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Capturing Names at a Holiday Banquet

Leaning Too Heavily on Your Board?

Q: How do we capture the names at our annual holiday banquet fundraising dinner and can we use it as a Point of Entry Event? We expect to have over 200 people, and we do a great emotional program about our work, but we’ve never been very successful at getting people to give us their cards for more info.

Neil in Massachusetts

A: In order to consider an event a real Point of Entry, people must be invited personally by someone they know, they must attend knowing they are coming just to learn about your work, you must have time to do the full Point of Entry program, and you must have permission to follow up with all of the guests afterwards.

Your holiday banquet is a great example of what we call a Point of Entry Conversion Event, which is often a great feeder strategy for your Points of Entry if you can successfully follow up with attendees and invite them to come.

At a moment in the program when you have people’s attention, have your emcee say that you wouldn’t be doing your job if you didn’t take a moment to share what the support raised at this event will make possible for the mission. Have them introduce your Visionary Leader, who should give a brief Visionary Leader Talk. Following the Visionary Leader, you should have a testimonial from someone who was supported by your organization.

Once those two program pieces have happened, the emcee should come back out and say that people have now gotten a glimpse of what your work is about and that some of them might find themselves wanting to get more involved. Then direct them to cards in the center of their table or under their plates, which they can fill out to indicate that they would like to talk with someone from the organization. You will then follow up and invite the people who gave you a card to a Point of Entry.

To shortcut the process, you can recruit your table hosts to become Ambassadors who agree to host and fill one private Point of Entry Event after the holiday banquet for those guests who want to attend.

Have the dates for their private Points of Entry pre-scheduled for January and work with each person to invite the folks they bring to the banquet back to a Point of Entry in the new year. Tell the hosts that it will be a great way for their guests to learn more about the organization and feel proud of what their support has allowed them to do.

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Motivating Ambassadors

What Size Tables for the Ask Event?

Q: We are having a hard time keeping Ambassadors motivated to actually follow through on hosting and filling a Point of Entry Event with ten or more people. We only have three active Ambassadors. What advice do you have for us?

Melanie in Texas

A: An Ambassador is someone who has attended a Point of Entry Event, believes in your work, and accepts a short-term volunteer assignment to host and fill a private Point of Entry Event with ten or more guests in the next two to three months.

The key to making your Ambassador program successful starts with the personal invitation they received from their friend to attend the initial Point of Entry. Their friend who is hosting the event (for example, a friend from their book club) tells them that they are serving as an Ambassador by hosting a private one-hour tour of an organization they love, to give them a first-hand experience of the work of the organization. They will not be asked for money at the event and they will receive one follow-up call from someone at the organization to get their feedback and to see if they might like to serve as an Ambassador by hosting and filling a subsequent Point of Entry with their own group of ten or more.

At the Point of Entry, the Ambassador welcomes everyone from the book club, shares why they are so committed to the organization, introduces the Visionary Leader. The person who will be making the Follow-Up Calls has a speaking role during the Point of Entry, sharing their personal connection to the work of the organization, and perhaps serving as the tour guide.

It is very important that the person making the follow-up calls be someone who enjoys talking with people on the phone and is good at building relationships. Their goal should be to identify one new Ambassador from the follow-up calls to the ten or more guests who attend each Point of Entry Event.

When someone tells them that they would like to become an Ambassador, the person making the follow-up calls must be sure to talk through three things: who do they plan to invite, when and where would they like to have the Point of Entry event. Make sure the potential Ambassador can visualize this event in detail before hanging up the phone! Let them know you they will be receiving ongoing support from your (volunteer) Ambassador Manager—someone who has been a successful Ambassador themselves. Tell them the name of that person and to expect a phone call in the next day or two.

The Ambassador Manager must keep in touch weekly or every other week until the big day!  They should also work with t each Ambassador to identify in advance one or two of their guests who might want to become an Ambassador after they learn more about your organization.


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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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The Gold Standard: Creating an Extraordinary Ambassador Program

This week’s feature is an excerpt from The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition. For more information and to buy the book, visit our store.

