Presented by Terry Axelrod, Benevon Founder and CEO. Recorded October 16, 2018.
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Hello everyone. It’s Terry Axelrod.
Really, thank you for joining me for today’s webinar, The Benevon Model - Five Key Metrics for Getting it Right. I have much to share with you about The Benevon Model and we’ll be using the information from the book that I’ve written most recently, The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step By Step Guide to Getting It Right. Notice this is the second edition.
The Benevon has been around since 1996. We’ve worked with nearly 3,000 non-profit teams that have collectively raised over $1 billion using this approach. As I mentioned, the Model was started in a school, in an inner-city school where we had never raised any money at all and by using this approach we raised over $7 million in the first two years, and went on to complete a $15 million endowment campaign by the end of the seventh year. So it as tremendously successful
Nowadays people talk about a Culture of Philanthropy. This is a slide from the Underdeveloped Study that was done by Compasspoint several years ago. Many of you will have known and heard about the term, Culture of Philanthropy. This is where most people in the organization act as Ambassadors and engaged in relationship-building. This is not just a few people in the development office that are doing that fundraising thing. This is where everyone promoted philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving. Fund development is viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program of the organization. It’s not off to the side of that nasty thing that’s going on in that other office and those of us doing the sacred work over here don’t have to deal with that. No. We are all involved in this whole process. Organizational systems are established to support donors the same way you would have systems if you were running a hospital or a domestic violence shelter. You have processes and systems that you follow and the top leader is committed and personally involved in fundraising, much like the University President who is very active out in the community. The top leader is committed and personally involved in fundraising
You want to think of this as a method for deep engagement of individual donors. Most of you have many ways of raising money. So far you do perhaps direct mail, grant writing, special events. The Benevon Model is a powerful system for deeply engaging individual donors who will stay with your organization for the long-term. Many of you may have heard the term, Culture of Philanthropy. This is quite popular now in the non-profit world. A way to bring about an internal culture where most people in the organization act as ambassadors and engage in relationship-building. Everyone in the organization promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving where funds development is viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program of the organization. Systems are established within your organization to support donors just like you have systems for delivering your programs. You don’t just make it up every day how you are going to work with people or deliver medical care, for example. You have specific processes and the top leader is committed and personally involved in fundraising.
This is the goal of most nonprofits nowadays, to create that Culture of Philanthropy internally but we found at Benevon, as you can see from looking at this, all of these statements are internal. They’re about the culture of the organization. What we found at Benevon is by using our Model for so many years so many of our groups stay with us 10 or 15 years. It actually brings about something we call a Culture of Engagement.
What is that? A Culture of Engagement is where the community, the external community is so engaged in your work, is so bought into it, is so connected to what you’re doing that it’s as if they are breathing oxygen into your organization. Breathing that life into it. Breathing that sustainability into it so that long-term as you may move on, others may move on, the mission may still be incredibly needed in your community and there will be that community of support to help fulfill your mission.
The Five Key Metrics. I’ll be filling the blanks in as we go along. Let’s get started with The Benevon Model. The first thing you want to notice is the shape of it, that it’s a circle, kind of like an old- fashioned toy train track on the floor. You want to get donors on that track going around and around with you for life.
Where they get on the track is at Step One, which is something we call a Point of Entry, a POE for short. A Point of Entry is a sizzling one-hour get acquainted event about your organization. If I were a funder and I said I was thinking about making a $25,000 grant to your organization but first I need to come out and take a tour, what would you show me? Many groups would say we can do that, we can put a tour together. But what you probably would show me would be a tour of your facilities or a tour of your programs. That is not what we mean by a Point of Entry. A Point of Entry is a tour of your Mission. You must give people the facts about your organization, the basic 101 level. You don’t want to overwhelm them with all of your knowledge about your work. You’ve got to give them an emotional connection and capture their names with their permission.
The first metric. Minimum two sizzling private Point of Entry events to be hosted and filled with 10 or more guests by an Ambassador. We want you to have at least two Point of Entry events each month and they must be filled and hosted. So they are private events, hosted and filled by someone we call an Ambassador. Let’s talk a little bit about this taken from Page 102 in the book. This is the Point of Entry Agenda. Let’s just say I’m an Ambassador. I’m your friend and you are all in my book club. I call to invite you and I say, “You’ve all been hearing me talk about this wonderful organization over and over again. Well, they’re finally doing these amazing tours. I’ve agreed to be what they call an Ambassador and host one of these tours private just for our book club coming up in a few weeks.” I give you the date and say, “You won’t be asked for any money there but you will be receiving one follow-up phone call where they’ll ask for your feedback and hopefully you will have thought of other people in your world that you could invite, so perhaps you would like to become an Ambassador, as well.” You know in advance you are going to be there for one hour. As a matter of fact, I might even say, “Let’s all go out and have a glass of wine, coffee, or lunch, or whatever afterwards.”
