Read our free white paper, The Power of Getting it Right: Five Rules.
To get insights into how to cultivate a donor, look at what motivates you personally as a donor.
Here is a simple but powerful exercise:
- Make a list of the organizations you give money to. Not just the obvious one or two—go a little deeper. Come up with at least five.
- Next, take the time to answer the following questions for each contribution you make.
What patterns or trends do you notice in your giving? For example:
- For how many years have you been giving to the same organizations? Have you increased your giving over the years? What, if anything, have these organizations done over the years that have led to an increase or decrease in your giving?
- Are you a loyal or a fickle donor? Or a little of both? Do you give faithfully to your old standby favorites? Do you intersperse them with new ones? If so, what does it take to become a new recipient of your gift?
- Is there any correlation between the amount of your time and money you give to an organization? Do you feel differently about giving money to the places where you also volunteer in some way?
- What kind of thanks do you receive? Are you thanked more or less than you would like? Do the thanks feel personal enough? Does it seem like the organization knows you or wants to know you better?
- Is your name prominently displayed in places that matter to you? On plaques, or in annual reports? Though this may not seem important to you, how would you feel if your name were inadvertently omitted.
- In terms of ongoing connection, is there more each organization could be doing? Do they invite you to other events throughout the year? Do you feel sufficiently connected to their mission? If it’s a national organization, are you part of a larger national ‘society’ or group recognition program?
- What more would it take for them to receive a larger gift from you? More information, more direct contact, more recognition? Maybe just a phone call?
Notice what makes you tick when it comes to giving away your money.
Notice what more an organization could have done to get to know you and your passion for their work. Often just a phone call or a personal invitation to a meeting or program of interest will make a big difference. Perhaps you’ve already done that with some of your favorite organizations and now you need something more. Perhaps they’ve missed your cues and their attempts to “cultivate” you feel too heavy-handed.
As you begin the cultivation process with each donor, remember, first and foremost, that you are a donor. Your name is on a list at each of these nonprofit organizations. Someone within those organizations may be trying to “cultivate” you right now!
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.
Think you already know what the Benevon Model is? Think again!
We have distilled five key metrics to ensure your success. Here’s the third one:
One hundred percent of Ask Event Table Captains have been successful Ambassadors in the prior 12 months.
Answer these seven questions to see how your organization is doing at meeting this third key metric:
- How many Ambassadors does your organization have? An Ambassador in the Benevon Model has attended a prior Point of Entry Event and has then hosted and filled a private Point of Entry with a minimum of ten guests in attendance.
- Are you having a minimum of two sizzling private Point of Entry Events per month, each hosted and filled (with ten or more guests) by an Ambassador?
- Are you recruiting a minimum of one new Ambassador out of every Point of Entry Event?
- Do you have a process for supporting these eager new Ambassadors in being successful at hosting and filling their Point of Entry Event or are you expecting them to follow through on their own?
- Have you calculated how many Ambassadors you will need in the next nine to twelve months to ensure you will have enough Table Captains for the size of Ask Event you want to have?
- Have you committed to an Ask Event venue that is too large for the number of successful Ambassadors you will likely have this year? Do you have the flexibility to reduce the size of your event to meet this metric, i.e., are you willing to scale your event to the number of true Ambassadors you will have by the time of the event?
- Or conversely, are you counting on board members, prior years’ Table Captains, and staff to help you out in the end by “filling tables” with their friends and colleagues who have never attended a Point of Entry?
Organizations that are rigorous about meeting this metric may have smaller Ask Events but they are able to meet Benevon’s formula for a successful Ask Event:
- Formula: take the number of people who attend your Ask Event and divide by two, then multiply by $1,000.
- For example, a 200-person Ask Event would yield $100,000 in cash and pledges.
Q: Our organization has been utilizing the same venue for our annual fundraiser for four years now, and my supervisor and I are looking at a different venue for next year.
We like the new venue because it has a bigger space (since the past years have been a bit tight); however, they can only provide ten round tables that seat ten to twelve people. The remaining tables can only seat up to nine. Do you have any suggestions for how we can work around this in regard to the Benevon Model?
