Terry explains how to engage every board member in the major gifts process without requiring that they ever ask for money.
Discover a tested and proven system for engaging and cultivating the perfect major donors who love your mission—donors who will give for operations, capital, and endowment.
By the end of this webinar, you will have learned:
- A proven system for engaging and developing relationships with mission-focused major donors
- A systematic process for converting existing donors into major donors
- How to reconnect your board members to their passion for your work and engage them in the fundraising process without requiring that they ask for money
While this webinar will not take the place of working with Benevon directly, if you are willing to take on and carefully follow the advice offered in this webinar, you will position your organization properly for long-term success with the model.
(Recorded June 6, 2017.)
Click to Read Transcript
Bianca Galam: Hello everyone. We are going to get started now. My name is Bianca Galam and I am from Benevon, joining you from our Seattle office. I want to welcome you all to the Benevon webinar "Engaging Your Board and Creating Sustainable Funding." The webinar today will be led by Benevon founder and CEO Terry Axelrod. Terry are you there?
Terry Axelrod: I am. Hi everyone, great to have you. Thank you, Bianca. This is the second in a three-part series—possibly four parts, we are debating—for self-implementers of the Benevon model. And I am not certain how many of you actually have been using the model on your own. We usually have at least half the people on the webinars are people who are new to the model, so I am going to do a brief overview on the model. But, the focus of this presentation, and this whole hour together, is on how to engage your board in creating Sustainable Funding. Okay? But I want to get everybody on the same level playing field before we dive into the board component of it.
So, I think you all have seen this, if you haven't, this is the Benevon model for Sustainable Funding. And I want to reference that I will be using our book "The Benevon Model - A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting It Right." Throughout this webinar, I will allude to certain page numbers. Certainly, if you are planning to try the model on your own, you've got to have the book because it is designed to guide smaller organizations through the process on their own, to get them strong enough to be able to come to our full program, where we can customize this and coach you to success.
So, just to say, Benevon is in our 21st year. We have been around quite a while. We have worked with over five thousand non-profit teams, and last year, those teams collectively have raised over one billion dollars using this model. So, we are super proud of this. I will say, it is not a model for fund raising, it is a model for Sustainable Funding and, really, as I have come to see over all the years I have been working on this with our great groups, that it's a model about deep engagement of the community in your mission.
So, don't think of this as fund raising; don't think of this as a new way to put on an event, or get some people to write you checks. Really, think about it as, "How do I find the people for whom my organization's mission could become one of their top three charitable gifts in their lifetime?" In other words, this is a pipeline filling system for major gifts, which is what our groups need. We don't tend to work with the big universities that already have a readymade stream of alumni, nor do they have a large major gift staff. The groups we work with, even though many of them are quite large in their budget size, all the way down to about four hundred thousand dollars in budget size, these groups don't have a systematic process for engaging people. They don't have a pipeline that they are consciously and very intentionally cultivating towards major gifts, nor do they have a system or a process for doing that.
So, I will be referring to the book quite a bit as we go. Starting off by talking about boards today. I want to talk a little bit about: if you think about boards, most of the groups that we work with, tell us that there is a direct correlation between their success with implementing the Benevon model and the level of engagement of their board members. So, you want to think about, how engaged is my board right now? What percentage of my board members really are engaged in the mission; really believe in the mission, versus they are doing it as a nice thing to put on their resume. or because their boss asked them to be on the board and it's a big honor?" But, how many of them are really deeply connected to your mission? So that is the first thing, it is a question about mission connection. And I am just going to write a few things on here, so you can be thinking about this mission connection.
And then, most people do not join the board because they are dying to do fund raising. Have you noticed? They end up coming…they come on a board to be involved in the governance. That is clearly the main role of boards is governing, but it just takes a few meetings before they are suddenly finding themselves filling tables, selling tickets. Before you know it, they are having to do the things that they most dreaded. And oftentimes, it is very soon into the process that they are having to do that. So, they are not too happy about it. And many of us have been on the receiving end of a board member who has tried to ask us, "Oh, won't you to just help me out a little? Write a check, come help me fill a table." I don't know about you all but, when that happens to me, sometimes I can't say no. Just because of my relationship with the person, I have to say, "Yes," and I'll go to that event, or I will write that check. But, as soon as my friend gets off that board, I am no longer going to be a supporter.
