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Triaging Your Follow-Up Calls

In the Benevon Model, every guest at your Point of Entry Event will receive a follow-up call within two to three days. This is not just a quick thank-you call. Rather, this is an interactive research call, a one-on-one focus group in which you gather critical data on each potential lifelong donor and friend.

The purpose of this call is to gauge the guest’s level of interest in becoming more involved with your organization. If the guest is not interested in becoming more involved, they are “blessed and released.” If they are interested in becoming more involved, this follow-up call is the start of an authentic dialog, which is the foundation of any lasting relationship.

With all of that in mind, who makes the call is nearly as important! Keep these guidelines in mind when carefully selecting who from your organization makes your Five-Step Follow-Up Calls.

  • Ideally the person making the follow-up calls will be your Benevon Team Leader, or another staff person—not a board member or volunteer.
  • This person must like talking with people on the phone and enjoy developing relationships.
  • This person must have a speaking role at the Point of Entry Event (tour guide, storyteller). When they make that follow-up call, your guests must already be familiar with this person.
  • It can’t be someone who will just be doing the calls to check them off a list. This person must be passionate about this important step in the Benevon Model—the beginning of a lifelong relationship with potential donors!
  • This person must know how to use your database. After each call, every bit of data gathered must be recorded in your database. Be sure your donor tracking system has a section for you to record and track notes about each donor contact and about your next steps.

Triaging who calls each guest

  • Your staff Team Leader will make the majority of the calls, but there may be times when your executive director or CEO should make the follow-up call, such as when a board member or major donor attends.
  • If you have multiple development staff, there may be times when another staff member does the follow-up because they are already engaged in building a relationship with that donor.
  • Anyone who makes a follow-up call must be well-versed in the process and record the conversation in detail in your donor tracking system.

Having the right person make the follow-up calls will make a big difference in your results moving forward!

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Top 5 Follow-Up Call No-Nos

Follow-up calls are the glue that holds the model together. If you are not planning to do a rigorous job of following up with each and every person who attends your Point of Entry Event, there is no point in having these events at all. In fact, the very first step in planning each event should be to design your follow-up system.

When following up with your guests after events, be sure to avoid these common mistakes:

  1. Having the calls made by someone who wasn’t at the Point of Entry and didn’t have a speaking role. The purpose of the follow-up call is to deepen or continue the relationship after the Point of Entry. That will not work if it’s a cold call from a stranger.
  2. Making calls more than two to three business days after the Point of Entry Event. People just won’t remember what they saw or heard if you wait too long! Timing is important and follow-up should be scheduled in your calendar.
  3. Not allowing enough time for the calls. You should plan on fifteen minutes per call. If you are rushing to get off the phone, you can’t really be present and get the most out of the call.
  4. Asking for money. You should be asking your Point of Entry guests if they want to get involved or further engaged with your organization, but you should not ask for money on a follow-up call, just like you shouldn’t ask for money at the Point of Entry Event!
  5. Not capturing good notes in your database and scheduling the next contact. Even if you have a great call, if you don’t document the conversation and set a next action, it’s like it never happened!
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Follow-Up Calls: Keys to Success

From Terry’s book, The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition.

As your guests are leaving the Point of Entry Event—inspired, informed, and rushing off to their next appointment—the person who will make the Follow-Up Call says to each of them, “Thank you for coming. I’ll give you a call in the next couple of days to get your feedback.”

Remember your objective in making these calls: to have a minimum of one new volunteer Ambassador come forward out of the ten or more guests that attend each private Point of Entry. Now, to ensure that call is successful, let’s look at what must happen before, during, and after the Point of Entry Event.

Before the Point of Entry Program Begins
Review the guest list. Make sure the primary person who will make the Follow-Up Calls—we’ll call her Delia—knows each guest by name or, at a minimum, knows the name of the person who invited each guest.

Delia stands in the reception area and greets each guest warmly as they arrive: “Welcome to Abilities in Action. I’m Delia, the person you talked to on the phone!”

Note that Delia is not the official greeter stationed at the front door of the building, nor is she the official sign-in person who is stationed at the table to be sure each guest fills out a guest card. She has the flexibility to move around. She chats informally with as many guests as possible before the event begins, asking questions like, “How are you connected to _______________ (the Ambassador host)?” Five minutes before the program is scheduled to begin, Delia ushers the guests into the meeting room and asks them to take a seat at the table.

During the Point of Entry Event
The Ambassador opens the program following Benevon’s script on (page 104 of The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition), welcoming the guests, introducing Delia, sharing their own story, and asking guests to introduce themselves briefly, including what connection, if any, they have with the organization. Ask the guests to be thinking of others who would want to know about your work as they take the tour today.

During the tour portion of the Point of Entry, Delia serves as the tour guide, first introducing herself by sharing her personal connection to the organization.

At the end of the Point of Entry Event, the Ambassador who made the opening remarks thanks people for coming and reminds them that Delia will call each of them in the next few days to get their feedback, including their ideas for who else they might know who would want to attend a future Point of Entry Event, and whether they might like to become an Ambassador.