We start with a greeting and taking the example from our school we had a student greeting people right out at the front door of the school. Then there was a little sign-in table that does not come as a surprise because I told you they would be calling to follow-up with you. There is a little card, an individual card that each person fills out with just their basic contact information. There is a little time for mix and mingle if people arrive early because we start the Point of Entry right on time. At our school, we had people kind of huddled over in the corner in the big multi-purpose room where everyone was getting their breakfast and checking their homework, and big hugs from the teachers when the little kids came in. The school went from preschool to eighth grade so there was a lot of activity in the morning. The bell rang, the kids scurried off to class and we were left alone in this rundown old lunchroom. We mopped off a couple of those brown, long rectangular tables and pushed them together in a square. Everybody sat down around there and we started our Point of Entry.
The first person to speak was me. In that example I’m the Ambassador. Again, there is a whole script we recommend that you follow that specifically says, “I’m an Ambassador, thank you for joining us again to share my own personal connection. Many of you may know me from the book club but perhaps you didn’t know why I’m so passionate about the work of this organization. As you walk through today, please be thinking about other people because the very best way you can help us is to spread the word and potentially become an Ambassador. When you get a follow-up call from Susan, you will take her call and give her your feedback and ideas.”
Next we hear from the Visionary Leader who is the Executive Director or CEO. A five minute talk. The first two minutes being the most difficult which is the personal connection. Why do I do this work. Why does that Visionary Leader work at this particular organization. You see, the guests at the Point of Entry need to know that the person they would potentially be investing in really has their heart in the game. One minute on the results and for this we take all that you do at your organization. If you have five programs or 20 programs and divide them into three broad buckets, areas of impact. It might be like supporting individuals, strengthening families, building community. During this results little section of the Visionary Leader talk, the Visionary Leader brags a little bit about one thing that’s exciting that’s happening in each of those three areas, and then shares his or her vision for the future with enough of a gap between where we’re at and where we’re going that the guests will say, “Wow, I can see a place I can help there. There’s room for me in this organization.”
Then we get up and walk around, take a tour. Three stops. At each stop we tell a myth, a myth busting fact, a story and a need. Some of you may be familiar with transitional housing. I’ll use that as an example. We have a number of organizations we work with where transitional housing is one of their buckets. That whole area of strengthening families. There we were about 10:00 in the morning, walking into a bright, clean, one-bedroom apartment. The woman taking us on the tour said, “Many of you may not know this but the average age of a homeless person here in our community is just nine years old. That’s why we have so many families here staying with us for many months. In fact, just this morning we said a very bittersweet good-bye to Maria and her nine year old son, Johnny. They had been with us for about six months which is almost twice as long as the average family stays with us, but that’s because they had arrived from a terrible domestic violence situation. Maria had not been working. Johnny had been kept home from school much of the last year. There were health issues, mental health issues, job training, financial issues, transportation, housing. All of the above to help them get into place. When they left here this morning to launch themselves in their new lives, there was a lot of hugs and tears as we said goodbye to them. For every family that we are proud to serve like Maria’s and Johnny’s, however we have about eight other families that we have to say no to. Our greatest need is for one more case worker that would allow us to shorten our waiting list and serve about 40 additional families per year.”
There you can kind of see the myth about the nine years old. The myth buster fact, the story about Maria and Johnny. Now when I told this story I told it third person. At a true Point of Entry it would be told probably first person, either by someone in the family or by reading a letter from someone, or an audio tape. We do not use any videotape at the Point of Entry. The need, notice I did not say we need X thousand dollars to hire a new case worker. Instead, I said that we need one new case worker that would allow us to serve an additional 40 families. That’s what your guests want to know. They want to know how will that gift impact your mission. They don’t really need to know about your staffing needs. They need to know ultimately it would serve more families, which is what they’re all excited about now that they’ve been to your Point of Entry.
