(Recorded August 14, 2018.)
Hi everyone. It’s Terry Axelrod.
Thank you so much for joining me for today’s webinar, The Benevon Model - Five Key Metrics for Getting it Right. I’m really looking forward to spending the next hour with you to talk about how to pull back the curtain on our tested formulas and processes. How to position your organization properly for long-term success with the model and how to implement our Five Key Metrics for Success.
I am the founder of Benevon and we are now nearly 23 years old. Benevon was started in 1996. We’ve worked with nearly 6,000 non-profit teams from organizations all over the U.S., Canada and a number of other countries, and collectively those organizations have raised now over $1 billion towards their missions. Very, very proud of the results from our groups, the wonderful groups we get to work with. So here we go.
This is the Benevon Model. I’m assuming many of you have seen this on our website and I’m going to walk you through every step of it today using many of the elements that are covered in my most recent book, The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right. I’ll be referring to several page numbers as we go along. This book is a great companion to your implementation. Look out for some page numbers as we go along. So here we go, The Benevon Model.
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.
The Culture of Philanthropy has been a destination for many non-profits nowadays. Really wanting to improve their internal culture and engage people deeply within the organization. This definition was put out by Compasspoint. You can see down at the bottom a recent study they did called Underdeveloped. What we have found at Benevon working with as many groups as we do is that there is actually a place beyond a culture of engagement. The Culture of Philanthropy this is mostly internal. If you look, everything here is within the organization getting everybody to understand what Culture of Philanthropy means and getting everyone to understand what philanthropy means and promote philanthropy.
The Culture of Engagement goes beyond that. A Culture of Engagement means that the community understands your mission, the individuals and groups in the community so understand and believe in your mission that they’re actually breathing life into your organization. It’s not something that you have to force people to do. It’s not something you have to manipulate people to do but the community is so bought into your mission that they want to help you, they want to contribute. You are actually doing their work.
There are Five Key Metrics. I’m going to walk you through as I explain the model to you one by one. Here we go. Let me start in right away by telling you about the circle. The Benevon Model if you look at this is a colorful cute circle. I would think of it as an old fashioned toy train track on the floor going around and around. You want to get your donors on that track and have them go around and around with you for life.
Where they get on is at Step One, 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. It’s got to include these three ingredients: Basic Facts, Deep Emotional Connection and method for Capturing People’s Names With Their Permission. I’ll tell you a little bit about a Point of Entry. We don’t ask anyone for money there and our first metric is that at least two, you must be having at least two sizzling private Points of Entry per month, each one hosted and filled by 10 or more guests by someone we call an Ambassador. Notice the word private. These are not public events where you put this on your website and expect people to come. It’s not put it on your Facebook page. It’s not an open house. It’s a volunteer recruitment event. These are privately hosted and I say a little bit more about how that works.
If you go to Page 102 in the book this walks you through the agenda for the Point of Entry. Points of Entry again are hosted by an Ambassador. Let’s say I’m a friend of yours and we’re all in the book club together. You’ve been hearing me talk about this wonderful organization for months, maybe even years. I say to you as a book club friend, “You know, they’re finally doing these great tours at this organization. I’ve agreed to be what they call an Ambassador and I’m going to be hosting one. I would like to do it right before our book club meeting next months’ so we can all come back and have our book club meeting right afterwards, and I would for you all to come.” Perhaps you says something like, “It’s my birthday. Next month is my birthday and instead of having a big party I’m asking my friends to come with me to learn about a wonderful organization that I know.” People are invited. Word of mouth by a friend, by someone they know, by someone they trust. The easiest way to be an Ambassador is have a ready-made group like a book club or a group of friends that might be wanting to celebrate your birthday.
So they know in advance that they will not be asked for money at this event, but they will be receiving one follow-up telephone calls where they’ll be asked for their feedback and ask if there is anyone else that they know of that they might like to invite. In other words, see if they want to become an Ambassador in Turn. They’re told all of that in advance so when they show up the first person who greets them at the school where I started this, a wonderful inner-city school for low-income African American children. We were incredibly successful with this approach and we did lots and lots of these Points of Entry. We had a student greeting people when they walked in the front door. There was a little sign-in table where each person filled out an individual 3 x 5 card with their contact information. They knew again that they would be receiving a follow-up call so there was no awkwardness about that. If they were early they had a few minutes to mix and mingle, perhaps looking at photos on the wall. In our case we had lots of kids in a wild and wonderful room, a multi-purpose room where children ate breakfast and got a big hug from the teacher when they showed up. Someone went over their homework with them every morning. There was a lot to see while people were just huddled in the corner waiting for the Point of Entry to begin.
After the bell rang, the kids scurried off the class and there we were left alone in this rundown old lunchroom. We mopped off a couple of tables, and pushed them together in kind of a square, and people sat down. The Point of Entry is very informal. You don’t have PowerPoint, you don’t have any formal speaker standing up. It’s much more informal. More like a group of friends sitting around a table talking about something that really matters to them. The first person to speak is the Ambassador. Again, let’s pretend I’m the Ambassador and once again I say, “Thanks to all of you for coming. We’re having our book club meeting later tonight and are really delighted that you all took me up on my invitation to come. This place is really important to me and let me tell you why.” Then I share my own story, my own connection with this organization. Then I tell you that, “As you walk around today, please be thinking about other people in your life that might want to know about this because when you get a call in the next couple of days from Susan, who is going to ask you for your feedback I hope you’ll take her call and I hope you will have thought about others that you could invites so that you could perhaps host a Point of Entry like this and become an Ambassador.” So let’s set it up for them to be paying attention, to be thinking about other people in their lives.
