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The CEO Golden Hour—Option 3: One-on-One Meetings with Donors

This is the third and final feature in our three-part series entitled the CEO Golden Hour, highlighting the top three things your busy CEO can do to impact donor cultivation and major gifts if they are willing to dedicate merely one hour a week to this critical process.

I’ve also included here some general thoughts about how to integrate this CEO Golden Hour process into the life of your nonprofit organization.

What does it mean to “cultivate” a donor and how would a busy CEO find the time to do that even if they knew what to do?

This is a question we are asked regularly by the groups in our Sustainable Funding Program, now that they have an ever-increasing number of donors in their Multiple-Year Giving Society.

Rather than merely invoicing donors and expecting them to dutifully make their pledge payment for each of the next five years, these wise CEOs and development directors have discovered that with a high-touch system of personalized contacts, even the busiest of CEOs can begin—and even enjoy—the donor cultivation process!

Option 3: Personal lunches, dinners or visits with the sub-list of donors that have expressed further interest during the CEO personal phone calls or small group lunches. CEO may make donor visits one-on-one or accompanied by a board member or your major gifts person.

Purpose: To get to know each donor better and to feel more connected to them.  Likewise, each donor should feel more knowledgeable about and more connected to the organization.

Preparation:

  • CEO’s assistant, major gifts person, or development director:
    • Phones the donor and invites them to lunch with the CEO. “Sheila would love to update you on some of the current developments here at our center and get your input on a few things.”
    • Sends the guest list with two to three sentences about each guest, including last gift, person who engaged them, bucket area of greatest interest, and any other recent participation.

Suggested Agenda:

  • Greeting
  • Thank you for past support, including one or two specific, human examples of what their support made possible
  • Ask/talk about their “bucket” area of greatest impact. For example, in a senior center, is it meals, social, or healthcare? Give examples of new developments in that area
  • Share challenges the staff are facing and ask questions about how the donor’s expertise might relate to each challenge
  • Ask what is going on in the donor’s life: family, business, other community interests
  • Be genuine, open, and be sure the donor does 75% of the talking
  • Make a plan for getting back in touch with the donor to follow up on any action items discussed and talk about a next date for another meeting
  • Thank the donor
  • Put all notes in database and take prompt action on any suggestions or open items
  • Keep things moving: don’t let too much time pass before the next contact—two to four weeks at longest

General Comments:

  • Whether in your phone calls, small group lunches, or one-on-one meeting with donors, if people ask how else they can help, be sure to invite them to become an Ambassador.
  • Keep using this precious hour of your CEO’s time for any of these three activities. At the end of three months, ask your CEO if she would be willing to increase to two hours a week.
  • By then you will have seen how much coordination time this takes from your development director or major gifts person as well as the volunteers on your cultivation committee.

By then, you no doubt also will have seen how much these simple contacts have deepened each donor’s connection to the mission, which is the whole purpose of donor cultivation.

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The CEO Golden Hour—Option 2: Small Group Lunches

What does it mean to “cultivate” a donor and how would a busy CEO find the time to do that even if they knew what to do?

This is a question we are asked regularly by the groups in our Sustainable Funding Program, now that they have an ever-increasing number of donors in their Multiple-Year Giving Society.

Rather than merely invoicing donors and expecting them to dutifully make their pledge payment for each of the next five years, these wise CEOs and development directors have discovered that with a high-touch system of personalized contacts, even the busiest of CEOs can begin—and even enjoy—the donor cultivation process!

This is the second  feature in our three-part series entitled the CEO Golden Hour, highlighting the top three things your busy CEO can do to impact donor cultivation and major gifts if they are willing to dedicate merely one hour a week to this critical process.

Option 2: Small group donor meetings with CEO and a board member

Purpose: CEO and board members become more comfortable with the donor cultivation process, while giving your loyal donors an inside, personal view of the organization

Preparation:

  • Development director:
    • Confirms five to ten donors for a special meeting with CEO and a board member
    • Sends the guest list to the CEO, including two to three sentences about each guest, time and amount of their last gift, name of the person who engaged them, bucket area of greatest interest, and any other recent participation

Suggested Agenda:

  • Welcome and introductions:
    • CEO starts right out welcoming people and introducing the board member and development staff present (2 minutes)
    • Each guest introduces themselves, tells their involvement with the organization (8 minutes)
  • While people are eating:
    • CEO talks about three things she is most excited about that are happening right now at the organization. Link these three things to your bucket areas (3 minutes)
    • Questions and discussion (5 minutes)
    • CEO talks about three greatest challenges right now, tying these to the three bucket areas (7 minutes).
    • Questions and discussion (10 minutes)
  • After lunch:
    • CEO poses open-ended “focus-group” questions (15 minutes)
      • How do you think we could better convey our needs?
      • What advice do you have for us?
      • How could we be doing a better job of telling our story?
    • Wrap up and thanks from CEO and board member:
      • Be sure to say the development director will call them for feedback in the next two to three days (5 minutes)
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The CEO Golden Hour—Option 1: Calling Donors

What does it mean to “cultivate” a donor and how would a busy CEO find the time to do that even if they knew what to do?

