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Qualities of Great Ambassadors

Q: We read the book, and thought that the Ambassador concept made a lot of sense. We’d like to start implementing an Ambassador program at our organization. Before we start, we wanted to know: what makes for a great Ambassador? What are the characteristics of a strong Ambassador?

Natalie in Florida

A: The most important quality of an Ambassador is that they have an abundance of passion for the mission of your organization. Perhaps they have shared that they have a personal connection to your mission, or they have volunteered or been a donor, but in some way they have demonstrated that your mission is their mission too. You also want to look for people who say yes to being involved with you, and who follow through by doing what they say they will do. Maybe they have asked, “What do you need?” or “How could I help?” They may be people who are already “natural ambassadors” for your organization in that they have shared your work with others and invited them to come and get involved. Ambassadors need to be passionate about spreading the word in the community about your mission!

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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.

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Increasing Recurring Monthly Donors

Ask Benevon: The Ask Event is Not a First Date

We have been following the Benevon Model for years and are preparing for our Ask Event. One of our fundraising initiatives over the past year is increasing monthly recurring donors. How does this fit into the Ask event?

Beth in North Carolina

At the Ask Event, the first thing you are asking for are pledges to join your Multiple-Year Giving Society with a minimum gift of $1,000 pledged for five years. When you follow up with those donors within 48 hours of the Ask Event, you should be asking how they would like to pay their pledge. A monthly payment option may work very well for some of these donors, while others will want to make one payment annually.

The other option for giving at the Ask Event is the fill-in-the-blanks line, where donors can commit to any amount for any number of years. While follow-up with these donors isn’t required, we highly recommend calling anyone who makes a significant gift, especially if they have pledged for more than one year. You could absolutely ask these donors if they’d be interested in setting up their gift as a monthly donation when you make that follow-up call!

We don’t recommend stressing monthly giving as an option on the pledge card, as we have found too many options can lead donors to be confused or uncertain what the best giving option may be. Since your first priority is to bring donors into the Multiple-Year Giving Society, we wouldn’t want to steer them in another direction with the option of a monthly gift.

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It’s Counterintuitive

It’s Counterintuitive

People refer to many aspects of the Benevon Model as counterintuitive. Why is that?

They point out seeming inconsistencies like:

  1. Not asking for money at a Point of Entry Event once you have educated and inspired people about your work.
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  2. Having a Wish List at a Point of Entry Event if the model says you cannot ask for anything there.‌
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  3. Leaving a voicemail message when you are trying to get one-on-one telephone feedback.‌
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  4. Having a free fundraising event where the guests are told in advance that they do not need to give money.‌

It is true. Each of these points—as well as many others—about the Benevon Model seem to run counter to our intuition, yet in working with more than 5,000 nonprofit teams and tracking the data closely, these are based on what works. The common thread is that they each leave the donor in the driver’s seat.

Let’s revisit each point, looking at it from the donor’s point of view.

  1. Not asking for money at a Point of Entry Event after you have educated and inspired people about your work.

    ‌Just because someone is inspired and educated doesn’t mean they have had the time to digest the information or ask the questions they would need to have answered before they could become involved long-term.

    ‌If we were to ask for money at the Point of Entry, the entire process would be collapsed into a one-step, modified strong-arm approach, which leaves the donor feeling like a victim of a “bait-and-switch,” well before they have even had the opportunity to absorb what they have learned and let you know what they think of your organization.

  2. Having a Wish List at a Point of Entry Event if the model says you cannot ask for anything there.

    ‌The Wish List is designed to connect people to the day-to-day needs of your program and to remind them that, in the face of the wonderful Point of Entry Event they are attending, you still have many unmet needs.
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    ‌‌‌The Wish List is a handout for each guest and is not discussed as part of the program. It is not an Ask. It is also a touchstone for the Follow-Up Call after the Point of Entry, when you ask people, “Is there any way you could see yourself getting involved with us?” Note that the first item on your Wish List should always be Ambassadors: short-term volunteers who agree to host and fill a private Point of Entry with ten or more people.

  3. Leaving a voicemail message when you are trying to get one-on-one telephone feedback.

    ‌Of course you would prefer to reach the person and speak in person, but if you have tried that with no success, it is perfectly acceptable today to leave a voicemail message. After all, you told the guest at the end of the Point of Entry Event that you would like to call to get their feedback in a few days. They filled out a contact card at your Point of Entry and gave you their preferred phone number. Therefore, you may leave a message just as you would call a friend or business associate and leave a detailed message on their voicemail.