We end with a live testimonial where someone gets up and talks about how your organization changed their life. At our school, because it was a school and because we were doing the Points of Entry quite often, we were fortunate enough to have a teacher, who had himself been a student at the school many years before and had come back. It has always been his dream to come back and teach at the school. He was always on the premises. He came down the stairs right at the end. People were surprised to see a tall, handsome man walk down this rickety old staircase and he told his story. People were literally in tears when he finished. At that point, the Ambassador again speaks and says, “Thank you again for coming. I hope you can see why I’m so passionate about this organization. Please take Susan’s call when she calls you tomorrow or the next day and be thinking of other people in your life that ought to know about this. Perhaps you too can become an Ambassador and spread the word which is the very best way you can help us.” Many times during that Point of Entry people are hearing help us, think of other people, become an Ambassador.”
So Step Two is the follow-up where we give people a call. The metric for this is we have a minimum of one new volunteer Ambassador that comes out of every Point of Entry event. If we have 10 guests at a Point of Entry, we want at least one new Ambassador. If we’re doing them twice a month we want to have two new Ambassadors per month. The follow-up call, again this is covered in the book in much more detail because it’s very important how the follow-up call is done. We have five steps. “Thanks for coming; What did you think; Listen Quietly; and Is there any way you could see yourself becoming involved?” This is often where people will volunteer to become an Ambassador. If not, we ask, “Is there anybody else you can think of that we ought to invite to a similar Point of Entry?” Now we don’t call it a Point of Entry. Give it a much warmer, inviting name. We don’t call it a Point of Entry, we just use that generically here. Notice we did not do any asking for money and about 50% of the people will be what we endearingly call blessed and released. Meaning that they will either nicely or not so nicely, directly or not so directly tell you that they’re not interested in being more involved with you. It’s factored right into our Benevon formulas, about 50% of the guests will be blessed and released which is perfectly fine. You will still almost always get at least one new Ambassador to come forward out of each group of 10 guests.
On to Step Three where we finally get to ask for money. Notice we didn’t do any asking in step number one or two. We wait until everyone has been well-cultivated before we ask for money. That’s why in-between steps two and three, do you see there, that says the Cultivation Superhighway. That’s where we hasten the cultivation process and get people ready to be asked for money at step number three. I’ll tell you a funny story. We had a woman who came to our school. When I called her after the Point of Entry to follow-up she said I already know what I want to do. She said, “I’m on the Board of the ballet here in Seattle. The ballet has a wonderful program where we go into inner-city schools and we teach dance to the children. I would like to be the matchmaker between that ballet program and your school. What do you think?”
Now you have to know I’m thinking to myself, “Lady, were you even paying attention when I took you on the tour. Didn’t you notice we don’t have any books in the school. We had to get all the shoes donated for the kids.” She hadn’t heard any of that. I had been so busy showing off my cute kids and great teachers that I had neglected to make crystal clear to this very intelligent woman what were our needs. Do you know how easy it would have been for me before I brought people into those classrooms to say, “When you walk in count the books, check out the shoes, notice the buckets around the perimeter of every classroom where we were collecting the rainwater leaking through the roof.” To this day, I’m embarrassed that I never said all of that because it just seems so obvious to me that people walked in and saw our cute kids, and the next thing they knew they were suggesting what they could do which was, in her case, ballet.
I mention that to you because, for most of you, your offices or your centers probably look a lot better than our school did and people will not necessarily connect the dots. You’ve really got to stress the needs. Once I told her what we needed she said, “Oh, let me see how I can help you.” She proceeded to become kind of an Ambassador on steroids. She hosted so many Points of Entry. Out of her first Point of Entry, we had a man who said, “I would like to donate a pair of the latest, greatest sports shoes to every one of your 600 children and we’ll do it every year before school starts.” We thought amazing, 600 pairs of new shoes, that’s fantastic. The second tour that she hosted she had a man who owned a big box store and he said, “I would like to donate a stocked backpack filled with school supplies and a pair of jeans for every one of the kids.” It was fantastic. She had friends then who through subsequent Points of Entry offered uniforms. One man had a factory where he manufactured all the uniforms and donated them back to the school. A huge savings for the parents. Then she had friends who are on professional sports teams. They came out and said, “You’ve got to be kidding. You’ve got nowhere for these kids to play?” It rains all the time in Seattle and the school was technically open from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. They built us a beautiful covered play area across the street, equipped it with all the balls and hoops, and paid for a physical education teacher every year.