This is a question we are asked regularly by the groups in our Sustainable Funding Program, now that they have an ever-increasing number of donors in their Multiple-Year Giving Society.

Rather than merely invoicing donors and expecting them to dutifully make their pledge payment for each of the next five years, these wise CEOs and development directors have discovered that with a high-touch system of personalized contacts, even the busiest of CEOs can begin—and even enjoy—the donor cultivation process!

Today we begin a series of three features entitled the CEO Golden Hour, highlighting the top three things your busy CEO can do to impact donor cultivation and major gifts if they are willing to dedicate merely one hour a week to this critical process.

CEO Golden Hour
Option 1:  Personal cultivation phone calls to donors in your Multiple-Year Giving Society (who have pledged at least $1,000 a year for the next five years)

Purpose:  Getting to know your donors

Preparation:

CEO/Executive Director: Block out one hour per week for calls on CEO’s calendar

Development director:

  • Schedule four calls in advance. Tell each donor the call will last ten minutes at most.
  • Use the five minutes before each call to brief your CEO on each donor’s background.
  • Bring a back-up list of other donors in case you finish early.

During the Call:

CEO/Executive Director:

  • Ask questions to engage donors in a dialog and learn more about their particular areas of interest and passion for your work:
    • How did you first learn about our organization or become involved with us?
    • Is there a particular area of our work that most interests you?
    • Do you have a personal connection to our mission?
    • Where or how do you think we’re really missing the boat?
    • What advice do you have for us?
    • What cues might we have missed from you?
    • How better could we be telling our story?
    • What could we be doing to involve more people?

Development Director:

  • Listen quietly.
  • Take notes and enter into donor database.

Stay tuned for Option 2 next week, Small Group Lunches.

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Having a Donor Database You Love

Having a Donor Database You Love

Q: How do you define a “good donor database?”
A: Have you—personally—used it in the last 24 hours?

I clearly recall, way back in 1992, purchasing the first database program for our school with my own money. I knew then that if I was going to be successful as the sole staff member working on fundraising, a great database would be essential. Most of my days were spent sitting at a little desk in front of my computer screen with my headset on, reconfirming Point of Entry guests, making follow-up calls, making phone calls to supporters and donors, and tracking every single conversation in our database.

Years after I left the school, subsequent development directors thanked me for setting up that database and for the quality and detail of my notes, which taught them the importance of entering such critical information.

Rather than regard the database as a burden or annoyance or something to be “managed” by someone who is peripheral to the process, I have always thought of my database as the full-time equivalent of a super-smart staff member or member of my team.

I recommend you design it to be something that you and each team member can rely on as your personal memory bank, diary, or journal.

In other words, consider that your tracking system could be something you love!

Use your database to track Point of Entry guests, information gathered from each question in the follow-up call, cultivation contacts, volunteer involvement, Ambassador activity, Ask Event Table Captains, gifts and pledges, ongoing major gifts cultivation, and one-on-one Asks.

Furthermore, if it is properly secured, easy to use, readily accessible to everyone on your team, and linked to a calendar function, it can become an easy and natural way to communicate updates on donor contacts, manage the next contacts for each donor, and manage your overall cultivation calendar as well.

Here are Benevon’s minimum requirements for your donor tracking software if you are serious about implementing the model.

Tracking System—Minimum Requirements:

  • Has a sufficient notes section for tracking conversations and relationships over time, not just basic contact information and gift history
  • Tracks follow-up call dates, messages left, and what was said on the call
  • Easy to use by everyone on your team
  • Interfaces with your website, so that website information is captured directly into the database
  • Delivers and stores individual and mass emails
  • Provides a log of contacts
  • Built-in tickler system, so that all notes have dates and action items that link to the appropriate date in your daily planner
  • Tracks relationships between people
  • Tracks which events people attended (when invited and by whom)
  • Tracks which mailings/contacts people responded to

To summarize, your tracking system should be the one solid, reliable repository for the chronology of every contact with each donor, potential donor, and volunteer. That is the only way everyone who has access to your database will come to count on this as the sole source for up-to-the-minute information on each donor.