Next up on the program is the Visionary Leader. That would be the Executive Director, CEO, who talks for just five minutes. Two minutes of this is on the personal connection which is a long time for most Visionary Leaders to talk about themselves. It’s got to go pretty deep because people want to know why is he or she doing this. What is their connection? Is it genuine? Is this a person I can invest in long-term. There are two minutes on the personal connection and then one minute on the results. In this section we want the Visionary Leader to brag about results in each of three bucket areas that we help you to crystalize in our Benevon Program. Even if you have eight, ten or twenty programs in your organization, we don’t just cherry pick three programs, we actually cluster them into what we call three bucket areas. It might be help, hope and healing or supporting individuals, strengthening families, building community. Broad bucket areas. We want the Visionary Leader to introduce those there concepts here by bragging about something that’s happened in each of those areas. Just a little taste of it because they’ll be hearing quite a bit more about it later.
Then two more minutes on the Vision for the Future. This is also tricky because most Visionary Leaders have a vision clearly, it’s just that they explain it in a way that makes it seem like they’ve got it handled. People who might be coming for the first time might think, oh well she’s got such a clear sense of what she’s doing, she doesn’t need me here. This talk is very tricky. This whole Visionary Leader talk is quite tricky because it has to be crafted in a way that’s completely authentic, yet makes room for the new guests who are sitting in the room to see themselves in your organization. Our coaches spend a lot of time coaching Visionary Leaders on how to prepare this talk and deliver it.
We get up and walk around, take a tour. On each stop of the three we focus on one of the three bucket are starting with a myth, a myth buster fact, then a story related to that myth or myth buster face, and a need. I’ll give you an example. Perhaps some of you work in the area of transitional housing. We work with a lot of groups for which this is their bucket areas. Transitional housing is halfway between homeless and all the way back on your feed and independent. I took a tour myself of a transitional housing program. There it was about 10:00 in the morning, a bright sunny morning. We were in a three-story walk-up. A nice, older apartment building. We got to the top of the stairs and went into a clean, one-bedroom apartment and 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 because there are so many children that are homeless here. In fact, this morning we said a very bittersweet good-bye to Maria and her nine year old son, Johnny. They had only been with us for about six months which is actually twice as long as the average family stays with us, but they came to us 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, housing, transportation. You name it. Many pieces of the puzzle to put back together. By the time they walked out of here this morning there were a lot of hugs and tears as we said goodbye to them. As wonderful as it was, as bittersweet as it was, for every family like Maria’s and Johnny’s that we are able to say yes to and help, we have to be able to say no to eight other families. That’s why our greatest need is for one more case worker that would allow us to serve another 40 families a year and greatly reduce our waiting list.”
That gives you a sense about the myth about the nine years old. The fact that so many families are homeless. The story about Maria and Johnny which relates to the homeless family with a child and the need. Notice with the need I didn’t say that we need a certain amount of dollars. You cannot ask for money in the need. You must tell people what the money will allow you to buy and what that will allow you to do to fulfill your mission. So even if I said it would let us buy one more case worker, would let us hire one more case worker a lot of people don’t care about that. They want to know how many more families. You have to take the need all the way through to the end result in your clients or in your mission. Then there is a live testimonial. We’ve done this three times. We go to three different tour stops up here and then we have a live testimonial where someone gets up and talks about how your organization changed their life.
If you are doing these Points of Entry at least twice a month you’ve got to find someone ideally who is on the premises so you don’t have to bring in a new person to do a live testimonial every time. At our school, we had a wonderful teacher, a third grade teacher who had been a student at the school and his dream for life had been to come back and teach there, which he was now doing. So he was always available and he would come down the stairs right at the end of the Point of Entry, this rickety old staircase. People thought they were finished and could go outside and be done, but we were kind of in the lobby, a little vestibule area and he came down. A tall, handsome third grade teacher and he told his own story which was incredibly moving. By the time they were done everybody was thinking, oh my gosh, I had no idea. This was amazing. We hear the Ambassador, me from you book club, thanking you all for coming and saying, “I really hope you enjoyed this and now you see why I love this place so much. When you get your call from Susan in the next couple of days, please take her call. Please give her your honest feedback and I hope that many of you will consider becoming Ambassadors and hosting a tour like this for a group of your own.” So that’s how the Point of Entry works. It’s all based on the relationship with the Ambassador and people that know one another. Ideally, a ready-made group.
