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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!

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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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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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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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Fitting Existing Donors into the Benevon Model

Dealing with Table Overflow at the Ask Event

Q: How do we fit our existing donors into the Benevon structure?

Brian in Maine

A: Existing donors are some of the first people you will want to introduce to the Benevon Model.

First, you need to connect or reconnect to them with a Know-Thy-Donor Program. Let’s say you want to integrate your direct mail donors into the model; take all of those direct mail donors from over a certain number of years (you decide—maybe the past three or five years), and then stratify them by how much they have given.

Next, have a handful of high-level people in the organization (like the executive director, board members, and long-standing volunteers) call those donors to thank them for their loyalty and ask each donor a few specific “Cultivation Interview Questions” over the phone. These are open-ended questions like:

  • How did you come to learn about our organization in the first place?
  • What more do you think we could be doing to involve people like yourself?
  • What advice do you have for us?

Through these interviews you will find out what it is about your work that most interests each donor and why they have continued giving to you. Conclude the call by inviting each donor to a Point of Entry Event. Then follow up and cultivate them further. Over time they might become Ambassadors, who in turn will invite others to Points of Entry.

After you’ve called your top tier of direct mail donors, you’ll have refined which questions to ask and determined your next tier of donors to be contacted. Continue to invite these loyal long-time supporters to privately hosted Points of Entry and follow the model from there.

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Printed Materials and the Benevon Model

I have a question that I haven’t been able to find an answer to in the book very easily. We just rebranded our organization and printed a few brochures, etc. Can you tell me what you recommend for each of the events? For example, at the Point of Entry, I think I’m giving out too much info, but as we get into more volunteer work days, cultivation events, and Ask Events down the road, I want to be prepared media-wise. If someone could give me some basic understanding here, I would greatly appreciate it!

Leigh in Michigan

A: Congratulations on getting started with the Benevon Model. Below is a basic list of the printed materials you’ll need for the various steps of the model.

Point of Entry:

  1. Sign-in cards

  2. Fact sheet: this provides a reference for guests after the Point of Entry and highlights some of the facts and needs you shared during the one-hour program. Make sure you have lots of white space and follow the format in The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right.

  3. Wish list: on the back of the fact sheet you will print your wish list. These are either in-kind donations or volunteer roles that guests can take on if they are excited about your work and want to get more involved. Be sure you have no more than ten items, and the first item on the list must be the “Volunteer Ambassador” role of being an Ambassador, which means they will host and fill a future private Point of Entry for a group of ten or more people in their life.

Ask Event:

  1. Printed program: showing your brief list of speakers, acknowledging any sponsors, board members, etc.

  2. Pledge cards: these are filled out during the ask for money and will highlight your Multiple-Year Giving Society.

Free Feel Good Cultivation Events:

There are no required printed materials.