So, this is a model for how do we engage people like me, in that example, in the real mission of the organization so that when my friend goes off the board, I am going to continue to give. Most groups have a lot of what I call board envy. They always think that, "If I just have that fundraising board…if I just have that perfect fund raising board, everything would be great." We have found that is not the case. We work with a lot of groups that you would think would be the groups that would have those magical fundraising boards. But really, when you pull back the curtain, what is there is a very systematic plan, a staff that are working very intentionally to engage board members and their community so that the board members really don't feel that they are being pressured to be involved in fund raising.
So, all of this boils down to what I call the ‘Benevon golden rule'. The golden rule in the Benevon model is to treat your board members as if they are already, if not going to become, your most cherished major donors. So, treat your board members as if they are going to become your most cherished major donors. Think about how you treat your major donors. Okay? Think about that. Even if they are a little quirky, or they don't call you back right away, or they give you a little less money than you might like them to give, you still respect them; you honor them; you treat them with the certain deference. That is what we are saying needs to happen with board members. Treat your board members in that same way and, you will find over time, that that will happen. So, let's go on, I want to give a quick overview of the Benevon model, and then I am going to come back and talk about a lot of the things that we have learned about how to engage the board in the whole process. So, for those of you who are new to this, even if you are not, I would ask that you pay attention to this part, because there are some new things that I am going to try to stress, the five key metrics that we are now teaching when we teach the model, and these may be new to you.
First of all, the model, as you can see from the shape, is a circle. Four steps to it, the first one being the Point of Entry. This is a tour of the mission, not a tour of your facilities or your programs, where we get the people the facts at the most basic one-on-one level, a deep emotional connection, and we capture their names with their permission—no more leaving your business card in the bowl for a drawing. So, many of you already do tours, or you could do a tour. Those are probably more what I'd call a ‘tour of your facilities' or a ‘tour of your programs'. A Point of Entry, on the other hand, is a tour of your mission. So, we take all that you do in your mission and divide it into three buckets…three broad bucket areas. So, we don't just cherry pick your very best three programs. If you have sixteen programs, we cluster them into three broad buckets. So, supporting individuals, strengthening families, building community. Like that, broad buckets.
And at the Point of Entry, which has got to be sizzling, you will do these two times a month—minimum. You will be engaging people with stories along the way on the tour. There is a whole design that we have, where the Visionary Leader speaks, then we walk around, we take a tour, three stops: each one we tell a myth…a myth buster fact, a story, and a need. And we end the tour with one live testimonial. That is a lot I just said. The heartbeat of the whole model is the Point of Entry, right here. As I said, you'll be doing these twice a month. Each one is hosted privately, by invitation only, by someone that we call an ‘ambassador'. So, an ambassador is someone who hosts one tour, once in their lifetime; they don't have to do it many times, they just need to do it once, and it needs to have ten or more people attending.
So, the goal is that you have at least two ambassador hosted Points of Entry per month, and that in the Follow-Up Call, after the Point of Entry, which is made by your team leader who is usually a development staff person—this is a half-time job the first year—that team leader makes a Follow-Up Call to every one of those ten or more people who come. And so, in a month, there'd be at least twenty people who would come. And out of that, at least one out of every ten guests agrees, in turn, to become an ambassador. So, that is our ratio, is that you do two of these a month, back over here, and one out of every ten guests agrees to become an ambassador—ten percent.
Now, we have groups that will put on…we have one group that puts on sixteen Points of Entry a month. And they get, probably, three or four new ambassadors out of every ten. So, do the math on that and you can start to see how this scales very quickly. But, at a minimum, we want one ambassador out of every ten, and that is because the Point of Entry is so good. Fifty percent of the people, roughly, that come in the Follow-Up Call, are what we call ‘blessed and released'. That means that we truly let them go. That means, in the Follow-Up Call, which has its own questions and a whole format that we teach—this is all written up in the book in detail—you are going to find out, "Are these people even really interested? Is this person really interested in what we are about here? Might they want to get involved in some other way?" Fifty percent of them will. You will have to be trained and train yourself to read between the lines to hear no, when they are trying to tell you no, even though they may be very nice about it. But fifty percent of the people will be blessed and released, and out of the remainder, one out of every ten…well, one out of every ten from the beginning will become an ambassador. So, the Point of Entry… Moving on to step three down here. Before we get to step three, we have got to look at this Cultivation Superhighway.