Okay, how we’re ready for the second step in the model which is that One-on-One Follow-Up Call made two or three days after the Point of Entry to every single guest who attended. Our metric for this is that you will have at least one new volunteer Ambassador out of each Point of Entry event. If you have 10 or more guests, say you have 10 or 15 guess at the Point of Entry twice a month, you should, out of the follow-up call to those 10 people, you should be generating at least one new volunteer Ambassador. At least one. We have groups that get 10 out of 10, groups that get five out of 10. Minimum of one new volunteer Ambassador comes. This is how the ripple effect begins to take hold and it’s all because of peoples’ passion. So you’ve got to assess how passionate are people when you make that follow-up call? This is out of the book. These are the five steps and I used to do these calls two or three days right after the Point of Entry with every single guest I would say, “Thank you for coming,” and you’ve really got to mean it for people to take their time to come out and learn about something new. It’s practically a miracle. What did you think of it? What did you think of the cute kids? What did you think of the teachers? What did you even think of the weather. You just want to get people talking so you can learn really what are their hot buttons. What triggers or peaks their interest, which of the bucket areas. You’ve got to listen closely.
Then number four, can you see yourself becoming involved with us any way at all? You see, you don’t want to encourage people one way or another. Right here is where people though will say, “You know, I was thinking about my friend who hosted the tour. Now I’m thinking about being an Ambassador. Can you bring this to my office? Can I bring my yoga group or my faith group to your organization? I would like to host one of these myself.” Maybe not. Maybe they’ll say I don’t really have another way I’d like to be involved. Lastly, is there anyone else you can think of we ought to invite. Even if they say I don’t see myself getting involved but here’s someone else. We had a wonderful man. He came for the tour and I called him to follow-up and the first thing he said before I could even say thank you was, “I’m not giving you any money. You want to know why?” I thought, oh my gosh, I wasn’t going to ask you for any money anyway, I said because notice there is nothing on here that says ask for money. He said, “I believe in the work you’re doing at your wonderful inner-city school but yours is a private schools and I’m giving all my time and money to a public school, so I’m not going to get involved with you.” To which I said, “That’s fabulous. They are so lucky to have you at the public schools Go forth and do your thing.” It was so disarming, what was he expecting? He was expecting me to do what we call the pitiful begging. Oh, won’t you please, please just give me a little bit of money. You see, if you adopt this model of fundraising and deep engagement of individual donors, you will never have to be asking someone for a one-time gift again and that’s a big thing I just said. You never will have to ask for a one-time gift. By letting him off the hook we have a very technical term, we say we blessed and released him, but it allowed me to skip down to the fifth question. I said, “I know you’re not interested in getting more involved, but is there anybody else you can think of that we ought to invite?” You wouldn’t believe what he said. “Absolutely,” he said. “You ought to call my wife.” I thought, oh my gosh what do I do now. He said, “I’ll go back and tell her all about it tonight. You call her tomorrow and invite her, and I’ll bet you she says yes.” I called his wife the next day and she was involved. She is still involved in the school over 15 years later. It never would have happened had I not followed all of the steps.
So do not ask for money in the follow-up call, and bless and release people liberally. If you are even on the fence about is this someone I should stay with or someone I should let go, let them go. We have a formula we don’t actually call it one of the Five Key Metrics, but we assume in our metrics that 50% of the people will be blessed and released. You don’t have to worry if you are kind of wondering should I let him go or not. Yep, let him go. They’ll come back if they’re supposed to.
Step three where we finally get to ask for money. Notice I didn’t say anything about asking in Steps One or Two. We wait until people have been well-cultivated until we ask them for money in Step Three. Everything between Step Two and Three is what we call the Cultivation Superhighway where we deepen the relationship where we increase the number of contacts. We get to know the person even better. So let’s look here at the needs. When I think about school we had a woman who came to the school. When I took her through and afterwards called her 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.” She said, “I’d like to bring the ballet into your school. We have a program that teaches dance to inner city students. I would like to be the matchmaker between that program and your school. What do you think.”
Now you have to know I’m thinking to myself, Wow, ballet. We did not have any books in school, not one book. We had almost 600 children and not a single book, no paper, no school supplies, nothing and I’m thinking to myself, ballet. I think that’s a little bit out of our orbit but I didn’t want to say that to her. So instead I said, “Ballet, that would be wonderful. I’ve got to tell you,” I said, “I’ve only been here a few months and from what the teachers have told me there’s so many more basic needs that would have to be met first.” The next thing she said was one of the most important lessons I learned the whole time I was at the school. She said, “Like what?” You see, I’d been so busy spending my time bragging about the school that I forgot 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 walked people into the classrooms on the tour to say when you walk in, count the books, look at the shoes we had to get donated. Notice the buckets collecting the rainwater leaking through the roof in every classroom. It hadn’t occurred to me to say that because it seemed so obvious to me that we needed everything, that everyone would see that. You know, they saw our cute kids and immediately thought of how could they help. This was a very smart woman who was well-connected and she said, “How about ballet?” So when I told her about what we really needed she said, “I didn’t realize you needed all of those other things. Let me see how I can help you.” She proceeded to become a big-time Ambassador for us.
She hosted several tours and each time people came out of those tours offering to help in many ways, including becoming Ambassadors themselves. One person said, “How about if I donate a pair of the latest, greatest sports shoes for every one of your 600 children?” It was amazing. Every year they wanted to do that. A new pair of shoes. Another person had a big box store and he said, “I would like to donate a stocked backpack filled with school supplies and a pair for jeans for every one of the kids.” The kids were thrilled. They had to wear uniforms to school though so her next contact had a big manufacturing company and he said, “Give me one of those cute uniforms in every style and size, I’ll take them over to our factory and manufacture them and we’ll donate them back to the school,” which was huge for the school.