By the time we got around to asking this woman for money in Step Three, she is wondering why hasn’t anybody asked me for any money yet. When she’s out with her friends and they’re saying, “Tell me dear, what are you doing these days?” She’s talking about, guess what? Our school. She’s talking about it as if it’s the most meaningful, satisfying volunteer work she’s doing these days. Could we have ever dreamed of writing a job description for a volunteer as passionate and well-connected as this? No way. She is an example of someone I call the New Volunteer (NEW). I’ve written a chapter in the book about this. Most groups we work with are so busy looking for the short list of the super wealthy people and town people that don’t necessarily even know them, and even if they did know them wouldn’t be passionate about their mission, that they pretty much overlook those wonderful volunteers and donors who are nipping at their heels saying, “I really care about you. Pay attention to me.” I really encourage you, be on the lookout for the ballet ladies in your world because they are right there, often right under your nose.
Now let’s go on to Step Three, Asking For Money. There are two ways to ask in our Model. Either one-on-one or at something we call a free, one-hour Ask Event. I’m going to start by talking about the Ask Event and I’ll come back to this slide in a bit. Just to go on with the story of the school, at this point in our story of the school we had over 1,100 people take the tours. We were really putting on Points of Entry way more than twice a month but that’s because we had so many passionate Ambassadors. We had cultivated them like the lady from the ballet. We really needed to do some asking, we needed the money. I put together the financial projections for the next event. In fact, I first went through my database and you must have an excellent database if you’re going to use this Model. I called from my database 100 of our Ambassadors who had been super passionate and effective, and I called them one-by-one and said, “Would you be willing to be a table captain at a free one-hour breakfast fundraising that we’re going to have in about four months?” They said, “What?”
I said, “That’s right. It’s free to you to attend. You don’t have to pay anything, you don’t have to write a check. You’ll be out of there in an hour. Yes, it is a fundraising event though. You will be asked to give money but there’s no minimum and no maximum.” What does no minimum mean? It means you don’t have to give anything at all. No maximum. The sky’s the limit. As much as anything we want people to come to learn about our wonderful organization. It will be our job to inspire them to give when they get there or they don’t need to give at all. By following this system year-after-year, let’s look here.
The next metric. One hundred percent of the Ask Event table captains must have been successful Ambassadors in the prior 12 months. This is critical. This is not let’s go to all the Board Members now and ask them to fill a table. This is only going back to the people who’ve been Ambassadors in the prior year and asking them to fill a table. Guess who they fill it with? At least 40% of their guests must be people who attended a Point of Entry in the prior year. These are critical metrics for our Model. My projections for my Ask Event were we would have 1,000 people. We wanted 100 table captains, 10 per table. Now don’t get carried away with these big numbers. When we train and coach groups in our program we only allow the groups to have a maximum of 300 people. Most Ask Events for the groups we train and coach are between 200-300 people and that’s because if you’re doing two Points of Entry per month that’s about how many you will be able to do to meet the other metric of 100% table captains and 40% minimum people who we craftily refer to as ripened fruit.
My goal was to have 1,000 people, 50% of them as the ripened fruit, well-cultivated like the ballet lady people who had come through the whole dating process, so to speak. The other half would be new people. Let’s pretend you’re in that last batch. Let’s say that I’ve been an Ambassador twice. I’ve had at least 20 people, maybe 24 people come on my tours. I’m called and asked if I would become a table captain and I go back to all of the people. About half of my people have been blessed and released, and so figure I’ve got about 10-12 people left that I could invite to sit at my table. Sure, I’ll be a table captain. But when I start calling people I end up with only eight somehow. I call you a couple of days before the event, kind of in a pinch. You’re a dear friend but you’ve never been to the school. You’ve never been on the Point of Entry tour. You were always too busy. I ask that you come out and help and, of course, out of guilt and obligation you say, “Yes.” There you are driving there on a dark, rainy November Thursday morning in Seattle and you’re thinking to yourself, big mistake. Why did I tell her I would go to this thing. She said, I’ll be out of there in an hour but I know I won’t be. She said I don’t really have to write a check. Inner-city education, a very important cause but not really my thing, but you show up anyway. Why? Because you told me you would.
