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Inviting Busy People to Tours

Q: Currently we invite individuals to come on a tour of our regional clinic and then invite them to a small benefit dinner, where they are asked to consider monthly support of the ministry. A tour is also conducted during this event, which is also held onsite.

Many of the people I contact are busy professionals and not always available to do both a tour and a dinner (which of course we try to schedule within just a few weeks of their initial tour).

How crucial do you think it is to get them to the initial tour prior to the tour included in the dinner?

Linda in Virginia

In the Benevon Model, your goal is to have all of your Ask Event guests attend a Point of Entry prior to being asked to give.

The Point of Entry is—very intentionally—the first step of the model. Rather than happening after someone has been asked to give, the true Point of Entry—one that is hosted by an Ambassador who brings a group of ten or more people to a private, invitation-only event that they are hosting—gives people a powerful initial experience of your mission and lets them control the flow of their ongoing engagement with your organization.

Rather than having your small dinners, where many guests are asked to give before they have attended a Point of Entry, our model would have you asking your biggest supporters (e.g., prior Table Captains) to serve as volunteer Ambassadors by hosting their own Point of Entry Events.

In the follow-up phone calls, you can find out if their guests are interested in your work and how they’d like to be involved. Stress your need for more Ambassadors (both at the Point of Entry and in the follow-up) and ask if they have a group of people they’d like to bring together to learn more about your work. Whether or not they choose to be an Ambassador, you will find out how they want to personally be involved in your work going forward and get them engaged.

You can ask people to invest in your work one-on-one whenever the time is right. Or, if you have held many Points of Entry, hosted by Ambassadors, you can put on a larger Ask Event where you ask people for money. In either scenario, we recommend asking people to join your Multiple-Year Giving Society, pledging to contribute a minimum of $1,000 a year for five years. This can be fulfilled through a monthly pledge (similar to what you are doing) but more importantly asks donors to commit to supporting your work long-term, not just for six months or a year.

This sounds quite different from how you’ve been doing it but would be following the Benevon Model.

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What to Do With Ambassadors After They Host a Point of Entry?

Leaning Too Heavily on Your Board?

Q: What should I do with an Ambassador once they have brought their ten guests to their private Point of Entry Event?

Miriam in Arizona

A: You can always ask them if they would like to host another private Point of Entry and bring another group of ten guests or more. If you think they would make a good Ambassador Manager, ask them to take on that role. They could help in the training of new Ambassadors or they could join your Benevon team. See if they would like to become a program volunteer.

Whatever you do, continue to cultivate them, because they have obviously done a lot of work for you and care about your mission. Eventually, if they have been a successful Ambassador, you would want to ask them to consider being a Table Captain.

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Printed Materials and the Benevon Model

I have a question that I haven’t been able to find an answer to in the book very easily. We just rebranded our organization and printed a few brochures, etc. Can you tell me what you recommend for each of the events? For example, at the Point of Entry, I think I’m giving out too much info, but as we get into more volunteer work days, cultivation events, and Ask Events down the road, I want to be prepared media-wise. If someone could give me some basic understanding here, I would greatly appreciate it!

Leigh in Michigan

A: Congratulations on getting started with the Benevon Model. Below is a basic list of the printed materials you’ll need for the various steps of the model.

Point of Entry:

  1. Sign-in cards

  2. Fact sheet: this provides a reference for guests after the Point of Entry and highlights some of the facts and needs you shared during the one-hour program. Make sure you have lots of white space and follow the format in The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right.

  3. Wish list: on the back of the fact sheet you will print your wish list. These are either in-kind donations or volunteer roles that guests can take on if they are excited about your work and want to get more involved. Be sure you have no more than ten items, and the first item on the list must be the “Volunteer Ambassador” role of being an Ambassador, which means they will host and fill a future private Point of Entry for a group of ten or more people in their life.

Ask Event:

  1. Printed program: showing your brief list of speakers, acknowledging any sponsors, board members, etc.

  2. Pledge cards: these are filled out during the ask for money and will highlight your Multiple-Year Giving Society.

Free Feel Good Cultivation Events:

There are no required printed materials.

