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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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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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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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Benevon’s Key Metric #3

Benevon’s Key Metric #3

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. Are you recruiting a minimum of one new Ambassador out of every Point of Entry Event?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
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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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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.