You’re get out of your car in front of a lovely downtown hotel and who is there to greet you? A little girl, bigger girl, plaid uniforms, hair braided, holding hands, smiling at you with freshly-scrubbed faces at 7:20 in the morning. You’re thinking to yourself, what time do these kids have to get up to get downtown and look so cute to greet me. Where’s my coffee? You go inside to the base of the escalator and who is there to greet you, two older boys in their blazers and ties, big strong handshakes and looking you right in the eye. “Good morning, thank you for coming. Thank you for coming.” It’s impressive. You go up the escalator to the ballroom level where you cannot see the children standing on the risers in the empty ballroom belting out their favorite school songs to amplified organ music, but you can hear them as you’re going up the escalator.
You’re getting in the mood. You get to the top of the stairs and you think, well maybe this won’t be so bad after all. You grab your name tag out in the big lobby area, go inside the ballroom and who is there to greet you, your dear friend with a big hug or a handshake. Next, you sit down, you take your place and have your happy little nest for the next hour. The program starts with a welcome from a Board Member followed by what we call the short, Emotional Hook which, in our case, was our Pastor and a little girl doing an invocation. Everyone was moved to tears in the first three minutes. It was really powerful. When we work with say a domestic violence group they may play a tape of someone calling in to 911 for help and we work with other groups that might do a poem, a song. Something succinct but very mission-focused so the people in the audience know wow, we’re not just here for breakfast. They’ve got an agenda here.
Next, the Board Member comes back up and says, enjoy your breakfast. While you’re eating take a look at the little fold-over table tent in front of your place that has a photo of one of our kids or a picture of theirs, and their own story written out. Pass it around because there are 10 of them, one in front of each of you so you can learn about our students. Also as I’m eating I feel a tap on my shoulder and who is it? A little child with a basket of apples making the rounds one by one around the table, making great eye contact and giving each person an apple. It’s not about the apple. It’s about the eye contact. Really, really powerful. When we work with the Alzheimer’s Foundation, they have volunteers wearing ribbons saying, Volunteer, and they’re often passing around flower seeds, packets of flower seeds. Guess what kind? Forget Me Nots. When we work with nursing homes they might have volunteers passing around holiday greeting cards and a pen, and say, “Will you fill out a card and write a little note to one of our residents?” This might be the only card they get this year.” So it’s not about the gift. It’s about realizing these are people right in our community who would benefit if I were to get involved.
Breakfast is over and up comes the Visionary Leader. Again, this is the Executive Director or CEO. The same person who did the Visionary Leader talk at your Point of Entry. This time again it’s a five minute talk, talking about their own passion for the mission, sharing about the three buckets and something they are proud of in each one, and the vision for the future. It’s a very big talk because you’ve got a much bigger audience. Then introduces the video. A seven-minute video that needs to move people to tears three times, not two times. That’s because each example in the video is an example that relates to one of the three bucket areas. So these are close-up, wonderful testimonial stories. You don’t need a lot of narration, you don’t need fancy music. You don’t need high production values. It really just needs to have the impact of these three powerful stories.
Then a live testimonial where someone gets up and talks about how your organization changed their life. I’ve seen this done very well where after the video the person who comes up is sometimes the last story in the video. The person the last story in the video was about. I remember a father holding in his arms his young son. We had just seem them on the video and it was kind of a dramatic impact. They told us the end of the story and it was very, very moving. At our school we had 10 kids from the choir. Little squirmy kids. We didn’t want to give them a microphone so we had a wonderful lady interview them. She asked them three questions. The first question was, what do you like about going to the school? They jumped up and down. I love my teacher, the hugs I get. I love my hot breakfast. What’s your favorite subject, she asked them? Math and Reading. They couldn’t wait to tell you how much they love the academic subjects. But it was the last question she asked them that mesmerized everyone. She said, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In that moment these little children started to say the kinds of things they had written on those table tents. Things like I want to be the first one in my family to graduate from high school, to go to college and I would like to be a teacher and come back like Mr. Jones.
It was very impressive. In fact, what they had written on the tablet tents was much more than that. They had written things like, this is my third foster family. This is the longest I’ve ever stayed at one school and I’m hoping to finish my first year here in June which is the fifth grade. If I could, I would want to come back every year so that I could graduate from here in the eighth grade. I would be the first one in my family to go to high school and if I could finish high school, I would want to go on to college so I could come back and be a teacher here. It was really moving to hear what the kids had written, but it was something else to hear them say it. When she asked them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Each child knew. It was really evident in that moment that the school had given each child a true vision for their future. Not something that would have happened otherwise. I’m going to be a teacher. I’m going to be a pilot. I’m going to be an engineer. You could have heard a pin drop in that room of nearly 1,000 people. Now you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, wow. I didn’t know very much about this just a few hours ago but now I can see if I were ever going to want to get involved in a place like this, this would be a pretty good one. I would really like to know more.