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Seven Great Ways to Get Your Board Started with the Benevon Model

We are often asked how to involve the entire board in the Benevon process. Here are seven key ways to get started that do not include having board members ask other people for money!

  1. Have every board member watch the free online video, Eight Minutes to Sustainable Funding, or the full fifty-five-minute video, Creating Sustainable Funding for Your Nonprofit, to get themselves up to speed on the Benevon Model.
  2. Allow time at each board meeting for your Sustainable Funding Team members to talk up the model within the board. Have them talk about the importance of long-term sustainable funding and the impact it would have on your community. Give board members an opportunity for real discussion about their frustrations with the year-to-year fundraising treadmill and begin to quantify what sustainable funding would look like, using specific metrics.
  3. Ask each board member to become an Ambassador for your work in the community. Ask them to think about groups of people in their lives who would love to know more about your organization and make a plan for hosting and filling a private Point of Entry Event for ten or more guests.
  4. Organize a board retreat about sustainable funding.
    • Start by having each board member say why they are involved with your organization and why they feel its work is so important.
    • Explain the model or have them watch one of the Benevon videos.
    • Tell them your plan to start putting on Point of Entry Events.
    • Invite them to attend a kick-the-tires Point of Entry just for the board.
    • Do a Treasure Map exercise with the board to identify groups in the community and people they think should be invited to Points of Entry.
    • Remind them that the model is mission-based and permission-based. Your organization will not be asking people for money until each potential donor has been educated and inspired about the work of your group.
  5. Invite board members to join your official Sustainable Funding Team, involving them in Point of Entry Events, follow-up, asking, and cultivation.
  6. Have one or two board members each month make calls to thank donors and to ask for their input and feedback after events. Follow the specific Benevon Follow-Up Call protocol. With every “thank you” be sure to include a story or example about the impact that gift made. There is no substitute for a board member calling a donor. Repeat: there is no substitute for a board member calling a donor.
  7. Ask board members to give money personally to the organization every year. Your goal is to have your organization be one of the top three places each board member supports.

Remember the Benevon Golden Rule: treat each board member as if they were your most cherished major donor. In other words, take the time to find out their specific areas of interest in your work and tend them carefully.

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Assessing Board Engagement: Ten Tough Questions

Leaning Too Heavily on Your Board

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.

How does your board stack up? Here is a series of questions that will get to the truth about how you are doing at involving your board. Write down your answers to each question below.

  1. When it comes to fundraising, what are your biggest concerns about your board? What more would you like your board members to be doing? What would it take for your board to more closely resemble your image of the “ideal” board?
  2. What percentage of your total board members would you rate as truly passionate about your mission? Do the math. The sooner you tell the truth about this percentage, the sooner you can get to work.
  3. What percentage of your total board members understand the Benevon Model and are eager to participate in its implementation (not just how many have heard of the model or nod their heads pleasantly when you discuss Point of Entry Events and the Ask Event)? Rather, what percentage truly understand the power of the Benevon Model to build long-term sustainable funding, which is something most board members would love to leave as a legacy?
  4. What percentage of total board members have attended your organization’s Point of Entry Event? Even if board members think they know everything there is to know about your organization, they will learn something new and personally experience the power of your mission. Tell them in advance that you need their advice and feedback.
  5. What percentage of your board members have invited others to attend Point of Entry Events? Some groups make this a standard part of board participation, going so far as to have board members sign an agreement to participate at a certain level, for instance, to attend at least one Point of Entry Event per year, or to have a minimum number of guests throughout the year, or to become an official Ambassador, filling one Point of Entry with at least ten guests.
  6. What percentage of your board members have been involved in thanking donors? What have they said about it afterwards? Do you give them an opportunity to share these experiences at board meetings?
  7. What percentage of your board members give money to the organization, personally? Your goal here should be 100% participation with no minimum dollar requirement.
  8. Have you completed a Cultivation Interview with each board member once a year? These simple Cultivation Interview Questions (Chapter 9) are very powerful.‌‌