Then she had friends who were on the professional sports teams. When they came out for their tour they said, “You’ve got to be kidding. You’ve got nowhere for these kids to play.” It rains all the time in Seattle and they’re cooped up 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. technically the school is open indoors. So they bought a piece of property for us across the street, built us this gorgeous outdoor, large covered play area and equipped it with all the balls, hoops and paid for a physical education teacher every year. My point is 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?” Guess what she’s talking about? 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 someone with these amazing contacts? No way. She is an example of someone we call the New Volunteer (NEW). The New Volunteer. I’ve written about The New Volunteer in my books and you all have people like this. So many of the groups we work with are so busy looking for the short list of the wealthy people in their community that they don’t necessarily even know well at all, but they hope will be the ones to give them a lot of money, that they practically trip over the people that are right under their noses or under their feet trying to say in their own way, I really care about you. May I help you? How many I help you? Be on the lookout for the ballet ladies in your world. They are all there. That’s what I tell people, “Look for the ballet lady.” Ultimately this woman, believe it or not, yes two years later we had a ballet program and we were ready for it. That gives you a sense of the Cultivation Superhighway.
Now let’s move on to Asking For Money. Asking For Money, as you see, becomes the third step in the Benevon Model and there are two ways to ask. Either one-on-one or something we call a free, one-hour Ask Event. I’m going to talk first about the Ask Event, but please know that the Benevon Model is a major gift model and our goal is one-on-one asking. In the end, more than 50% of the money that you should be raising using this model will come from one-on-one asking, not from the Ask Event at all. More than 50%. But we start with the Ask Event and I’ll explain it a little and then come back to the slide to cover the two essential ingredients. So going back to the school situation we now had had 1,100 people who had taken these tours. That’s how popular they were. The Ambassadors just couldn’t help themselves. The people would come on the tour, it was so sizzling and they all had people to invite. We had a lot of people taking the tours in a short number of months. It was in about five months we had that many people come through. One-by-one as we called them, we worked through the ones that wanted to stay with us and the ones that didn’t.
Ultimately it was time to ask people for money. They had all been well-cultivated like the lady from the ballet. We had not just that first date with them, the Point of Entry, but several subsequent contacts with each person. Maybe one, two or three contacts even and sometimes more than that. People were wondering why hadn’t we asked them for money. I went back to my database and you’ve got to have a great database if you’re going to be using the Benevon Model. Very, very important. I checked all my notes which I had taken good notes and choose 100 people from my Ambassadors. We had over 100 Ambassadors by then who were I felt would be the best people to be the table captains.
See, our next metric is that number three, 100 percent of your Ask Event table captains must have been successful Ambassadors in the prior 12 months. So there is no point having an Ask Event if you don’t have Ambassadors. If you just want to put on an event, a party and go ask the Board Members to all fill a table that would not be the Benevon Model. The Benevon Model would be where the table captains, 100% of them had been Ambassadors and not just five years ago but in the prior 12 months. So the next metric is that at least 40% of their guests at their table, at least 40%. We had 85% at our first Ask Event where people who had come to Point of Entry in the prior 12 months. Ideally, the only people sitting at their table will be people who have been through the entire dating process as we like to say and really are looking forward to attending the event. They know it’s going to be an Ask Event.
How did we put this all together? I looked at the numbers. We wanted to have 1,000 people at our event. Please don’t get all excited about that. Our average Benevon group now we tell them they can have 200 to 300 people at their Ask Event. That’s because if you do two Points of Entry per month the metrics only work out for you to put on about a 200-person Ask Event following all of the math that I’ve demonstrated so far. We had so many people come to the Points of Entry because of the model scales that I wanted to have a bigger Ask Event with 100 table captains, all whom had been Ambassadors, 10 people per table and I figured half of the people would be what we crassly refer to as the ripened fruit people, the well-cultivated people. The other half would be brand new people for whom this Ask Event would be their first experience with Benevon.
Now why would we even have any new people there at all, you might ask. Well, let’s assume that I’ve been an Ambassador twice and I’ve had 20-25 people come to my two Points of Entry collectively. Half of them would have been blessed and released, and the remaining say 10-12 people would be the ones I would invite to sit at my table at the Ask Event. Here it is two days before the event and someone’s child is sick or the dog ran away, and there I am with two empty seats. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to have any empty seats so I call you up. You are a dear friend who wasn’t able to come to either of the Points of Entry that I hosted and sure enough to help me out you are driving there. You said, “Okay, I’ll come.” You are driving there on a dark, rainy November Thursday morning in Seattle and you’re thinking to yourself, why did I tell her I would go to this thing. She said, I’ll be out of there in an hour but I bet I won’t be. She said I don’t really have to give money. I’m going to feel guilty and pressured, I know it. Inner city education is a very important cause but not really my thing, but you go to it anyway. Why? Because you told me you would. You’re a good friend.