So you know what’s coming next. The Pitch. I warned you when I invited you that you would be asked for money. Now you’re thinking to yourself, how are they going to do this? What am I going to do? The person who asks for the money we refer to as the pitch person, who needs to be what we call a school teacher like person. Someone who will follow the script all the way through and someone who is passionate about your mission. Do not bring in a big name celebrity or politician just to help you out for the day. It needs to be someone truly connected to your mission and will follow the script. In our case, we had our Board Chair do it at the first Ask Event at our school. The Board Chair did the pitch. Here is what he said. He came out and he said, “My name is So and So.” I’m on the Board.” He told his own story, very, very moving about why he was involved in the school but succinct. He said, “We know that most of you didn’t know why we invited you here. What we were going to ask you for here today. You came here because you trusted your friend who invited you. So when we thought about this, we realized we ought to tell you what it is we really need.” He went on to tell them how we had given raises to the teachers causing a shortfall in our operating budget of $600,000 and he said, “We have about 600 kids in the school. If you would like to support the ongoing work of the school, you have an opportunity today to become a Founding Member of our Sponsor A Student Society. Now I would like to pause and ask the table captains to pass out the pledge cards. You notice there was no pledge card waiting at your seat so you could conveniently fill it out and leave early.”
He said, “Let me walk you through this. Box number one says if you give us $1,000 for each of the next five years you would be making up the operating shortfall for the equivalent of one student.” Notice how I said that, making up the operating shortfall for the equivalent of one student. Out of 850 people at the event, we did not get 1,000 people there, 115 of them checked that box. Now the IRS requires that you must report all pledges as if they are received on the day that they are pledged. Therefore, by IRS standards we had just raised over $500,000. He went on, he said, “We know that some of you are capable of giving even more. If you would give us $10,000 a year for five years you would be sponsoring 10 students.” Eight people did that and $25,000 a year for the next five years to sponsor a whole classroom of 25 students, four more people did that.
He paused and said, “I want to thank those of you who have just become Founding Members of our Sponsor A Student Society. Now I would like to ask the rest of you who may not have checked off a box yet, to tell us in box four how much you would like to give and for how many years.” In other words, a fill in the blank box leaving the donor right in the driver’s seat. Some people said I’ll give you $100 once, $50 three times. Whatever it was, we were very happy to accept their gift. The last box we had typed it in and it said, “Please contact me. I have other thoughts to share.” This was for the people who even if they had checked one of these boxes perhaps they had real estate to transfer, stock to transfer, or they had their own family foundation that they were on, or maybe they just had some good advice for us. We were happy to give them a call. So when you stand back and take a look from fewer than 130 people on the right there, out of 850 at the top which is less than 15% of the people in the room that day, we had just raised nearly a million and a half dollars when you include the pledges.
I wanted to know why. What had we done right. We were absolutely shocked we had raised that much money. So the fifth metric, minimum 10% of the Ask Event guests joined the Multiple-Year Giving Society at one of the three giving levels. So remember we had 850 people and that would mean we had 85 of them join the Giving Society, but in fact we had 127 people join the Giving Society. Nearly 15% of the guests there joined the Giving Society. That’s because so many of them had come through the process. We had 85% of our guests had been through a Point of Entry and the higher that percentage is, the more successful your Ask Event will be. The Point of Entry is the key to the entire Model working.
So I got back on the phone the next day and I started to call all of the new donors. These 127 new Multi-Year Donors were my new best friends. I started calling them all one-by-one because I really did want to know what do they think of it. Is there anybody else they could see becoming involved. Is there any other way they want to be involved. So constantly deepening our relationship and I was really looking for more Ambassadors and what I found was they all told me the same thing. They said, “If I had known how great that event was going to be, how terrific your school was or that I was going to give you all that money, I would have invited other people.” This seems to be the natural human response when people feel they’ve made a true contribution from their abundance as opposed to a one-time donation from scarcity and they started telling me the names of all these friends. I was writing down the names of their brother-in-law, their next-door neighbor, their buddy from the health club.