    ‌If your CEO and board chair were to do an annual Cultivation Interview with each of your board members, that would send a message that each board member is very important to your organization. Cultivation Interviews give your board members an opportunity to talk to you and, even more importantly, give you an opportunity to listen to them, which again sends the message that you value them.‌‌

    ‌‌‌Furthermore, if you pay close attention to what they are telling you in these annual interviews, you will see what has changed in their life circumstances and priorities in the past year, what lights them up most about your work, and how you can involve them in precisely those areas, just as you would cultivate a major donor.
  9. What is your plan to increase or retread your board members’ passion?‌‌‌‌

    ‌This new level of engagement for each board member isn’t going to happen automatically. It takes someone to drive it, step by step. Just as you would develop a cultivation plan for each major donor, you need a similar step-by-step plan for cultivating each board member.‌‌‌‌

    ‌This will be a series of personalized contacts, each focusing on the board member’s particular area of interest, which you will know well. Each subsequent contact is driven by the board member’s request during the prior contact.
  10. Do you have an annual board fundraising retreat where each board member signs an annual board agreement, outlining the options and requirements for participation?
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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.
  2. Having a Wish List at a Point of Entry Event if the model says you cannot ask for anything there.‌
  3. Leaving a voicemail message when you are trying to get one-on-one telephone feedback.‌
  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.
    ‌‌ ‌
    ‌‌‌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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Are We Ready to Have an Ask Event?

Are We Ready to have an Ask Event?

Q: What should be our biggest consideration in deciding if we are ready to put on an Ask Event?
Andrea in Georgia

A: Your biggest concern needs to be the number of people that attended your private, Ambassador-hosted Point of Entry Events so far. The success of the Ask Event will depend on having a minimum of 40% of the guests attend a prior Point of Entry Event. We call this the 40% critical mass rule, and it is not hard to achieve.

Furthermore, you should aim to exceed 40%. Of course, the higher the percentage of guests at your Ask Event who have been cultivated through the first two steps of the model, the better. Many groups we work with already know that 50-80% of their Ask Event guests have been cultivated sufficiently so that they will arrive at the Ask Event predisposed to giving.

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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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Ask Benevon: The Ask Event is Not a First Date

Ask Benevon: The Ask Event is Not a First Date

Q: If you only have two months until your Ask Event, and only half of the people on a Table Captain’s list of invitees have been through a Point of Entry, do they still invite them to the breakfast? Or do they invite them to a Point of Entry instead and then try to invite them to the breakfast in the follow-up call from the Point of Entry? Relatedly: If you have a new Table Captain that hasn’t had a single person on their list come to a Point of Entry, do they invite them to the breakfast or still try to do the Point of Entry first?

 Kimberly in California

A: The only reason to have an Ask Event is to “harvest” all of the good cultivation work you have been doing with the prior year’s Point of Entry guests. The Ask Event is not a substitute for a Point of Entry. Inviting people to the Ask Event as their first exposure to your organization is akin to having first-time guests to your home enter through the back door.

Many nonprofits that attempt to “self-implement” our model, without having a system for developing Ambassadors who fill their Points of Entry, get boxed into a pre-established Ask Event date and then default, out of necessity, to filling that event with traditional Table Captains who dutifully call friends and colleagues to reciprocate prior favors by joining them at their table.

You need a minimum of 50% of your Ask Event guests to be people who have attended a Point of Entry in the prior twelve months. You also want 100% of your Table Captains to have served as Ambassadors in the prior year; this is a key factor in accomplishing the prior goal.

If someone hasn’t invited a single person to a Point of Entry, we would not suggest having them serve as a Table Captain. Engage them in serving as an Ambassador by working to get at least ten people to a Point of Entry and then continue to cultivate them towards being a Table Captain at next year’s Ask Event.

I hope this helps to clarify. Good luck with your event.

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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.