Ambassadors are the people who are so passionate about your work they will happily invite others to attend your Point of Entry Events. Once you develop a system for recruiting and managing a self-generating group of Ambassadors, the job of implementing the Benevon Model becomes a lot more enjoyable and successful!

There are only two requirements for being an Ambassador: having passion for the mission of your organization, and the ability to fill and host a private Point of Entry Event for ten or more guests over the course of the next three months.

The Gold Standard
The best way to identify potential Ambassadors is to first clarify the attributes of an ideal “gold-standard” Ambassador. Make a quick list of the top five to ten people who most love your organization and will say yes to pretty much anything you ever ask them to do. These are the people who follow through on what they promise, keep in touch, tell their friends about you, and offer to help you with special projects, for example.

For these people, your organization is at the top of their list. You may notice that some, but perhaps not all, of your board members belong on this list. Also, some of your volunteers and past board members may belong on the list, although their current affiliation with your organization is loose at best. Regardless of their official role with your organization today, these people feel as if your work is their work, and they feel as if they are part of your family. Do not screen this list by wealth or contacts. The only screening criteria should be their demonstrated passion and follow-through.

Now, step back and look at your list. What are the common attributes of the people you have named? Write them down on a separate list. Usually people identify qualities like: they always show up, they return our calls, they tell their friends about us, they ask how else they can help, they do what they say they’re going to do, they have a personal connection to our mission, they feel like insiders, we can talk openly with them about what’s really going on.

Think about those attributes. Notice that the list does not necessarily include giving money. The people who fit this description are the natural champions for your mission, your ideal potential Ambassadors. These are the gold-standard attributes that you will look for as you recruit all future Ambassadors.

Keep one or two of these people in mind as you expand your list of possible Ambassadors to remind you of the qualities you are looking for. Your goal is to find and develop as many more people as possible who have these same types of attributes who will in turn invite others to your Points of Entry. Do not lower your standards.


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Benevon Wish List

How can we prepare our board for getting started with the Benevon Model? How do we explain to them what’s different about it?

Q: We don’t have a wish list for in-kind items. What should we be sharing on tours? Do guests need an in-kind option to give to before they want to do more? We do get lots of questions about what kind of items we need in our housing (we build affordable housing).

Sarah in Minnesota

A: The Wish List is one of the two handouts people should receive at your Point of Entry (the other handout is the Fact Sheet). Your Wish List should highlight about ten non-monetary items that someone could contribute to benefit your organization.

We never want to list a dollar amount or ask for funding for a specific need on the Wish List. Short of that, you should consider any other volunteer role or tangible item that would truly make a difference for your organization!

The first item on your Wish List should be the volunteer role of serving as an Ambassador. This means hosting a private, invitation-only Point of Entry Event for ten or more guests. Given that all Point of Entry guests should be invited by Ambassadors, everyone at the Point of Entry will have a good role model for what it is to be an Ambassador. They will also be reminded during the event and in the follow-up call that being an Ambassador is the very best way people can help if they are inspired by what they learn at the Point of Entry.

To choose which items to include on your Wish List of ten items, it’s a good idea to interview your program staff, asking what they most need. While you might think of “in-kind” donations strictly as household items, children’s books, or something else that people have tucked away in their houses, your wish list can go beyond that. For example, consider items like:

  • Bus passes/transportation cards
  • A donated meal for a weekly support group that you sponsor
  • Office supplies (printer paper or other supplies, or even new carpeting or furniture)
  • Carpet or air-conditioning for your building

Be sure that the items on your Wish List are things you really need—because you will get them! And yes, as you implied, often an in-kind gift is a starter gift from a potential major donor. Take good care of these donors, inviting them back to see the difference their in-kind gift has made.

Finally, remember to refresh your Wish List two or three times a year as your wishes are granted.

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Asking for Ambassadors at the Point of Entry

Ask Benevon: The Ask Event is Not a First Date

Q: Isn’t the Point of Entry a little premature to be asking for Ambassadors? Wouldn’t it be better to wait and ask people further down the road?