Immediately Following the Point of Entry Event
Set aside time immediately following each Point of Entry Event to meet with your team to go through the guest cards and decide who will make each Follow-Up Call. For the most part, these calls will all be made by your designated staff Follow-Up Call person who is also the Team Leader, like Delia.

If you have a prominent person or elected official, a board member, or major donor whom you feel would respond better to receiving a Follow-Up Call from the CEO directly, this is the time to make these important call assignments. Remember, whoever makes the first Follow-Up Call will be responsible for the ongoing relationship with this guest.

When to Make the Official Post-Point of Entry Follow-Up Call
The Follow-Up Call must be made on the second or third day following the Point of Entry Event. Give the guests a day or two to digest what they experienced and yet not so long that they will have forgotten the impact of the event.

What to Have on Hand when Making the Follow-Up Call
Be sure that the Follow-Up Call person has on hand a copy of the Wish List (see page 117) each guest will have received at the Point of Entry. This list should include several volunteer opportunities, starting with Ambassadors, as well as 8 to 10 tangible items you really need.

Also, you will need a copy of the Ambassador Invitation Script nearby (see page 86).

The Detailed Follow-Up Call Script
Think of this as a research call with a specific list of points to cover. Consider yourself a detective on a mission to determine how each person might like to become involved, even if only a little bit, with your organization. This must be a customized type of involvement, tailored to their needs and interests. You must have your radar detector turned up to high intensity for this call. You are listening for clues. You may need to practice asking people questions and then not talking so you can listen closely to the essence of what they are saying as well as what they are not saying.

Here is a more detailed outline of the Five-Step Follow-Up Call that will be helpful to have nearby when you make these calls.

  1. Thank you for coming.
  2. What did you think?
    • Of the stories you heard?
    • What area of our work most interested you? Was it (bucket #1, #2, or #3)?
    • What new thoughts or ideas did you come away with?
    • Do you have a personal connection to our work? Tell me about it.
    • Did you leave with any questions I can answer for you?
    • What advice do you have for us?
  3. Be quiet and listen.
    • Take notes on what they say.
    • Enter notes into database.
  4. Is there any way you can see yourself becoming involved with us?
    • Invite others to Point of Entry Events.
    • Have a list of things people could do, such as volunteer opportunities; making reminder calls for Points of Entry; or volunteering (e.g., tutoring or mentoring a child).
    • Reference the Wish List items.
    • Host a Point of Entry or a Point of Entry in a Box.
    • Become an Ambassador.
    • Activity related to their bucket area of interest (e.g., meet with the program director or tour the facility, invite to a small event).
  5. Is there anyone else you can think of that we ought to invite to a Point of Entry?
    • Who else in your daily life? Other groups you participate in, etc.?
    • Maybe a family member, someone you work with or a friend?
    • Someone you know who has a personal connection or a real passion for our work.
    • Example: “You mentioned you work in the healthcare field. Is there anyone else from your work—or from your book club, for that matter—who you think should know about our work?”

Good luck and happy calling. Remember, it’s all about building long-term relationships!

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High-Impact Follow-Up Calls

After all your work putting on a brilliant Point of Entry Event, how can you make the most of your Benevon Follow-Up Calls? Here is a more detailed guide for how to ensure you will gently discover whether or not your guest is interested in becoming more involved with your organization and, if so, in what way. I’d recommend keeping this beside your phone as you make your calls. Be sure to enter all your notes into your database to track the entire donor cultivation process.

Detailed Five-Step Follow-Up Call

  1. Thank you for coming.
  2. What did you think?
    • Of the stories you heard?
    • What area of our work most interested you? Was it (bucket #1, #2, or #3)?
    • What new thoughts or ideas did you come away with?
    • Was there a particular aspect of our work that resonated with you? Tell me about it.
    • Did you leave with any questions I can answer for you?
    • What advice do you have for us?
  3. Be quiet and listen.
    • Take notes on what they say.
    • Enter notes into database.
  4. Is there any way you can see yourself becoming involved with us?
    • Become an Ambassador—host and fill a private Point of Entry with ten or more guests.
    • Have a list of things people could do, such as volunteer opportunities; making reminder calls for Points of Entry; or volunteering (e.g., tutoring or mentoring a child).
    • Reference the Wish List items.
    • Activity related to their bucket area of interest (e.g., meet with the program director or tour the facility, invite to a small event).
  5. Is there anyone else you can think of that you would like to invite to a Point of Entry?
    • Who else in your daily life might be interested in learning more about what we do?
      • Are there other groups you participate in, individuals you talked to about the tour, perhaps a family member or friend, someone you know who has a personal connection or a real passion for our work?
      • Example: “You mentioned you work in the healthcare field. Is there anyone else from your work—or from your book club, for that matter—who you think should know about our work?”
    • As you heard at our Point of Entry, our biggest need is to have people help us spread the word about our organization by serving as a volunteer Ambassador. Is that something you might be willing to help us with?
    • [If they answer “yes,” talk through when and where they would like to host their private event and make a preliminary list of who they would like to invite. Remember, the easiest way to fill a Point of Entry is with a ready-made group they are already a part of, like their book club. Schedule a next call to take place within two weeks.]
    • [If they answer “no,” then arrange a next contact—either a second visit to your offices to meet with a program person in the program that interests them, or to attend a special program like a graduation, or to volunteer.]

