Q: We’re holding our annual luncheon and I’ve been asked what the fundraising statistic is on the typical number or percentage of guests who will actually donate the day of the luncheon. Our percentage is typically 55 to 58%.
Steffi in North Carolina
A: Assuming you have been following the Benevon Model and your annual luncheon meets the other requirements of a Benevon Ask Event, on average you should expect 40 to 50% of the guests at an Ask Event to give. Ten percent will join your Multiple-Year Giving Society and the other 30 to 40% will make a gift at a different level using the fill-in-the-blanks line on the pledge card. This is based on having at least 40% of the guests having attended a private Ambassador-hosted and filled Point of Entry Event and been cultivated with “second dates” prior to attending the Ask Event.
The percentage of Ask Event guests who make a pledge or financial contribution at the Ask Event should be the same as the percentage of these recently cultivated Point of Entry guests in attendance.
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.
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.
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.
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.