You pull up in front of this lovely downtown hotel and who is there to greet you? Lovely two little girls holding hands, maybe first graders. Their hair is braided and they’re wearing their little plaid uniforms. They are looking up at you at 7:20 in the morning, standing outside the hotel, freshly-scrubbed faces. “Good morning. Are you here for the breakfast?” You’re thinking, what time do they have to get up to look this cute to meet me down here. You go up the escalator and who is there greeting you at the base of the escalator, two older boys in their blazers and ties, looking you right in the eye. Big, strong handshakes. “Good morning, thank you for coming. Right this way.” You go up the escalator and you cannot see the ballroom which is set for 1,000 people but you can hear the voices of the children in the choir standing on the risers of the empty ballroom belting out their favorite school songs to amplified organ music.
You’re getting in the mood. You see this event is choreographed like a theatrical production. You have people with stopwatches and walkie-talkies all behind the scenes. Therefore, anything you can do to impact peoples mood before the clock starts is to your advantage. So the cute little girls, the good-looking boys with the handshakes. There is nothing like music to affect the mood. By the time you get to the top of the stairs you’re thinking, maybe this won’t be so bad after all. You grab your name tag out in the big lobby area, go inside and find your friend, the table captain who is waiting for you with a big hug or a handshake, and the program starts on time like clockwork with a welcome from a Board Member followed by what we call the short, Emotional Hook. The short, Emotional Hook is what? In our case, this was our Pastor doing an invocation with a little girl in the second grade. Everybody was moved to tears in the first two minutes. Many of our groups will do a song, a poem. Maybe they’ll play tape of domestic violence problems. Something that is very impactful and succinct that says to people, you’re not just here for breakfast. So it’s very powerful.
Then 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. There are 10 different ones in front of each person at your table. It tells the story of one of our students. Notice the picture or drawing that they did, and then their own story about their life. Also while I’m eating I feel a tap on my shoulder and who is it? A little child with a basket of apple passing an apple to each person. Thank you for coming. They look you right in the eye to give you an apple. It’s not about the apple. It’s about the eye contact. This is what we’re talking about. When we work with the Alzheimer’s Foundation, the y will have volunteers wearing a long ribbon on their badge saying, Volunteer, and they will be passing out packets of flower seeds. Guess what kind? Forget Me Nots. When we work with nursing homes they will pass out often a holiday greeting card and a pen, and ask people to write a holiday message which might be the only one that resident receives that year. It’s very, very important to make that personal connection.
Breakfast is over and up comes the Visionary Leader. Just like at the Point of Entry, they have five minutes to do that same kind of a powerful talk, talking about their own connection, what they are most proud of in their organization nowadays and their vision for the future, with a big gap so the people in the audience can see what their dream is for the organization and want to help them fulfill it. Then there is a video. A seven-minute video that moves people to tears three times, not just two times. A video vignette is about one of the three bucket areas. So these are close-up videos. You don’t need a lot of music, you don’t need any narration. We don’t need high production values in the video at all. They can be very, almost amateur I would say, but not quite. As long as they’re powerful, as long as they are really authentically telling the story that relate to each of the three buckets, they need to move people to tears three times.
Then a live testimonial. Someone gets up and talks about how your organization changed their life. At our school we had little kids. We had ten kids from the flyer come out, little kids, squirmy. They were standing in front of this huge audience and rather than giving them a microphone we had a lady interview them. She asked them three questions. Question number one, what do you like about going to the school? I love my teacher, the hugs I get. I love my hot breakfast. What’s your favorite subject? Math and Science, 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 fold-over paper table tents in front of each person. Things like I want to be the first one in my family to graduate from high school. I want to go to college and I would like to be a teacher and come back like Mr. Brown.
Oh my gosh, they were really powerful what the kids had written. They had written their whole story out. 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 which is the fifth grade. My dream would be to make it through the eighth grade here which is as high as our school went. If I could go beyond that I would want to be the first one in my family to finish high school. If I could go to college I would want to go back and be a teacher, and come back and teach here. It was really moving what the kids had written on there. It was even more amazing to hear them say it when she asked them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Because each child knew. Each child knew the school had implanted a vision and filled a vision for each one of these children for what their life could be. They were so proud to tell us all standing there in front of nearly 1,000 people. What do you want to be when you grow up? I’m going to be a teacher. I’m going to be a scientist. 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 place a couple of 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. They are definitely getting the job done here. In other words, you are about as cultivated in ripened fruit as you are going to be in that hour.
Time for the last element of the program. We call it the Pitch. You know it’s coming. I warned you when I invited you that you were going to be asked for money. This is a fundraising event. So now you’re thinking to yourself, how are they going to do this? What am I going to do? The pitch person, the one who asks for the money needs to be someone we refer to endearingly as the credible school teacher like person. Credible in that they are truly linked to your mission. You don’t bring in a big name celebrity just because they want to speak at your party that day. No, they need to be really personally connected and school teacher like in that they will follow a script. Our coaches rehears every single pitch with the pitch person live. That is required if you work with Benevon and that’s because we want to be sure they follow the script which is a little bit different than most other fundraising events that you’ve attended.