We think perhaps trying to recruit more Table Captains for more tables, but they would only be able to invite up to eight people instead of ten to twelve.
Nicole in Oregon
A: The number one criteria for someone to serve as a Table Captain at the Ask Event is that they have been a prior Ambassador, hosting and filling a Point of Entry Event for ten or more people in the prior twelve months. Before you look at expanding your event and recruiting more Table Captains, we would recommend that you look at how many of last year’s Table Captains had been prior Ambassadors.
If it wasn’t 100%, rather than having more tables, we’d coach you to focus instead on having 100% of your Table Captains be prior Ambassadors. We find that Table Captains who have been prior Ambassadors bring people to the Ask Event who have already been cultivated by attending a Point of Entry and receiving at least one follow-up call. Guests who have attended a prior Point of Entry give on average two to four times more money when they come to the Ask Event. Perhaps you can make do with fewer tables and focus on quality over quantity when it comes to guests at the event.
Assuming that you will need more than ten tables, we’d suggest you use the nine-person tables and just squeeze in a tenth seat. It might be a little tight, but the event is only one hour, and we find people will understand. You could also look into renting additional ten-person tables if you are more comfortable with that set-up.
Q: We are starting our Point of Entry this Friday as a soft start with a few select guests. I am wondering if you have an email that we could use with some key points for our invitation to our guests.
Jennifer in Montana
A: In the Benevon Model, each Point of Entry Event is a private event that is hosted and filled with ten or more guests by a volunteer Ambassador. Ambassadors are board members, volunteers, donors, staff, or parents of students at your school who are passionate about sharing the work of your organization with others in the community by inviting them to a private Point of Entry.
Since you are just getting started with Point of Entry Events, we would recommend that you begin by identifying potential Ambassadors and inviting them to your first few Point of Entry Events. Once they’ve seen the program, they will be able to commit to hosting their own Point of Entry with a full understanding of what that entails. Look for people who are passionate and who follow through on what they say they will do! Reach out personally, by phone or face to face, to invite them to see something new that you’re doing to get the word out about your organization. Stress that this event is not a fundraiser and they will not be asked for money, but that you are going to make a follow-up phone call after the event to get their feedback. Tell them you are hoping they will be interested in hosting something similar in the future for a group of their own.
Once they’ve attended the Point of Entry, in the follow-up call, which happens two to three days later, ask if they would be willing to serve as an Ambassador, hosting and filling a future Point of Entry with ten or more guests. If they say yes, you will work with them to identify their guest list and coach them to invite their guests personally, just like the invitation the Ambassador received to their initial Point of Entry.
Scarcity and resignation, thinking it can’t be done—these are the recurring challenges for anyone committed to big results. To deal with these challenges, you and your team need to be able to readily tap into your genuine passion for the mission of your organization.
And there is definitely no scarcity of passion in the nonprofit world if you know where to look for it.
Almost everyone is originally attracted to a cause or organization because its work is something they feel passionate about. Whether that cause is families, foster care, substance abuse, mental illness, international relief, physical or intellectual disabilities, advocacy, faith, the environment, arts, education, healthcare, animal welfare, housing, or public policy, what attracts each person is almost always a prior personal experience.
Perhaps they have a family member with that particular disability or a close friend who experienced discrimination due to a mental illness. Perhaps they developed a love of the outdoors as a child, or their passion for science dates back to the first time they looked through a microscope in elementary school science class.
But passion can become buried or lost over time. When that happens, how do you get it back?
The Passion Retread Exercise
We do a small group exercise at our workshops that we call the Passion Retread exercise. Working in the nonprofit sector, the tread on the passion tire sometimes wears thin. So we ask each person in the small group to answer these two simple questions:
- Why do you work or volunteer at this particular organization?
- What is it about their unique work or mission that inspires you and keeps you engaged?
While some volunteers will say that they want to give back to the community, when we ask them to take a deeper look, many tell us they feel called to do the work of the organization. For them it is an avocation.