Before I knew it, I suddenly said to myself and I caught myself through the process and said, “You know, here it is the day after this Ask Event where you’ve just given so generously. We’re thinking we ought to have this event again next year. Would you consider, right now while you’re excited about this becoming an Ambassador and helping us to introduce others? How can you do that? By inviting them to a Point of Entry where we will educate and inspire them. We will follow-up. If they are not interested, we will bless and release them. If they are interested we will continue to cultivate them so that by the time they are sitting at your table next year they will be the ripened fruit people ready to give or they don’t need to give at all.”
By following this process year after year it continues to grow. Let’s go back to this slide. See, the Benevon Model is a Major Gifts Model. It’s not an Events Model. Let’s just say, for example, that the lady from the ballet who had been well-cultivated was unable to attend the Ask Event. Maybe she had to go out of town that day. She was still ready to give. I could go and ask her, one-on-one after the Ask Event. In fact, this is what happened. I went and met with her and said, “We’re so sorry we missed you. The event was fabulous and we launched something there called the Giving Society, and we would love to have you be one of our Founding Members. Would you consider that?” I showed her the pledge card and she immediately chose the level that was right for her. You can definitely use the Model that way the initial years. We also teach at the very first year, and this is written up in the book also, how to cultivate and ask for a Leadership or Challenge Gift that is an amount at the Ask Event right before the pitch. It might be used as an Asking Gift, it might be used as a Leadership Gift just to inspire additional giving. Going forward with the Model over the years many of the Multi-Year Donors will become major donors and I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
Whichever way you ask you’ve got to include two ingredients. First are these Units of Service. Those are these top three box levels, without which we never would have raised that much money. If we had that fabulous Ask Event and at the very end if the pitch person had gotten u up and said, “Please give generously. Give from the bottom of your heart,” what does that mean? People don’t know. The people with a lot of money don’t want to show off, with a little bit of money don’t want to be embarrassed. Nobody quite knows what they are supposed to do so everyone holds back. By having these top three levels it was very clear to everyone, this is what we need. People did the match on that first level, the $1,000 level right here and they said that’s $83 a month. I can do that. Count me in.
Next, Multi-Year Pledges. When I was trained in major gifts fundraising I was always taught that the only time to ask for a Multi-Year Pledge was when a donor is making a very large gift like for a capital or endowment. You would never ask them to make a Multi-Year Pledge for their annual gift because it’s too small, they won’t increase it fast enough, they may not pay it off. It’s just kind of a lot of work. Better to just do the annual gift one year at a time. We have found quite the opposite and I’ll tell you why I think that is. I believe that the people who check one of these top three boxes are telling you something. They’re saying, I can read the form. I see that fourth box there. I’ll see that I could give you, for example, $1,000 a year, one year at a time which is a lot of money. You would keep in touch with me. I might even give you more year after year. You would certainly be cultivating me. Therefore, by virtue of the fact that I choose box one over box four, I’m telling you something critical. I’m saying, I know I don’t have to make a five-year pledge to you, I want to. That is the magic of the Benevon Model. Those are the donors who are saying, it doesn’t mean I’ll give you all the money you ever ask for, it just means I’m with you on the mission. The work you are doing is my work too. Count me in. I want to be closer to your organization’s family. Keep in touch. Come and ask me for my advice. Which allowed me at the school to do the thing I feel is the most difficult in development today, which is to know where to focus. Should I focus on the golf tournament, the Gala. I know I’m supposed to be cultivating donors but who? Which donors would I cultivate? Once I had my 127 net best friends I knew exactly where to focus. How we do that in the Benevon Model is with something we call Free Feel-Good Cultivation Events. It happens right here in the fourth step of the Model. Notice that we do not suggest with a Free Feel-Good that you create a new event. No. What we want is for you to take a mission focused event that you are already doing. For example, at our school we were putting on a graduation. You have to put one on every year at the school and we just invited all of the Multi-Year Donors to come about a half an hour before the graduation to a private reception with the Principal of the school, where he stood at the podium and talked about the test scores, the grade point average. He was so proud of the kids, as well he should have been. Then a grandmother and grandson got up at the podium and talked about how the school had changed their life. Then everyone was invited to go into the big auditorium for the graduation afterwards and stay as long as they’d like.