Let me tell you how it goes. The pitch person at our school was wonderful at our event. He was our Board Chair, an amazing man. He got up and said, Thank you for being here today. My name is So and So.” He told his own personal connection which was very powerful, but brief.” He said, “We know that most of you didn’t know how much we were going to ask you for today. You came here because you trusted your friend who invited you. So when we thought about what to ask you for 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 about $600,000 and we have about 600 students at the school. He said, “If you believe in what you’ve seen today and you’d like to help support the ongoing operations of this school in the future, you have an opportunity today to become a Founding Member of something we’re just launching called the Sponsor A Student Society. Now I would like to pause and ask the table captains to pass out the pledge cards.” You see, there was no pledge card conveniently waiting at your seat so you could fill it out and leave early. He said, “Let me walk you through this. Box number one says if you give us $5,000 a year for 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.
In other words, and he said this several times, “This is just a gimmick,” he said. “You don’t really get a student.” He said, “We’re just going to be using your money for the gas for the school buses, the electric bills, the teacher’s salaries. You’re not going to get a kid.” He said it just like that, “You’re not going to get a kid, but we’re calling it Sponsor A Student.” Out of 850 people, we did not have 1,00 actually show up that day, 115 of them checked that box. Now the IRS requires that you must report all pledges and if they are received on the day that they are pledged, therefore by IRS standards we just raised over $500,000. He went on. He said, “If you give us $10,000 a year you would be sponsoring 10 students for the next five years.” 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 just joined our Multiple-Year Giving Society and now I would like to ask the rest of you who may not have checked off any box yet, tell us in box four how much you would like to give and for how many years.” In other words, a fill in the black box leaving the donor right in the driver’s seat which is the only place to leave your donors. Some people said I’ll give you $100 once, $50 twice. Whatever they wanted to give was absolutely fine. 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 up here, maybe they had other ideas. Stocks and transfers, real estate to sell, just giving you some advice. Maybe they were part of a foundation and they wanted you to come out and meet with their Board. Whatever it was, we were happy to give them a call. So when you stand back and take a look from fewer than 130 people, out of 850 at the top we had just raised nearly a million and a half dollars from less than 15% of the people. That is a lot of money.
I got back on the phone the next day. We were just shocked. I got back on the phone the next day and I started to call the people in those top three boxes. One by one I called them. Here we go, this is the metric. At least 10% of the Ask Event guest must join your Multiple-Year Giving Society at one of the three giving levels. Ten percent. When you look back at 850 people that would have meant we would have had 85 people join our Giving Society. But this over here, this equals 127. We had another almost 5%. We had 15% of the people join. Far more than the 10% we say in the Benevon Model. Your goal should be to have at least 10%. One person out of every 10 at each table would join your Giving Society at one of those three giving levels. We were absolutely shocked.
The next day I got back on the phone and I started calling all of the big donors, new donors thanking them for coming. What did you think of the event yesterday? Listening quietly and asking if there was any other way they could see themselves getting involved and anybody else they knew of. One by one they all started telling me the same thing. They said, “If I had known how great that event was going to be and I was going to give you all that money, how terrific you r school was, 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 their friends, their family. My daughter-in-law should have been there, my next-door neighbor, my buddy from the health club.
Before I knew it, I was writing down names of people I had never heard of. I caught myself. I said, you know, here it is the day after this Ask Event where you just gave so generously. We’re thinking we ought to do this event again next year. Would you be willing right now while you’re excited about it to agree to help us introduce others between now and next year by becoming an Ambassador? You could invite people to the Point of Entry event where we will educate and inspire them. Then we will follow-up with them and we will bless and release them if they don’t want to stay involved, or cultivate them further like the lady from the ballet if they do. By the time they are sitting at your table next year they will be well-cultivated, ready to give and hopefully join our Giving Society. If not, they don’t have to give at all.
By following this process year after year, it continues to grow. Going back to this slide, our one-on-one asking. Think about if the lady from the ballet had been out of town on the day of our Ask Event. She was well-cultivated and ready to give. I could go and meet with her afterwards. Perhaps even call her on the telephone and say, “We missed you, so sorry you couldn’t be there. We would love to have you become a Founding Member of our Giving Society,” and explain how that worked to her. Many people signed on for the Giving Society after the Ask Event because it’s a year-round process of the educating, sponsoring, cultivating and then asking. We also use one-on-one asking for Leadership/Challenge Gift. To be able to walk into the room with the Ask Even knowing that you’ve already gotten a pool of money from one donor or a group of donors. This is new money that you wouldn’t have had otherwise last year. New money that came through this process.
The two essential ingredients whichever way you ask, whether you ask the lady from the ballet at the Ask Event or one-on-one, is that you must have these Units of Service which are these top three box levels. Without these specific categories we never would have raised that much money. We had that fabulous Ask Event and had a person get up at the end and say please give generously. Give from the bottom of your heart. What does that mean? People don’t know. People who have a lot of money don’t want to show off. The ones with a little bit 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 says to people, this is what we need. A lot of people did the match on this first level and said that’s $83 a month. I can do that. I believe that much in what I’ve seen. Count me in.
