Eight Minutes to Sustainable Funding

8 Minutes to Sustainable Funding

Watch & Learn

This short, fast-paced video is an ideal way for staff, board, and volunteers to learn an overview of the Benevon Model from the comfort of your own home or office.


Hi, I'm Terry Axelrod, the founder of Benevon. Thank you for joining me for this brief overview of the Benevon model, a systematic process for engaging and developing relationships with individual donors who truly believe in your work and will support your organization for the long term. This model was developed at an inner-city school and can be customized to any organization that is committed to getting off the year-to-year fundraising treadmill and willing to follow this evidence-based step-by-step process. If, after watching this video, you are serious about implementing the model, I encourage you to watch our full 55-minute video on the Benevon website.

There are five key metrics or formulas that will make or break your success with the model. I'll point them out here as we go along. Potential donors enter the circle at step one by attending a Point of Entry event; a tightly crafted, sizzling, one-hour tour of your mission. If you adopt this model you'll be putting on at least two Points of Entry per month, each one hosted by an ambassador. An ambassador is a short-term volunteer who hosts and fills one private Point of Entry event with 10 or more guests within three months of becoming an ambassador. To be an ambassadoryou must have attended a prior Point of Entry event and have real passion for the mission of the organization.

In the personal invitation the ambassador must let each guest know that the goal of the Point of Entry is to help get the word out in the community about the work of this organization, that they will not be asked for money at the event, they will receive one follow-up call after the event, and to please be thinking as they are taking the tour of other people in their lives who might want to attend a similar event.

The Point of Entry inspires guests with a brief talk from your Visionary Leader, a three-stop tour of your mission with each stop focusing on one of your organization's three broad areas of impact we call "buckets". You share stories, myth-busting facts and needs without asking for any money. Guests should leave the Point of Entry inspired and thinking of other people they would like to have experience this event, knowing they will be receiving one follow-up call.

Step two of the model is a one-on-one follow-up call made within two to three days by the team leader who is a staff member. The team leader asks specific open-ended questions to gauge the guests' interests in becoming more involved and ideally becoming an ambassador. Our metric is that a minimum of 1out of every 10 Point of Entry guests should become an ambassador and host a private Point of Entry within three months. Often groups generate many new ambassadors out of each Point of Entry.

Becoming an ambassador is one way for guests to begin the deeper cultivation process that happens along what we call the "Cultivation Superhighway". For those guests who do not wish to become ambassadors yet want to stay involved in some way, they may, for example, be invited back for a private visit with the program director in the bucket area of their greatest interest. Some guests will tell you in the follow-up call that they do not wish to get more involved. You will bless and release those guests without ever asking them for money. We expect approximately 50 percent of the Point of Entry guests to be blessed and released.

Step three is where we ask for money. We only ask the people who have attended a Point of Entry and have chosen to become more involved in some way, not the people who have been blessed and released. There are two ways to ask; one on one in person and at the free one-hour Ask Event. The purpose of the Ask Event is to launch and then grow your base of Multiple-Year Giving Society donors, some of whom, with personal cultivation, will become more major donors over time. Guests are invited to the Ask Event by the same person who invited them to attend the Point of Entry. 100 percent of the table captains at the Ask Event must be people who served as successful ambassadors in the prior 12 months, and at least 40 percent of their guests must be the very same people who attended their Point of Entry event and have chosen to become more involved. These guests know that they will be asked to give at the event but that there's no minimum and no maximum.

The program for the free one-hour Ask Event is tightly crafted with a welcome from a board member, a short emotional element like a poem or a song, a brief time for eating and socializing, an inspiring Visionary Leader talk, a moving video with three testimonial stories showcasing your three bucket areas, and a live testimonial culminating in the last 10 minutes with what we call the "pitch" where people are invited to join your Multiple-Year Giving Society with three giving levels starting at $1000 a year for five years and going up from there. There's also a fill-in-the-blanks box for people to give whatever they'd like. Our metric for Ask Event giving is that a minimum of 10 percent of the guests will join the Multiple-Year Giving Society at one of the three levels. The average group we train and coach raises $200,000 at their first Ask Event, including pledges. To develop larger individual donors, we teach our groups to cultivate one or more donors for a Leadership or Challenge Gift which is announced at the Ask Event as well.

The day after the Ask Event you're on the phone calling your new multiple-year donors thanking them for their generous gifts and asking for their feedback about the event. Many will tell you that the Ask Event had them think of other people who should know about your organizations work. That's when you can invite them to introduce those others by becoming an ambassador and hosting their Point of Entry event for their friends who, after proper follow up and cultivation, might then be sitting at their table at your Ask Event next year. Having these donors who have chosen to join your Multiple-Year Giving Society by pledging at least $1,000 a year for five years lets you know which donors have committed to supporting your work over time. It lets you know where to focus your donor cultivation efforts. We do that by inviting these multiple-year donors to small, mission-focused Free Feel-Good Cultivation Events at step four in the model, like an award ceremony or school graduation, program-related events you're already doing to reconnect these multiple-year donors to your real work. Each Free Feel-Good Cultivation Event serves as a point of reentry. And three days after these points of reentry, just like three days after a first-time Point of Entry, you follow up, constantly deepening your relationship leading up to the next ask. If you keep following this model over time your base of Multiple-Year Giving Society donors will grow very organically.

At the school where the model was started, once we exceeded 100 donors in our Multiple-Year Giving Society, we were able to complete a capital campaign for a new building raising 3.2 million in six months from 18 of the same donors that had just joined the giving society. And by the seventh year we had over 500 donors in our Multiple-Year Giving Society, and the board asked themselves, "How much money would we need to raise in an endowment to generate in interest earnings enough to cover our operating shortfall of $600,000 per year?" They decided they'd need $15 million which we raised from a subset of our multiple-year donors, all of whom had come through this process. This allowed our little school to get off of that year-to-year, hand-to-mouth treadmill. In other words, these same donors who make unrestricted gifts in your Multiple-Year Giving Society become the pool of donors you cultivate for capital, for endowment, and even restricted major gifts like the library or technology center at our school, allowing you to leave a legacy of a self-sustaining, mission-based, individual giving program for your favorite nonprofit organization.

So, there you have it, a brief overview of the Benevon model for sustainable funding. I hope you can see how this model could work for you. We have many other resources available to help you learn more and share this approach with others on your team, including a longer, 55-minute video overview of the model recorded at one of our live introductory sessions. If you'd like more information, please contact us benevon.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Contact us today to learn how the Benevon fundraising model can help you engage committed lifelong donors and develop an effective major gifts program.

"Finally, after 20 years in fundraising, I feel that I am working in a sustainable program that produces results. You helped us "own" it, and motivated the team to make adjustments and keep moving forward. We are so grateful and blessed!"

Kathy Rader, Head of School, StoneBridge School
Chesapeake, Virginia

"Benevon is a great model. If you are struggling as an organization and need a strategic model to help frame your future and potential growth, Benevon is for you. The staff are professional and a joy to work with."

Sandra Brown, Board Member, LifeWorks
Austin, Texas

"As a PR expert, I immediately felt that the mission-based engagement focus is exactly what all nonprofit organizations need in order to successfully fundraise."

Julia Joy, Board Member, Giraffe Laugh Early Learning Centers
Garden City, Idaho