.

Finally, the Ambassador says in the wrap-up that she hopes everyone will take the follow-up call from the team leader and that “many of you will consider becoming an Ambassador” and hosting a similar private Point of Entry Event.

Think of the Ambassadors as short-term volunteers. If your Point of Entry Event has been sizzling, many guests will be eager to fill this role. Tell them again that hosting and filling a private Point of Entry Event is the very best way they can help you if they are inspired by what they have seen.

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When to Ask Someone to Become and Ambassador

Inviting Guests to the Point of Entry

Do we have to wait until after the Point of Entry and Follow-Up Call to ask people to be an Ambassador?

 Heidi in Oregon

A: No, but it is essential that, at a minimum, each potential Ambassador attends a Point of Entry before signing on to become an Ambassador, no matter how much they already love your organization. They need to have experienced the Point of Entry themselves and know what they will be inviting people to attend.

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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.