Jim in South Carolina

A: Ambassadors should come as no surprise to first-time Point of Entry guests. When their friend or colleague invites them to the event, they are told that the main purpose of the Point of Entry is to get the word out in the community about the group’s remarkable work. Their host Ambassador also tells them to be thinking of others who should know about this organization.

Then, at the start of the Point of Entry, the volunteer Ambassador host, who has filled this event with ten or more people they know well, reiterates the purpose of the event and the request to be thinking of others who would want to know about this. She tells her guests that she hopes they will be so inspired by today’s event that they will consider becoming an Ambassador and hosting and filling a private Point of Entry event themselves. “That is the very best way you can help us.”

You can also mention Ambassadors when you show guests your Wish List, which has Ambassadors prominently listed as the first thing you need.

Finally, the Ambassador says in the wrap-up that she hopes everyone will take the follow-up call from the team leader and that “many of you will consider becoming an Ambassador” and hosting a similar private Point of Entry Event.

Think of the Ambassadors as short-term volunteers. If your Point of Entry Event has been sizzling, many guests will be eager to fill this role. Tell them again that hosting and filling a private Point of Entry Event is the very best way they can help you if they are inspired by what they have seen.

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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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Sizzling, or Just Nice?

We say your Point of Entry Event must be sizzling, but what do we mean by that? We mean memorable, compelling, and gripping, even life-changing. It has to leave a visceral imprint on the guest—something they will never forget.

The event needs to tug at the heartstrings several times by including four or five stories, told first person, by letter or using audio tape.

In addition to inspiring people, the Point of Entry needs to let each guest know that you would love to have them get more involved with your organization, in whatever way works for them, ideally by becoming an Ambassador and hosting and filling a private tour with ten or more of their friends or colleagues.

Guests need to know that no matter how nice your surroundings look, you are not “handled.” The mission you are here to fulfill still urgently needs them: you haven’t yet cured that disease yet, ended child abuse or homelessness. There’s still more work to be done.

Unfortunately, not all the Point of Entry Events we visit are that sizzling. Although our groups often give themselves high marks when they rate themselves on their events, our coaches don’t always agree. We see Point of Entry Events that may be technically correct in that they follow the proper one-hour agenda, but they don’t knock your socks off.

These lackluster events leave guests saying, “What an interesting group. Those people obviously know what they’re doing.” But they aren’t compelled to take action. Guests need to leave your Point of Entry saying, “I had no idea,”  or “Wait until I tell Jane—this is just the kind of thing she would love.”

In other words, even if guests choose not to become personally involved, they should be so excited about what they saw that they think  of other people they’d like to tell about it: people for whom your issue is “just their thing.”

I recall an exceptional Point of Entry I visited for a residential treatment home for children who had been abused and neglected. It had a wonderful theme: hands. I was greeted at the front door by an adult and child. The child took my hand and walked me over to the sign-in table. I was both physically and emotionally “touched” from the minute I arrived.

There were handprints of children used as metaphors throughout the Point of Entry. As victims of abuse, these children had come to associate hands with bad things. This residential program aimed to transform that image for these children. They wove this theme into the stories told, and we viewed pictures of handprints in the bedrooms and hallways as we toured the building.

The most memorable moment for me was the finale of that Point of Entry. Each guest was escorted by a child to a tray filled with colorful finger paint, where we got to make our own handprint on a big group poster. I will never forget that little five-year-old boy holding my hand proudly as we walked over to the paint, rolling up my sleeve, covering my hand with the slippery red paint, pushing down on the back of my hand to be sure every single digit was imprinted on the paper, and then walking me over to the bucket of warm soapy water, washing off the paint, and carefully drying my hand.

Before I left, I knelt down and gave him a hug, thanking him for the wonderful experience. It was such a proud moment for this child to know he had made a difference with me. Talk about memorable! It had been a long time since I’d done any finger painting, and the love and care that little boy took in helping me make a beautiful hand print spoke volumes about the work this organization does every day.

I went right home and told several people about this organization and, had I lived in that town, I would defintely have volunteered to serve as an Ambassador and host my own Point of Entry Event.

Keep asking yourself—and other people whose opinion you value: “Did our Point of Entry Event move you to tears?”

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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!