Next, Multi-Year Pledges. When I was trained in major gift fundraising I was always taught that the only time to ask for a Multi-Year Pledge was for a large gift like capital or endowment where the donor wanted to spread it out over time. You would never ask for someone’s annual gift to be pledged out over several years. We have found quite the opposite and I’ll tell you why 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 bet if I were to give you $1,000 a year, one year at a time that’s still quite a bit of money. You would still keep in touch with me. You would cultivate me further. I would probably keep giving you year after year. Maybe I would even increase my giving. Therefore, by virtue of the fact that I checked box one over box four, I’m telling you something critical. I’m telling you I know I don’t have to make a $5,000 a year pledge to you, I want to. That is the magic of this Model. That donor is saying that mission of yours, that incredible work that you’re doing, that’s my work too. Count me in. I want to be closer to your organization’s family. It doesn’t mean I’m going to give you all the money you ever ask for, it just means I’m with you on a mission. Very, very powerful. Keep in touch with me. Come back and talk with me. I care about what you are doing.
That allows you to do something very challenging which is know where to focus. As a development person myself, I know how challenging it can be and especially in a smaller organization to stay focused. All the things coming at the development office, who do you cultivate? Every development director knows they are supposed to be cultivating donors, but who do I cultivate and when do I do that? Once I had my 127 new best friends I stopped doing everything else. I said, “If those people could give that much money to us in a short amount of time that we’ve known them, what would be possible if we got to know them even better.” So we do that at these Free Feel-Good Cultivation Events in step four. What is a Free Feel-Good Cultivation Event? It’s a mission focused program-related event that you are already doing anyway. Please do not invent any new events to cultivate donors. You have plenty of them as far as the Free Feel-Goods. You want to look at, for example, a graduation. At our school we had to put on a graduation every year. It was always in June, always at 7:00 p.m. and at 6:30 in the little room next door we had a gathering of all of our Multi-Year Donors. The Principal spoke there. He bragged about the test scores and the grade point average of the kids which was amazing. Then we had a grandmother and a grandson talk about the impact of the school on their lives.
You see, if you do it right this Free Feel-Good Cultivation Event in step four serves as a Point of Re-Entry at step one because it has the facts. There is the Principal with the statistics and test scores, the grandmother and grandson for the emotional connection and capturing the names with permission was no problem. We already invited you. You’re the donor. We know you. We had your name. No problem with that. Therefore, three days after the Point of Re-Entry, just like three days after a first-time Point of Entry, I was calling people. “Thanks for coming. What did you think of the grandmother, the test scores, the graduation? Any other ways to get involved. Anybody else come to mind.” Constantly deepening our relationship with this person leading up to the next Ask.
Within six months we were evicted from our school and needed to do a capital campaign. We only had those donors that we had engaged at that first Ask Event. Those were our only donors. How were we going to do this? We needed to raise $3.2 million and quickly. We started putting on evening small Points of Re-Entry for small batches, if you will, of our new Multi-Year Donors where we gave them the facts about the new building. We had a little diagram from an architect, a cool, beautiful graphic of what the building would look like. We had stories of what it would make possible from the teachers talking about the impact of having a beautiful new school for the kids. Far better than the place we were getting evicted from because it was such a dangerous place for the students. Capturing the names again was no problem. We had the names because these were donors of ours. So we got back right on the phone afterward doing Points of Re-Entry over and over for capital and within six months we had raised $3.2 million from 18 of these same donors, the same people who had just given at that Ask Event. That’s because they had made those five-year pledges. They were deeply connected to us and not everybody was able to do that, but a subset, a small group we had already focused in on who might be potential donors.
In fact, I left the school after two years as a development director, and a member of the Board. The woman who took over for me was fabulous but scared, because it was a lot to step into. I had all this success. She had not had any background in the development field and she was so nervous that she stuck right to the Model. She stuck to the formula and kept doing it over and over. She was there for three years and by the time she left we had over 500 donors in our Multiple-Year Giving Society, 500 people at one of those top three levels. That’s when the Board started to wonder how much money would we need to have invested at 5% so our interests would equal what we call our Treadmill Number. In other words, what is the big pool of money we need to have set aside so we could just live off the interest to cover that gap that we had every year in our operations so we could pay our teachers more. Fifteen million dollars was the answer. Would you believe by the end of the seventh year of using the Model we were able to complete the full endowment campaign and get our school off the treadmill.
It doesn’t mean that we stopped raising money. Believe it or not there were many more things. Now we had all these donors who were so committed to us that they are the ones who said maybe we should start offering summer jobs to the kids. Maybe we can help with tuition for them to go onto a private high school and college. They were so engaged with us. They were the ones that held us to the higher standard about our mission. Maybe we should build a second campus. Can we offer evening programs for the parents. They were really with us and helped our school to continue to grow and fill our larger mission. So these donors, this is always for unrestricted operating money when you launch your giving society every year, and again we had over 500 people making five-year pledges for unrestricted operating money. This is the pool of donors that you go back to for capital for endowment and for restricted major gifts like the Library and the Technology Center. Many of those same donors will give to this.
Every donor we had who gave in any of these capacities had come through a Point of Entry.
