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Recognizing Multiple-Year Giving Society Donors

Inviting Guests to the Point of Entry

Q: We are working on our recognition plan for our Multiple-Year Giving Society Donors. What are your thoughts on giving thank-you gifts or offering benefits for each level?

Katherine in Colorado

A: We do not recommend any type of premium or special benefits for membership. You want to focus your thanking and cultivation of these donors on mission-focused activities. When someone joins your giving society newly, it would be appropriate for them to receive a small token of appreciation that highlights the impact of their gift. For example, a framed picture of a piece of land they helped to protect, or the hand print of a child with the words “thank you” written in a child’s handwriting.

These donors are true supporters of your mission and work and would not be looking for perks in return for their support. What they want is to be closer to your mission and to be reminded of the difference they are making with their gift. The best way to do this is to focus your cultivation and thanking of this donor on personal, mission-focused contacts. These can range from phone calls, emails, or face-to-face visits from your organization’s leadership, to Free Feel-Good Cultivation Events, where you will have special ribbons on their name tags indicating that they are a member of your giving society.

You can always ask each donor directly how they would like to be involved or communicated. That is the best way to find out the type of recognition that would be most meaningful to each donor.

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How Many Donors Can One Staff Member Manage?

Dealing with Table Overflow at the Ask Event

Q: I am new to my organization and they’ve used the Benevon Model for about six years now. I would like to know Benevon’s thoughts on a manageable number of multiple-year donors a single employee should realistically manage.

We currently have about 60 multiple-year donors throughout four counties. I am required to continue to cultivate these donors, while working with the board and new Table Captains to increase this number next year. It doesn’t seem practical to do this to its full potential throughout four counties.

Elena in Florida

A: By the third year using the model, the organizations we train and coach in our program should have at least two full-time staff dedicated to the model. One staff manages the cultivation and major gifts process with the existing multi-year donors in your giving society. The other staff member is accountable for keeping the pipeline full and ensuring a sustainable process for generating volunteer Ambassadors who fill the Points of Entry.

One major gifts person can manage relationships with approximately 200 Multiple-Year Giving Society Donors if that is all they are doing. That person would be responsible for ensuring that each of these donors receives two personal cultivation contacts (minimum) every year, and that these contacts specifically relate to each donor’s particular area of interest and passion in your work. The goal of each contact is to get to know the donor better and to deepen their connection to your mission.

These contacts might be what we call CEO Golden Hours, which can take three forms: small groups of multi-year donors meet with your CEO for an update on current issues and challenges at the organization,  one-on-one phone calls with the CEO or one-on-one meetings with the CEO.

In addition to personal cultivation contacts, it is this person’s responsibility to ensure each multi-year donor attends at least one Free Feel-Good Cultivation Event each year where they are further connected to the impact of their giving on the people you serve.

Finally, this person determines when the donor is ready to be asked for an additional gift, an extension on their pledge, or an increase to a higher level of giving, and coordinates that ask taking place. This leverages all of the work you’ve done to get the 60 or so Multiple-Year Giving Society donors you already have by ensuring that those people stay with you. Eventually, they will get involved in ways beyond their financial support. As an example, many of these faithful multi-year donors will become some of your best Ambassadors, by hosting and filling private Point of Entry Events with ten or more of their friends or colleagues.

At the same time, you will need a full-time staff member accountable for keeping the pipeline full with at least two private, Ambassador-hosted-and-filled Point of Entry Events per month with 10 or more guests in attendance. This person oversees your volunteer Ambassador Manager, who in turn supports Ambassadors on fulfilling their short-term commitment to fill and host one tour.

They manage the conversion from Ambassador to Table Captain, where they invite your successful Ambassadors to host tables at your Ask Event with guests who have already been well cultivated and have attended Point of Entry Events in the prior year.

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Choosing Units of Service

Q: We want to structure our giving units based on the Benevon suggestion of $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 annually. 

Looking at our individual giving over the last two years, only 4% of our donors have given above $1,000 annually. In this situation, are the units of $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 too aggressive?

Richie in Colorado

A: We have a formula for determining your units of service:

Look at your organization’s single largest, unrestricted gift from an individual or a family foundation in the past two years.

  • If that gift was less than $10,000, you should be using the levels $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 for five years.
  • If the largest gift was $10,000 or more, you should be using $1,000, $10,000, and $25,000 for five years.

While either of these options may sound too large given where you are now with your fundraising, you should keep in mind that the giving society is a pathway to building a major gifts program. The levels are intentionally high so that you can grow into them as you engage more people in your organization and grow your donor base.