If you are certain that they are not interested in any further contact, thank them for coming and “bless and release them.” You can enter their name in your database but do not mail them or call them again. Trust that they will come back if and when the time is right.

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The Glue that Holds it All Together

From Terry’s book, The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition.

In the Benevon Model, follow-up is the glue that holds the whole model together. When your goal is to build lifelong relationships with individual donors, the follow-up process never ends. Whether after the initial Point of Entry Event or after each subsequent donor contact, you will be asking your donors for their personal feedback and listening closely for clues as to how they might like to become more involved.

The first Benevon Follow-Up Call, which happens after the initial Point of Entry Event, is not just a polite thank-you call, in which case it could be made by the Ambassador or the person who invited each guest to attend. It is fine for the Ambassador to call their guest to thank them for coming. However, the official Follow-Up Call must be made by someone representing the organization, someone to whom the guest can give candid feedback, without any sense of obligation to the friend who invited them.

The purpose of the Follow-Up Call is to discover whether or not this person is interested in becoming more involved with your organization. If the guest does want to become more involved, the Follow-Up Call is the opportunity to determine the particular aspects of your work that most inspire them and who else they may want to invite to attend a Point of Entry Event.

If you discover during the Follow-Up Call that the guest does not want to get involved, the guest is “blessed and released,” but not until you have asked if there is anyone else they might want to invite to a future Point of Entry Event.

Selecting the Ideal Person to Make the Follow-Up Calls
As you begin implementing the Benevon Model, it is worth thinking through who will be responsible for making these critical Follow-Up Calls.

The official Follow-Up Call should be made by the one staff member who is the Team Leader accountable for the successful implementation of the Benevon Model within the organization. This person needs to enjoy building relationships—and talking on the telephone! This person will be each guest’s ongoing primary contact at the organization and will guide the cultivation process leading up to the Ask Event and beyond.

The ideal Follow-Up Call person must:

    • Attend every Point of Entry Event and have a speaking role, either as the tour guide, storyteller, or testimonial speaker
    • Enjoy talking to people on the phone
    • Be accountable for Ambassador recruitment and oversee the Ambassador Manager
    • Have access to the executive director or CEO to get responses to donors’ questions or ideas in a timely manner
    • Possess the maturity and ability to interact with all types of people
    • Enjoy developing relationships with people over time
    • Be detail-oriented and committed to tracking every donor conversation in your database

Choose your Follow-Up Call person carefully and be sure that every guest receives this call two to three days after attending their Point of Entry Event.

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Meaningful To-Dos for Board Members

Meaningful To-Dos for Board Members

Here are eight easy and meaningful things for board members to do to advance your organization’s individual giving program:

  1. Speak positively about your organization with the people in their day-to-day lives. Talk about the good work you are doing and share their genuine passion for your work.
  2. Attend a Point of Entry Event at least once a year to update their knowledge of your program and get re-inspired. Give you their honest feedback afterwards.
  3. Be an Ambassador: Host and fill a private Point of Entry for ten or more of their friends or colleagues (or book club, etc.) in their home or office.
  4. Attend one-on-one meetings or small-group CEO Golden Hours with Multiple-Year Giving Society Donors with the executive director. Be prepared to tell why they got involved with the organization.
  5. Make a personal financial gift to your organization annually.
  6. Attend Point of Entry “Conversion” Events (golf tournaments, galas, etc.) wearing a special board member ribbon or nametag and be “on duty” as a proud representative of your organization throughout the event, ever alert to guests who might want more information.
  7. Attend Free Feel-Good Cultivation Events in their “official” capacity as a board member and bring a friend. Genuinely thank and appreciate the guests for all they have given to your organization.
  8. Make brief thank-you calls to recent donors. (Leaving a message is acceptable.)

In addition to doing these eight easy and meaningful things to advance your organization’s individual giving program, here are five valuable and useful roles for development committee members.

  1. Be involved in planning the entire individual giving fundraising system for your organization.
  2. Regularly review the lists of people who have attended Point of Entry Events and offer strategic advice and guidance about additional ways to involve or connect these potential donors (second or third “dates”).
  3. Conduct open-ended telephone interviews with prior donors to gather feedback about what your organization could be doing better.
  4. Ask selected donors or potential donors for financial contributions when they are ready, i.e., after the donors have been sufficiently educated, inspired, and involved.
  5. Host additional private meetings or group cultivation events with major donors as needed.
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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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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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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?