This is, how does the dating process continue? I think of the Point of Entry, back here, as date number one. A first date. You don't tell everything there. But, after you have done the Follow-Up call and the people say, "Yes, I am interested," maybe they weren't the blessed and released people, they were the people who said, "Yeah, I am interested. I would like to host a tour of my own", or "I am just interested in that one art program you have, I would like to know more". You want to cultivate them, and the more contacts you have with them in here, the more dates you have before you do the asking down here for money, the more money we find you'll get.
So, what does the dating process look like? If I am interested in an arts program, then you want to invite me back and maybe have me come and meet with the art director. Perhaps, if I agree to be an ambassador, it will mean that I will be inviting people myself to a Point of Entry, and that in the Follow-Up with those people, my friends will get more involved and that will get me more involved. But, we find it takes two or three contacts in here, before the ask, before people are really ready to be asked for money. They have been sufficiently cultivated.
So, the ask in our model happens two ways. If you recall from the book, it's either one-on-one, or it's something we call an ‘Ask Event'. A free one hour Ask Event. So, many people think of Benevon as this Ask Event, and that is all they think of Benevon as. They don't realize that we would never want people to come to an Ask Event until they have attended a Point of Entry. In fact, minimum, forty percent of the people at this Ask Event, forty percent of the people at the Ask Event must be people who have come to a Point of Entry in the prior twelve months. So, some of you have been using the model on your own for several years. I talked to a woman this morning, she said "We can't get any of those. We are not doing the Points of Entry. We are not really able to do the Points of Entry anymore. We have, kind of, burned out people. Nobody really wants to bring anyone. So, our staff just put on an Ask Event by ourselves. Over and over, we ask our board members to fill a table. They invite people who use this Ask Event as, really, a first date, and therefore you can't really ask people for a significant gift if they have not been cultivated." So, the Benevon model is different. It is not just a new way to put on a party. The whole idea of the model is that you are only asking people for money once they have been through this whole process. Not as a first date, but as a fifth date; that is when the asking happens…or fourth date, like that.
So, at the Ask Event, as I said, it is free, it is one hour—that would mean sixty minutes—it is either a breakfast or a lunch. And people are invited at the end of the Ask Event to join a Multiple-Year Giving Society. So, this is the pledge card that we used at the first Ask Event, at our school here in Seattle where I started the model. Where it really came together for me, when I was designing it. So, let me make a little sense of this for you. This came at the very end of the one-hour event, so it is a breakfast, you have heard from the Visionary Leader, you have seen the video, you have heard a testimonial, and at the very end of the hour, the person who is going to ask for your money. And they say "You know, today, we…you've heard our stories, you have met our teachers, you have seen the kids. Now we would like to ask you if you would consider becoming a founding member of our sponsor a student society". And the man who made the pitch at our first Ask Event said, "We have over six hundred kids at the school, and we have got a short fall in our operating budget of about six hundred thousand dollars. If you believe in what you have seen today, and you would like to support the ongoing operations of the school, would you consider becoming a founding member of our Giving Society?" And then, one by one, he explained these three giving levels. Sponsor a student for a thousand dollars a year—this is the outcome of it. This was obviously not all on their card. But a hundred and fifteen people… Excuse me. Just a second. Let me clear my throat here. A hundred and fifteen people, out of eight hundred and fifty up here, agreed to check that box, and made a five year a pledge for a thousand dollars a year. Eight people pledged to sponsor ten students at ten thousand a year, and four more at twenty-five a year for five years. Which means, cumulatively, we had raised nearly a million and a half dollars from less than fifteen percent of the people. This is a hundred and twenty-seven people, out of eight hundred and fifty.
So, the point is, these were the people who have been cultivated; these were people who had really been through the whole process, and they were ready to make a significant gift. Notice, we have this box down here. We let people, as they'd like, make a gift of any amount. So, they can give a hundred dollars once; they can give fifty dollars three times; whatever they wanted to give was absolutely fine. And then the last box, we said, "Please contact me, I have got other thoughts to share". So, these are people…maybe they had already checked one of these boxes up here; maybe they just have advice for you or for us, or they wanted to give us real estate or stock. Whatever it was, we were happy to give them a call.