Answering these simple questions truthfully, in a small group of dedicated board members, staff, and volunteers, reconnects people to their own passion, to each other, and to the mission of the organization.
I once asked a group of board members from a chapter of the American Lung Association to answer these questions. One of their long-standing board members immediately offered his response. “I know exactly why I’m here,” he said. “When my son, Adam, was eight years old, he died in my arms while having an asthma attack. I vowed in that moment to give my life to doing whatever I could to find a cure for childhood asthma so that no other parent would ever have to experience such a tragic and painful loss.”
Before you embark on implementing the Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding, do this exercise with your entire team:
- Ask each person to look more deeply at their own reasons for being involved with the organization.
- Then give them the time to share their answer to this question with the rest of the group.
It will focus each team member on their unique connection to the mission of the organization and add new tread to their passion. It will bond you as a team and sustain you as you move forward.
A tip: this exercise also works well when done with long-standing board members, volunteers, and staff.
Think you already know what the Benevon Model is? Think again! We have distilled five key metrics critical to your success.
Here’s the first one:
Minimum of two sizzling Point of Entry Events per month, each hosted and filled (with ten or more guests) by an Ambassador.
Answer these questions to see how your organization is doing at meeting this first metric:
- Do you have at least two Point of Entry Events per month?
- Is each Point of Entry a private, invitation-only event, hosted and filled by a board member, volunteer, or someone from the broader community? In the Benevon Model, a Point of Entry Event is not:
- An open house that you post in the newspaper and online
- A recruitment event for new volunteers or new students for your school
- A presentation at a local civic group, like Rotary
- Does the Ambassador have a personal relationship with each of the guests? Relationships are the glue that holds the whole model together. People who agree to serve as a host for the day at an open-to-the-public event or a Table Captain do not qualify as Ambassadors.
- Do you open each Point of Entry with a welcome from the Ambassador who explains that she is an Ambassador for the organization, shares her personal story or connection to your mission, and asks guests to consider becoming a future Ambassador as they take the tour today?
- Do you have people introduce themselves at the start of the event, stating their connection to your organization if they have one?
- At each Point of Entry Event, does your Visionary Leader (executive director or CEO) give an inspiring talk, following the Benevon format?
- Do you clearly delineate your organization’s three “buckets” (areas of impact)?
- Do you have three carefully thought-out tour stops, each highlighting one of your three buckets, stating a myth, a myth-busting fact, a story (via letter, audiotape, or in person), and a need?
- Do you end your Point of Entry with a live testimonial from someone whose life has been changed thanks to your work?
- Does your Point of Entry Event last sixty minutes or less?
- Are people inspired and moved to tears several times during the hour?
- Does the Team Leader have enough of a speaking role at the Point of Entry to ensure the guests will remember them and take their follow-up call?
- Do you end your Point of Entry with your Ambassador reminding the guests that they will each be receiving a follow-up call from your Team Leader to:
- Give their feedback about the event
- Ideally, become an Ambassador, because the very best way they can help your organization is by telling others and inviting them to a similar Point of Entry?
You will likely find you need to make some modifications and tweaks in your Point of Entry and Ambassador programs to meet this first key metric.
We have many new treats for you in 2018.
First, I’m excited to announce our newly updated website. In addition to a beautiful new design, we’ve added a quiz and other resources that everyone, from brand new organizations just getting started with the model to our seasoned Sustainable Funding Program alumni, can use in your day-to-day implementation of the Benevon Model. We hope you’ll visit and let us know what you think!
Additionally, we are changing the frequency and structure of our Benevon E-New$. New articles will be posted weekly on our Benevon Blog, and a weekly email will be sent to E-New$ subscribers with links to our blog updates, as well as other key bits of information about news and upcoming events.
We’ll be diving deep into quarterly topics aimed at development staff, your CEO, and board, starting with a look at Benevon’s Five Key Metrics for success. Each quarterly topic will include white papers and templates, so if you’re not already an E-New$ subscriber, I encourage you to sign up today.
We hope you will enjoy these new resources, and find them useful!