Posted on

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.

Posted on

Holiday Wish List Tune-Up

What Size Tables for the Ask Event?

Q: We always feel so overwhelmed with people’s generosity at holiday time. Do you have any suggestions to help us feel more prepared?

 Stewart in New Jersey

 A: Maybe it’s time to take out the old Wish List and give it a tune-up. After all, these are your holidays too! What do you really want for your organization? What are you wishing for?

Ask each department, staff subgroup, or staff member to list their top five needs. Have them be as specific as possible, from soup to nuts: band aids, diapers, computers or office equipment, gas for the van, a new music instructor or counselor, playground equipment, or even a new gym.

Then compile them all into a single Wish List. You might consider listing them by area or department: “The nursery is wishing for X, the maintenance staff is wishing for Y.” It will let people know that you really need these items.

Print them up on pretty holiday paper. Make enough copies so that you can distribute them generously throughout the season. Have them at your front door. Insert them in your newsletter. Have a little basket of them at your holiday parties and other events. In other words, let people know what you want and need so that they can fulfill your wish.

Get started now. This is the helping season.

Posted on

Is One-on-One the Only Way to Ask?

Ask Benevon: The Ask Event is Not a First Date

Q: If someone has attended our Point of Entry and gotten involved but can’t come to our Ask Event, is one-on-one the only way to ask them to join our Multiple-Year Giving Society? What about our year-end annual appeal or other special mailings?

 Amber in California

 A: Yes, asking one-on-one is the only way. Do not send a letter asking people to join your Multiple-Year Giving Society for $1,000+ a year for five years.

If you blend in the higher Multiple-Year Giving Society giving levels into your normal annual appeal letter, it will confuse people who have been accustomed to being asked for smaller gifts in the annual letter.

Once someone joins your Multiple-Year Giving Society, you should take them off your direct mail list and cultivate them personally as a major donor.

Posted on

Rate of Pledge Pay-Off

Recognizing Major Donors

Q: What percentage of Multiple-Year Giving Society pledges ($1,000 or more for five years) do people actually pay off?

Mary in Oklahoma

A: The rate of pledge pay-off is typically about 95%.

While that might sound exceptionally high, put yourself in these donors’ shoes. They feel connected to your organization because you keep in touch with them personally. They never become strangers. They only become closer friends of the organization’s family.

In addition to attending at least one Free Feel-Good Cultivation Event during the year, all Multiple-Year Giving Society Donors are cultivated one-on-one two times per year. Many choose to become Ambassadors and then Table Captains in subsequent years. By inviting their own friends and family to their private Point of Entry and the Ask Event, they are deepening their own resolve about the good work of the organization.

Not paying off their pledge is never a consideration for the great majority of these donors. In fact, many Multiple-Year Giving Society Donors pay them off early and increase the amount of their pledge or extend their existing pledge after the initial five years.

Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.”
Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.