You see, if you do it right a Free Feel-Good Cultivation Event in serves as a Point of Re-Entry and just like a first-time Point of Entry up at Step One, a Point of Entry gives people the facts. There was the Principal with the test scores and the grade point average. For the emotional connection we had the grandmother and grandson and capturing the names with permission was no problem. We had invited the people, we knew who they were. We were very happy to be in touch with them. In fact, right after the Point of Re-Entry event, this graduation celebration we also got right back on the phone and started doing follow-up calls just like after our first time Point of Entry. I called people. “Thanks for coming to the graduation. What did you think of the grandmother, the test scores?” I was constantly asking, “Was there any other way you could see yourself getting involved? Did anybody else come to mind to you while you were there.” Constantly deepening our relationship with this person leading up to the next Ask.
Within six months of our first Ask event, we found out we needed to buy a new building. Move into a new building for the school. The building we were in was very unsafe. We had to raise quite a bit of money, $3.2 million quickly to renovate the new building we had found and move our students in. Remember I just said, within six months of our first Ask Event. Those donors I just showed you were the only donors we had at that point. How were we going to do that? We started putting on Points of Re-Entry about capital. We invited small groups of our Multi-Year Donors, those new donors we just had. Maybe groups of eight or ten of them to an evening one-hour event where we showed them the architect’s drawings of the new building, the pyramid charge with the number of gifts it would take us to get to $3.2 million, the naming opportunities. Name the chapel or the gymnasium after your family. It took us six months from 18 of the same donors who had just given at the Ask Event and we raised $3.2 million and got back to work.
Next, I left the school after two years as the first Development Director, went on the Board of the school and the woman who came in after me was fabulous. She had not worked in the non-profit field before. She had never done development. She was actually quite scared and almost tried to back out before we hired her. I convinced her to stay. I said, “Look, it’s a system. If you just follow all the steps I think you’ll be successful.” Well, she was successful all right. She tripled the results by just doing all the pieces of the Model that I’ve shown you, so that by five years into the process we had over 500 donors in our Multiple-Year Giving Society. That’s when the Board said, “I wonder how much money it would be to have invested in an endowment so that 5% of the earnings would equal what we needed to raise every year or what we call our treadmill number, that $600,000 gap.” The Board decided we would need a $15 million endowment which we finished by the end of the seventh year. All from donors who had come through these Points of Entry would come through this whole process. It wasn’t every donor but some of them were capable of giving these larger gifts.
Now you might think, as I would have, that if you have a $15 million endowment you would be all done with that fundraising thing. That ought to be enough. Thank you. But, in fact, imagine having 500 donors who love your organization’s mission, who have pledged their financial support to you for at least the next five years. Those were the people who held us to the higher standard. They were the ones who said that school of yours is fabulous. The mission is much larger than just that. Let’s offer evening programs for the parents and maybe we build a second campus. All kinds of things. They helped us to fulfill on that. They helped us when our kids got in trouble with the law. They build retail stores in the neighborhood that our school was in which was not considered the best neighborhood at the time. They offered summer jobs to the students. They really got involved in our school.
That’s what I mean by Culture of Engagement. They kept our mission alive.. They were the ones who were breathing passion into what our school was all about and spreading that word in the community. So these donors who joined the Giving Society, whose always were unrestricted operating funds, always. Donors make those pledges in those top three boxes for unrestricted funding but this becomes the pool of donors that you go back to for bigger things like capital endowment and even restricted major gifts. So we now have a gymnasium. There was a computer center that was build. All kinds of things that come from donors. The same donors who also say I could help you in this way or that way.
Okay, so there you have it. The Five Key Metrics of the Benevon Model. I’ll leave that up there for just a minute. You can certainly see this all on our website also. So there you have it. The whole Benevon Model. I think that gives you the Five Metrics right there. We’ve got lots more resources on our website, Benevon.com and I want to thank you for joining me today to learn about the Model. Go check it out. Check out the resources on our Model.
Thanks very much for joining me.
"The service-oriented nature of Benevon leadership is remarkably helpful. They hold themselves to the high standards of relationship building and professionalism that they promote in the program itself."
Steve Hammond, Principal at Saint Patrick Catholic School in Norfolk, Virginia
"The Benevon Model has changed our mindset from an event-centric model of fundraising to a donor-centric culture that focuses on relationship building."
Ruthanne Mefford, CEO
Child Advocates of Fort Bend
"The Benevon Model is by far the best I have seen. It institutionalizes across the school sound and effective fundraising practices. Too often the hard job of raising money is left to a few people. Those few people have many things to do in addition to raising money. The Benevon Model builds a team and shares the load."
Victoria Kennedy, Head of School
Bradford Christian School