You may only have people join at the $1,000 level in either scenario in your first year, but some of those very same donors will increase to those higher levels even in their first five years if you cultivate them and bring them closer to your organization and your mission.

If at least 40% of your Ask Event guests have attended a Point of Entry Event in the prior year, you should expect 10% of the Ask Event guests to join the giving society.

Also remember (or see the sample pledge form on page 186 of Terry’s newest book, The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second  Edition) that there are two additional boxes on the pledge form beyond the three larger giving levels:

  • Box 4 is a fill-in-the-blanks box where donors can tell you how much they want to give and for how many years. This box is where your smaller donors can make their gifts or where larger donors can make gifts for less than five years.
  • Box 5 says: “Please contact me. I have other thoughts to share.”
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Showing Donors the Impact of their Donation

Leaning Too Heavily on Your Board?

Q: Do donors expect an explanation of what is being done with their donations?

Sam in Texas

A: Penelope Burk’s wonderful research has shown that donors need two things most to have them keep giving.

First, thank them promptly.

Second, tell them what impact their contribution has had on individual people’s lives and the community at large. If you are following the Benevon Model, you will have two personal contacts with each major donor each year, focused on the aspect of your work that is most important to them.

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Creating a Major Donor Pipeline

Q: In the Benevon Model, are there any resources you can share for a creating a pipeline between our annual donors and major donors? We are beginning discussions about how to honor and engage long-term supporters.

Elodie in Minnesota

A: The Benevon Model is a pipeline-filling system for major gifts. In addition to using the model to engage new people who have no prior connection to your work, this process is also a method for further engaging and cultivating your existing donors.

Many groups have a base of donors from prior fundraising events or annual direct mail appeals. While these faithful supporters have been sending in an annual donation or contributing at an event each year, it’s possible that little else has been done to further engage them in the mission.

You can use the Benevon Model to launch a campaign to get to know your donors and to evaluate who would be prospects to become major donors down the road.

Begin by stratifying your list of donors based on the amount they have given. Start with the donors who give the most each year and have done so for the longest period of time.

Identify the best person to serve as an Ambassador for each individual. This should be the person who knows the donor best, and who agrees to personally invite the donor to attend a Point of Entry Event that they are hosting. The relationship between this Ambassador and the donor will make all the difference in your ability to get the donor to a Point of Entry! Tell them that you are hosting these one-hour events to showcase the impact of all that you, and how their support over the years has made a difference.

Once they attend a Point of Entry with the Ambassador who invited them, make the follow-up call within two to three days. Listen for what the person learned and what interested them about your work. Find an immediate next step to further engage this person. Perhaps they want to serve as an Ambassador and host their own Point of Entry Event!

For others, it might be attending a small group meeting with your CEO and other donors to learn more about your current gaps and vision for the future. Make it personal and tied to that individual’s interest in your mission. Keep cultivating until you know the person is ready to be asked. Some donors will take just a few cultivation contacts while others may need several contacts before they are truly ready to be asked.

When the person is ready to be asked, invite them to become part of your Multiple-Year Giving Society by making a commitment of at least $1,000 for five years. This can be done one-on-one or at your Ask Event, whatever works best for each donor.

This five-year pledge gives you even more time and permission to further engage that donor. It’s not just about invoicing them for five years and calling them back in year six to re-up. It’s an opportunity to build a deeper relationship with each donor. Eventually these same donors will be prospects for larger major gifts, capital, and even endowment.

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Ask Event vs. Individual Asks

Q: At what point do you decide not to hold an Ask Event and focus on individual Asks instead? We have very small communities in which it might not pay off to hold large events.

Bryant in Utah

A: Start with an Ask Event in your main location. It is best to launch the Multiple-Year Giving Society at an Ask Event, even a small one. Then you can do one-on-one Asks in the outlying communities, inviting donors to join the Multiple-Year Giving Society that you have just launched at your Ask Event. Otherwise, if you just start with one-on-one asks, the levels seem surprisingly large.

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Expressing Sincere Thanks

Q: Any advice on expressing sincere appreciation for a very generous gift?

Molly in Oklahoma

A: You don’t need to give donors a gift or any “thing” more substantial than a genuine thank you! If you feel it is warranted, you could give the donor a mission-related token of your appreciation—a drawing from one of the children in your after-school program, or a letter from a grateful parent whose son has benefited from attending your school.

More than anything, you should demonstrate to each donor the impact their gift has had on your organization and what it will make possible in the future. How many more families will you be able to serve? How many more meals will you be able to provide? Make sure the examples you share are relevant to that donor’s favorite program or area of impact.

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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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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!