So, going back to the model, you will see that, after the Ask Event, we got back on the phone and started to call all the people who just made those big gifts, and we thanked them for coming, and we said, "Is there any way you can see yourself getting more involved now that you have been to the Ask Event?" And one by one, they start to say "I wish I had brought other people with me. I with that my next-door neighbor, my daughter-in-law, my friend from the health club had been there. That event was wonderful." And that's when we said "Would you consider becoming an ambassador, where you could invite them to a Point of Entry? You could host that Point of Entry. We will do they Follow-Up, and by next year at this time, if the dating process has…if they haven't been blessed and released, you could invite them to sit at your table, and they would be able to give money and join the Giving Society if they would like, next year." So, that is how the model works. If you do it for [INAUDIBLE 00:16:43] this Free Feel-Good over here. These are the events that we put on there, this is nothing new. You don't have too cook up any new events. Definitely, please, do not cook up any new events for Benevon. You want to look at program events you're already doing: a graduation, some kind of a celebration for your program participants. Something that's mission-focused, though. Not a golf tournament; this is not free tickets to the golf or the gala. This is actually a program related event, where you invite a few donors, perhaps put a little reception before it, and give them some facts and some emotional connection, and then call them and Follow-Up, and see whatever their feedback is after this Free Feel-Good. So, that kind of gives you a quick overview of the model; I have given you this.
Let me talk now about the roles for boards. So, I just want to start with saying, the biggest misconception… I was on a different call this morning with another group, that immediately said," Our board thinks they know what Benevon is. Some of them have been involved with other groups years ago. Some of them have heard about it. To them, this just sounds like a way to get them to fill a table or write a check. And they don't understand that they really do not have to do any asking for money." So, there is nothing on here, that I am going to tell you about, that has to do with board members asking anybody for money. So, that alone should be a relief to those of you who are board members on the call, and to those who will be trying to explain this to board members. But we do have three roles that all board members can participate in. We do not require anything. If your group chooses to come and work with us, officially—come and work right with Benevon, and have a coach, and come to our trainings, and bring a team and all the pieces that we have—you do not…the board members do not have to do anything. I will tell you though, what we would like them to do: these are three roles that we feel are pretty appropriate and pretty easy for board members. The first one is to invite people to Points of Entry. Now, we do not require that board members invite people to Points of Entry, but if you send a team to Benevon, you bring a team of seven to ten people to one of our workshops, those people who come on the team, they all need to agree to become an ambassador. And those people will come back having designed a brilliant Point of Entry, because that is what we do at the workshops. And then, they will, hopefully, invite the board members to come to a Point of Entry Event. Once you've got it refined a little bit, have them come to a Point of Entry Event, perhaps, appended on to a board meeting. And the board members should be really excited after that. Then they will get a Follow-Up Call, just like anyone else would get that has come to a Point of Entry. And in fact, many of them will say in the Follow-Up Call, "Now that I see what this is, this is fantastic. This is why I got involved with this organization in the first place. I love the mission here. I have got a group from my office. I could easily have ten, fifteen people from my office come, or from my yoga group, my book club, or my faith group; whatever. So, naturally some board members may choose to actually become full-fledged ambassadors, meaning that they would invite ten or more people.
But some of them may say, "I just want to invite a couple of people." So, in addition to the two Points of Entry that you going to have per month, that are private, that are only hosted by ambassadors, you might decide that you're going to have one that is more open to the public Point of Entry, you might have one more that's going to be open to the public, and perhaps some people on the board might say "I've just got one or two people, I'd like to invite them to a public one". That is fine. Second thing, role for board members that we think is pretty easy, is to have them thank people after they have given money. So, have you ever received a "thank you" call from a board member after you've made a gift? Many of you may say yes, I suspect a few of you…I hope a few of you would be saying yes, but most people say no. If you have, you remember it. "Wow, a board member took their time to call and thank me? How great is that?" And, when you think of it from the board member's point of view, they were probably given a list of people, and told "Just call. You can even call them on their lunch hour and thank them from the gift." People will remember that. And If you talk to a real person, they're probably going to tell you great things because they have enjoyed being involved with your organization, and certainly involved, if they gave at the Ask Event, they will have lots of good things to share.
We even have one group, they did a board retreat, and they gave each board member, at the break, a name on a three-by-five card and a phone number of a donor, and said, "Please go out on your cell phone and thank this donor over the break." And people came back in gushing. They were so excited. They said, "Oh my gosh, this person really gets it. They really love what we do." And it was really energizing for the board members. I'm not suggesting that you do that, I'm just saying, this is a very easy role for some board members. You might have one or two that would really like to do that. And the third role for board members is that they give money themselves. We do not want any board members to ask. They can ask if they want, but frankly, we find that, the board members who like to ask may be doing it a little bit prematurely in or model, so we kind of want to hold them back until the donors have gone through the dating process, like I described. But we certainly want to be able to tell the community that a hundred percent of your board members give money. Now, we don't believe that we should have minimums. You may choose to have a minimum. A lot of boards say…it's kind of what we crassly call a give, get, or get off policy. You know, "If you don't give at least this much, you shouldn't be on the board". We believe we want more diversity in boards, including financial. And we want people to feel comfortable with their gift.