So there you have it. The Five Key Metrics of the Benevon Model right there for you. You hopefully will follow them all and hopefully they look pretty easy to you. They’re tricky but well worth aspiring to. If you want to grow your organization and have it become long-term sustainable. That’s it on the Benevon Model. I hope you learned quite a bit from this. Thank you for joining me very much for the webinar. If you check out our website you’ll see many of the other resources that we have available on the website. Thanks again for being here.
Let’s take some questions. First, I think before I take questions Melissa, let me say a little bit about some of the resources that are available in the Benevon Model. First of all, our ENews which is really the portal. If any of you are looking for an ongoing connection with Benevon, everything we do comes out every Monday on ENews with great blog posts, questions that are submitted by our viewers and readers, and excellent resources for you including knowing about the webinars and other programs coming up. To get Benevon updates this is how you do it. You must go to our website and sign up for the Benevon ENews. I really encourage you to read that regularly if you’re interested in sustainability. Our books are available to you. I’ve been highlighting the red book but the other two, actually this is the only other book on the far right, Missionizing Your Special Event. How many of you do special events over and over? This gives you a template for how to evaluate them. Is this worth keeping? Is this an event that should be moved to a different time of year, changed in format? Perhaps elements of it could become a Point of Entry or Free Feel-Good. Perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to that beloved event. This will give you the ammunition for doing any of those things. It’s got a good analysis and helps you design what we call your System of Events.
In the middle is our Benevon DVD, Creating Sustainable Funding for Your Non-Profit, which is available free on our website if you would like to get that. A lot of people like getting the whole set. They go together and there is quite a savings when you buy them on our website. That’s the only place they are sold. The books and the videos we call The Starter Set. Other videos I mentioned, Bloomerang. How many of you know about Bloomerang? We have a fabulous partnership with Bloomerang. They offer a private label version of what we call Bloomerang for Benevon, which is customized for the Benevon Model. I really encourage you to check that out if you’re interested. There’s information on our website. It’s quite inexpensive, web-based and can be used by anyone on your team.
Then we have our live introductory sessions. We get out there in person. We’re going to be in Florida at two places, Michigan and Washington, D.C. coming up. All of these are detailed on our website. You must RSVP to reserve yourself a space so go check those out coming up in those cities. Then webinars like this. We have two more webinars in September, Engaging Your Board on the 18th and Missionizing Your Special Events, as I mentioned in that book on October 16th. I hope you will join us for those. You do need to register in advance for those also.
Our latest and greatest, and I’m super exited to be telling you about. Our launching the Benevon Model video tutorial. This was designed for smaller organizations that are looking to get started with the model but aren’t really able to attend a Benevon one-on-one workshop at this time. We save budgets of half a million dollars or less and it includes a five-part video tutorial series which you have access to for six months from the date of purchase for your team and nine worksheets to be used in conjunction with the videos. I really encourage you to consider this if you are a smaller organization and want to get started. You can hear the topics. These were recorded in a studio and are excellent and walk you right through how to design a great Point of Entry. How to do the follow-up calls, how to customize your events. The cost is $1,095 and includes both of those pieces. You can get them on our website, Benevon.com
Then we have our workshops. Best of all, we’re saving the best here. Two more one-on-one workshops coming up. How do your workshops work? You must come with a team of seven people, seven to ten people you can bring. The more the better because each person that you bring is on your Benevon Team and becomes one of your first Ambassadors that hosts your first Point of Entry Event. You want to think who you are going to be bringing to Benevon. We require that your team of seven people must include your Visionary Leader, so that would be your CEO or Executive Director, one development person who serves as the Team Leader. That is at least a half-time job the first year. You may bring one other staff member. That’s optional, of any type of staff member, program person, marketing person, CFO or whatever, and then two Board Members minimum. Usually it’s the Board Chair and the Board Development Chair, and then three other people minimum who are either more Board Members, volunteers, donors, former Board Members, people who are excited about your organization and want to serve on your team for one year.
To serve as Ambassadors they must agree to be an Ambassadors once in the few months after you come back from the two-day workshop and attend team meeting monthly, and be on all the coaching calls. Because included in the program are coaching calls about every eight weeks with your fabulous Benevon Coach who will guide you through the whole process. The average group raises… Last year it was about $240,000 the first year in cash and in pledges, so it’s not all cash. Cash and pledges. The tuition this year if you want to come to one of these two workshops is $19,000 and that includes the two-day training and all of the coaching. It does not include any of the travel costs. These two workshops coming up are for groups that want to put on an Ask Event next year at the end of the year. You’ve got to come to us about a year before you want to put on your Ask Event. Nine to twelve months ahead of time.
If you say we would like to put on our Ask Event in the Spring, then you would probably be better off coming to Benevon one-on-one next Spring. We only do four one-on-one workshops a year. Two in the Spring, two in the Fall. If you’re interested in one for the Spring you would want to let us know that after today’s webinar. Next year the tuition is going up to $20,000 instead of $19,000 for this year. Let us know if you are interested in attending a Benevon Workshop and we would be happy to give you a call. We spend a lot of time doing calls with Board Members and other potential team members. We have a fabulous team at Benevon that helps you to build your own team. We want to make sure that everyone that you bring really understands us and wants to be part of it. It’s a big commitment. You are really shifting a culture to a Culture of Philanthropy and a Culture of Engagement.
So there you have it.
"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