  4. Having a free fundraising “Ask Event” where the guests are told in advance that they do not need to give money.

    ‌This is the ultimate in fundraising “permission.” Guests are asked to come to the event after attending a Point of Entry Event and being cultivated personally leading up to the Ask Event. Be careful never to use your Ask Event as a substitute for a Point of Entry.

  5. In order to attain our metric of having 10% of the guests join the Multiple-Year Giving Society, a minimum of 40% of the Ask Event guests must have attended a private, Ambassador-hosted and filled Point of Entry in the prior year.

    ‌These formulas should be met without any need to pressure guests to give.

For more counterintuitive aspects of the Benevon Model, read The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition.

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Statistics on Giving at the Ask Event

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.

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Key Metric #5

Key Metric #5

Think you already know what the Benevon Model is? Think again!

We have distilled five key metrics to ensure your success. Here’s the fifth one:

Minimum of 10% of Ask Event guests join the Multiple-Year Giving Society at one of the three giving levels

Answer these questions to see how your organization is doing at meeting this fifth key metric:

  1. Do you have three distinct five-year giving levels starting at $1,000 a year? Levels must be either $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 or $1,000, $10,000, and $25,000 for five years. See Chapter 7 of The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: The Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition, to determine which of these two options to choose.
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  2. Have you met Key Metric #3: have 100% of your Ask Event Table Captains been successful Ambassadors in the prior 12 months?
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  3. Have you met Key Metric #4: will a minimum of 40% of your Ask Event guests have attended a private, Ambassador-hosted Point of Entry Event in the prior 12 months? Without a sufficient percentage of well-cultivated prior Point of Entry guests, you will not be able to meet Key Metric #5.
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  4. How sizzling will your Ask Event program be? Will you paint a clear picture of the gap between where your organization is now and where you would like to be?
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  5. Have you followed Benevon’s program format for your Ask Event, starting with a welcome from a board member, a short emotional element (song, poem, or prayer), a simple meal, a powerful Visionary Leader Talk, a moving seven-minute video, a live testimonial, and a succinct pitch following Benevon’s specific pitch script (see Chapter 15 of The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: The Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition)?

Many organizations exceed this Key Metric #5, but only if they have met Key Metrics #1-4!

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Are We Ready to Have an Ask Event?

Are We Ready to have an Ask Event?

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.

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Key Metric #4

Key Metric #4

Think you already know what the Benevon Model is? Think again!

We have distilled five key metrics to ensure your success. Here’s the fourth one:

Minimum of 40% of Ask Event guests have attended a Point of Entry Event in the prior 12 months

Answer these questions to see how your organization is doing at meeting this fourth key metric:

  1. Before you set your goal for the number of guests at your Ask Event, do you know how many private, Ambassador-hosted Points of Entry you will need to have to ensure your success with this metric?

    ‌Assume that 50% of Point of Entry guests will be “blessed and released” in the follow-up call. If you have 200 Point of Entry guests attending Ambassador-hosted Points of Entry, you will likely end up with 100 whom you cultivate further. These are the 100 that are invited to the Ask Event by the same Ambassador that hosted their Point of Entry Event.
  1. Do you encourage successful Ambassadors to host more than one Point of Entry Event in a year in order to ensure their success in having at least 40% of their Ask Event guests be prior Point of Entry attendees?

    ‌If you have already had an Ask Event, have you calculated what percentage of your guests had attended a Point of Entry in the year prior to that Ask Event?

    ‌Do not count guests who attended Points of Entry more than one year prior to the Ask Event—these must be well-cultivated recent guests!
  1. Do you provide your Ambassadors who agree to become Table Captains with a list of their prior Point of Entry guests whom you have been cultivating?
  1. Do you give these Ambassadors a script or talking points to use when inviting their prior Point of Entry guests to join them at their table at your Ask Event? See Chapter 15 of The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition.

Once your team successfully meets this fourth key metric, you will never need to default to asking Table Captains to fill their tables with “new” people.

Many organizations aim to have 80% or more of their Ask Event guests be this year’s prior Point of Entry attendees and they raise far more money at their Ask Event. There is a direct correlation!

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Dealing with Table Overflow at the Ask Event

Dealing with Table Overflow at the Ask Event

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.

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Ask Benevon: The Ask Event is Not a First Date

Ask Benevon: The Ask Event is Not a First Date

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.