Learn more about Bloomerang for Benevon, a special version of the Bloomerang software that incorporates Benevon’s model for engaging and developing relationships with individual donors.

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What Size Tables for the Ask Event?

What Size Tables for the Ask Event?

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.

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The Art of Blessing and Releasing

The Art of Blessing and Releasing

“Blessing and Releasing” people who are not interested in becoming more involved with your organization is one of the many counter-intuitive aspects of the Benevon Model that will leave guests feeling respected and more favorably towards your organization.

At Step 2: The Follow-Up Call, many Point of Entry Event guests may have a hard time telling you directly that they are not interested in becoming involved, even though that is their preference. They do not want you to think they are mean and uncaring.

Therefore, it is critical that the person making each Follow-Up Call listens carefully to read the signals from a guest who is trying to tell you “No.”

What might these signals look like? They include hesitating, being polite but not forthcoming with any suggestions or responses, being quiet or noncommittal.

If you are listening closely during the Follow-Up Call, you will start to develop radar for those guests who are nicely asking you to “bless and release” them.

However, even if the person does not want to become involved, before you bless and release them, don’t forget to ask them the last question in the Five-Step Follow-Up Call: “Is there anyone else you would suggest we invite to another______ (Point of Entry Event) like the one you attended?” If they give you a name, ask, “May I ask you to contact the person (or group) first to let them know I will be calling?”  Any suggestions, names, or ideas they have given you need to be acted on immediately and, in turn, reported back to them quickly.

Thank them for their time and ask them to keep your organization in mind, and then put a note in their file in your database saying you have blessed and released them.

Do not put them on your mailing lists or attempt to contact them further. In the long run, they will respect you a lot more for valuing their time and involvement in other organizations.

If you do not connect with the initial Point of Entry Event guest:

  • Leave one phone message and send one email message offering to arrange a time to talk.
  • If you do not hear back, leave one more phone message.
  • Then note in your database that you have blessed and released this person.
  • Do not put this guest on your mailing list or follow up with them in any way after this, unless they request it.
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Recognizing Major Donors

Recognizing Major Donors

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.

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Benevon’s Key Metric #2: Ensuring an Abundance of Ambassadors

The Art of Blessing and Releasing

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

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

Minimum of one new volunteer Ambassador is generated from the follow-up calls after each Point of Entry Event.

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

  1. Was each guest invited to the Point of Entry by an Ambassador with whom they have a pre-existing relationship?
  2. Does each guest know in advance that they will be receiving a follow-up call from your Team Leader to give their feedback?
  3. Does the Ambassador host say, at the start of the Point of Entry, “I am an Ambassador for _________ (organization), which means I am a volunteer who helps spread the word by hosting a _________ (Point of Entry Event) like this. As we go through the next hour together, please be thinking of any other individuals or groups of people in your life who might want to learn more about our organization. I hope you will become an Ambassador”?
  4. 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?
  5. At the end of the Point of Entry Event, does the Ambassador use the following script?“_________ (Team Leader) will be calling each of you in the next few days to get your feedback. Please accept her/his call. If you were inspired by what you’ve seen today, the best way you can help us is by telling others and inviting them to a similar _________ (Point of Entry Event).

    “If you would like to invite others or host a session like this for a group of your own friends or colleagues, please let _________ know that when she calls you. My hope is that, after what you’ve seen today, you will consider becoming an Ambassador. That’s the very best way you can help us.

    Thank you all and have a great day.”

  6. Immediately following the Point of Entry, do you meet with your Visionary Leader to review the names of each guest to see if there are some guests that should be called by the Visionary Leader rather than the Team Leader?
  7. Has your Team Leader set aside enough time to make the follow-up calls two to three days after the Point of Entry Event? Allow 15 minutes per call. If you do not reach the guest, leave one voicemail message and send an email requesting the best time for a call. If you do not hear back within five days, call again. If you need to leave a message, let them know you won’t call back after this. Tell them you’d still appreciate getting their feedback and ask them to call you.
  8. When a Point of Entry guest says they want to become an Ambassador and host a private Point of Entry, are you prepared with possible dates and an explanation of how the process works? Have you scheduled your next call with this new Ambassador to make a plan for filling their Point of Entry?
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Inviting Guests to the Point of Entry

Inviting Guests to the Point of Entry

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.

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Renewing the Passion for Your Mission

Renewing the Passion for Your Mission

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.