Again… going back to the Benevon golden rule, we want to treat them as if they are, or are going to become your most precious major donor. So, you don't want to ask people too soon, nor do you want to be inappropriate and ask people for too much money if they're on the board. Each board member is capable of giving a different amount, so we recommend that this whole giving thing with the board be handled one-on-one. You can let the board members know—and I'll come to this in a minute—at the board retreat, or in a board agreement that they signed that you would be asking them to make a gift of some size so that they're prepared for that. But the individual amount that they give, we would recommend that you meet with them individually, as if they were a major donor, and ask them. Of course, we would love it if they would join your Giving Society. We'd love it if they would be one of the people who would like to give at one of these levels. If they would give a thousand dollars a year, that would be fantastic. That's eighty-three dollars a month, and some of your board members might say "I'd like to do that. Some might want to give even more down here. But whatever it is, they can give whatever amount, we want to be able to tell the community that a hundred percent of your board gives money. Okay?
So, let's move on now to the top ten check list. I neglected to say the page numbers in the books are here. This is all right out of the book, so I definitely would recommend, if you're going to try this on your own, that you get the Benevon book. I'll tell you how to do that at the end. So, we've got now, the top ten checklist for how to involve your board in the fund raising process. This is really key. A lot of these are questions that you want to ask; kind of reflective questions. You might even want to ask these with your whole board. The first one is, when it comes to fundraising, what are your biggest concerns about your board? And as I said earlier, we find most non-profits have board envy. Everybody else's board is better than theirs, and even those board that some of you are convinced are the perfect board, trust me, they have issues. So, what are your biggest concerns about your board? That's the thing to be focused on. What percentage of your total board members would you rate as truly passionate about your work? These are right in the book, page 51, so if you aren't writing them down, which don't need to be doing, just be thinking about right now with me, "What percentage of your total board members?"
I am amazed… We ask this question a lot at our workshops, and I'm amazed, given the mission types that we work with, which just spans the whole non-profit sector, that I would assume that everybody would tell me eighty percent, ninety percent, and that is not the case. Groups that I would expect that of say, "Oh, maybe fort percent, maybe fifty percent are really passionate about our work, about our mission."
Three: what percentage of your total board members understand the Benevon model, and are eager to participate in its implementation? Not just how many have heard about the model, or nod there heads pleasantly when you discuss a Point of Entry and an Ask Event. But how many of them really understand the model? How many of them really get the depth of this? That this is not about fund raising, it's about deeply engaging the community. It's about weeding through and finding out the people who are really with you on the mission, and will stay with you for the long term. It's not about getting one time gifts from people. What percentage of your board members really understand that?
Four: what percentage of total board members have attended your organization's Point of Entry event? So, if they say they're supportive of this, if you're implementing this on your own, how have they demonstrated that? Have they actually shown up at a Point of Entry event? Furthermore, have they invited others to attend Point of Entry events, let alone served as an ambassador? What percentage of your board members have been involved in thanking donors? And what percentage give money personally?
Have you completed a Treasure Map interview with each board member once a year? So, this is where you will do a Treasure Map with a board member. You'll sit down with them over coffee or lunch, and say, "Let's look at your Treasure Map, Bob" or, "John," or, "Sally," whatever the name is and who are the people…? This is you in the middle. This is your life. This is Bob's life. What are the groups that you come in contact with? Your work group, your family, your alumni association, your sports group, your kid's school. What are all the groups that you come in contact with on a regular basis? Which of those groups might be easy to put a Point of Entry together with, or at least to invite some people?
Once you get the Point of Entry designed properly, you can even take it on the road and do what we call "Point of Entry in a box"...
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"What a relief to learn about this comprehensive approach to sustainable funding! As a board member, now I understand my role in helping to raise funds for our organization, and it’s not asking for money."
Wendy Raffaeli, Board Member
The Action Center
"Because of the Benevon training and working with our coach, I have great clarity about how best to use my time, organize my department's work, and motivate others to support the organization I love!"
Angie Moeller, Director Advancement & Grants
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa, California
"Thank you Benevon for helping me further delve into this program and understand more. Detailed information for specific areas is great."
Anna Oliver, Ambassador Manager
Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center