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5 Tips for Building a Sustainable 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.

  1. To produce a successful Ask Event nine to twelve months after launching the model, you will need to have a minimum of two private Points of Entry per month, each hosted by an Ambassador and filled with ten or more of their friends, family, or business associates.
  2. In terms of length of service, people generally volunteer to be an Ambassador once and to fulfill this commitment within the next three months. The short-term nature of this role makes it very appealing. Your goal and theirs should be to have each of their private Point of Entry Events generate a minimum of one new Ambassador, who in turn hosts ten or more guests at a Point of Entry over the next three months. You do not want Ambassadors feeling burdened by having to dig deeper through their finite list of contacts to help you each year.
  3. Some groups develop their Ambassador program into an ongoing high-status group, with ribbons and badges, social events and celebrations. They keep their Ambassadors involved in the life of the organization. Others keep it very low-key, working one-on-one with their Ambassadors to schedule their Points of Entry.
  4. Whichever route you take, you will need to plan each Ambassador’s succession right from the start. Some Ambassadors have large networks and may invite fifty guests the first year, thirty the next, and so on. But eventually they will run out of people who will say yes when invited to a Point of Entry Event. At that point or sooner, consider inviting them to take on another role in your organization, perhaps as a member of your Sustainable Funding Team or your board. Certainly a person who spreads the word and follows through by having many guests is a person of interest for future involvement with your organization.
  5. We tell our groups that passion is the glue that holds the whole model together. You and your team must be passionate about the work of the organization. Your Ambassadors must be extremely passionate about your work. Your Point of Entry Event must convey that deep passion and really connect with the guests. In that way, those guests for whom your organization’s mission really is their life’s work or their natural calling will be inspired to join you by becoming Ambassadors and inviting others to the very same type of event that just inspired them: your Point of Entry Event.
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Three Easy Fundraising Roles Every Board Member Could Say Yes To

The fastest route to sanity and satisfaction when it comes to fundraising and your board members is to accept the 20-60-20 rule. That is, 20% of the board will enjoy being involved in fundraising, 60% will be neutral about it, and the remaining 20% will want nothing to do with it at all.

Here are three easy ways for every board member to participate in the fundraising process, without ever having to ask anyone for money themselves:

  1. Serve as Ambassadors by hosting and filling a private Point of Entry Event for ten or more guests. If your board members did nothing more than this, they would be making an enormous contribution to the future of your organization. Help them identify an existing group—like their work colleagues or book club—and choose a date and place to have it—either at your offices or their home or office. Be sure they start with a list of 20-30 in order to ensure ten guests or more in attendance.
  2. Thank donors for gifts. Ask your board members to telephone recent, happy individual donors just to thank them. Not all board members will want to do this, but once a few of them report at the next board meeting on how rewarding the experience was, others may offer to jump in.
  3. Give money themselves. You need to be able to tell your community that 100% of your board members give money personally to your organization, regardless of the amount. We do not recommend setting a minimum gift expectation for board members. If you cultivate and ask each board member individually for their gift, you will be treating each board member as if they will become your most cherished major donor, thereby abiding by the Benevon Golden Rule. Note: You may choose to make board giving a requirement, not an option.
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Dealing with Table Overflow at the Ask Event

Dealing with Table Overflow at the Ask Event

Q: What happens if a Table Captain asks 14 people (as you suggest) and more than 10 of them show up that morning for the Ask Event? How will they all be seated at a table that is set for 10?

Jensen in South Carolina

A: Most organizations find that if a Table Captain starts with 14 confirmed guests, by the time the event comes around, they will end up with 10 at their table. Some guests will back out in the weeks prior to the event and some will not be able to make it on the day of the event due to unexpected circumstances.

If someone does end up with more than 10 guests, here’s what to do. First of all, have an overflow table or two set in the back. This will allow you to seat guests who come to the event that were not registered, and could also be a place to put a guest if a table is too full. It also may be possible to seat an additional guest at the full table. It may be a bit tight with 11 people sitting around it, but the event will only last one hour!

Have plenty of volunteers available to troubleshoot, as challenges and the unexpected will happen. In this case, have one of your volunteers work with the Table Captain to move a few of their people to a nearby table with empty seats.

Ideally the Table Captains will have served as Ambassadors prior to hosting their table, meaning that they’ve brought many of their guests to their privately-hosted Point of Entry Event before inviting them to the Ask Event. In that case, the guests have already established some relationship with your organization and you could seat them with a board member or high-level staff member that welcomes them warmly and serves as their table host for the hour.

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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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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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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?