Getting Started with the Benevon Model Webinar Series
(Recorded July 12, 2017.)
Zoë: Hello everyone, we're going to get started now. My name is Zoë Erb and I am from Benevon, joining you from our Seattle office. I want to welcome you all to the Benevon Self-Implementer Webinar: Engaging Your Community as Ambassadors and Donors. The webinar today will be led by Benevon founder and CEO, Terry Axelrod.
Terry: Hi everyone, really excited to be with you all today. Thank you for joining me. We've got a wonderful webinar planned for you. We have a large turnout, thank you all for again joining. I read the information that you've sent us when you submitted your name when you registered for this, and there was a lot of good background that we were able to extract from that to learn how much you've been using the model. And, honestly, for most of you, it looked like you are relatively new to the model, or this is your very first time hearing anything about it. So, I'm going to really be focusing today... This is the first of a series of four webinars that we have for self-implementers. Actually, this is not the first one, but this is part of a series. And we've been offering this series a little more informally. We're going to begin to formalize it over the next few months. You'll be seeing more about this on our website. In fact, the next one after this, I'll just tell you right now, is September 26th. So, there are four different topics that we have that, for self-implementers, if you want to try using the model on your own, you would need to understand all the pieces of it.
And today's webinar is on engaging your community as ambassadors and donors. And that's because when most people think about Benevon, the people who have heard about us often know us because they have attended or know someone who's attended a fundraising event, or perhaps they've attended a Point of Entry event, both of which I'm going to explain in a minute here. But they often think of Benevon as fundraising. We don't think of Benevon as fundraising. We think of Benevon as community engagement. Imagine if you had a community full of people who really understood your mission, who deeply appreciated what you do and were giving to you. If they chose to give to you at all, finically, it would be because they believed in your work. In fact, your organization would be one of their top three charitable gifts that they might make in their lifetime.
So, we're looking, with this model, for people who so believe in your work that, of course, they would give you money if they could, but perhaps they'd give you other things, too. Most of all, the very best thing they can do to help you is to serve as what we call 'ambassadors' in the community for you.
Most nonprofits we work with — and Benevon's been around now, we're in our 21st year— we've worked with over 5,000 nonprofit teams of board members, staff, and volunteers, mixed teams, that come to our two-day workshops and are then coached for a year or longer. So, we've worked with over 5,000 teams in that way, and what we see over and over is that, while it may look like people are coming for fundraising, ultimately, they're finding that this is a model for deeply engaging the community. Imagine, again, if your community really understood what you did. Imagine if they really appreciated. Even if you're a brand name... And we work with many of the larger nonprofits, also, that are names that will be very familiar to you; we find that people don't really understand fully what they do, what those organizations do, let alone if your organization is not as well known to people.
So, by getting the word out, this is a process for that. Most groups think that the board members are the ones whose job it should be to do that. And if you've got a great board, what the heck, that's supposed to be what they do. They're supposed to be the ones who get the word out and, often times, also send out letters and ask their friends to write checks. That is not what this is about. Not that we wouldn't love to have the board members involved, but we certainly don't require anything in our model that the board members must do, until they at least see what this is and choose to do it, if they'd like to. So, the very best way that people can help your organization is by serving as what we call an 'ambassador', and that's going to be the focus of today's webinar.
So, let me go ahead and get started. I want to just show you the model. You've got the circle here, this is the Benevon Model. Oops, well, let me see if I can get this to work. Hang on a second. There we go. Engaging Your Community as Ambassadors and Donors. And I'm going to be working out of material from the book, "The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting It Right." Now, if you choose to come to our workshops, which I'll tell you about at the end, we give you a set of all of our books as part of the tuition and the process for being in our program. But if you do decide you want to try it on your own, this is a great book. What it's written for is for groups that want to get started on their own. Usually, for smaller groups, I say budget size about half a million dollars or less, it probably would be a good idea to get started with the book. But just for today's purposes, since many of you have budgets that are larger than that, also, I'm going to cite some of the pages as I go through.
I'll be highlighting five key metrics we have found at Benevon, because we've been doing this for so long, we have...and because each group that we work with submits all kinds of data to us annually, which we pour over and change things — we change formulas, we change whole processes — that there are five key metrics we've developed that if you just stick with these, if you just meet these five metrics, you will be building what we call Sustainable Funding. See, I think of Benevon as a pipeline-filling system for major gifts. The groups that come to Benevon are not usually the big universities that already have a readymade pipeline. Who is their pipeline? Think about it. Their pipeline are their students. They've got alumni, every year. Most of the nonprofits we work with do not have a steady stream of alumni, nor do they have a large, very well organized, sophisticated major gifts department. They usually have just a handful, maybe only one, even, development staff member who is charged with doing everything to keep it going. So, by having these metrics, it makes it very clear to people what you need to do to be successful with the model. And this is also...these are also great metrics to share with your board, to show them that, should you adopt the Benevon model, there are very specific things you would need to be doing. I'm not going to list them all out for you here, right now, but I will as I go through this.
So, let's dive in. I'm going to tell you how the model works, just briefly, as an overview, because so many of said on the form that this would be your very first time learning about the model, so I want to be sure to give you all of it. And as I do this quickly, I will point out the five key metrics. So, the very first step of the model is what? It's called the Point of Entry. The Point of Entry, what we call a sizzling one-hour get acquainted event about your organization. So, if I were a funder who said, "I'm thinking about making a $25,000 grant to your organization, but first I need to come and see it. I need to take a tour," how many of you would say, "Yes, I could offer that. We have something we could show you"? That tour that you would be taking me on is more of what I would call a tour of your facilities, or a tour of your programs. A Point of Entry, on the other hand, is what we call a tour of your mission, and it's got to include these three things over here: the facts, an emotional component, and a way to capture people's name with their permission.
So, the very first metric is that if you're going to be using the model, you would be putting on two of these per month, each with 10 people or more; 10 or more people. It's usually 10 to 15 people. And each one of them is hosted privately by someone we call an ambassador. Okay? So, privately. That means that it's not something we put on Facebook. It's not something we...it's not an open house. These are me inviting me whole book club, or my whole yoga group, or my friends. A readymade group, usually. My office colleagues, something like that. Privately, so I feel...so that you all feel very special that I've invited you. My relationship with you is what drives a large part of this whole model. So, two per month, minimum, for 10 to 15 people, each one hosted by an ambassador. That is one of the key metrics. That's one of the metrics, what I just said, all of this over here. Okay?
And let me walk you through a little bit of what a Point of Entry looks like. This is from page 119 in the book, and there's a whole chapter...actually, more than one chapter in the book on how to do this, so you can look. This is kind of giving you an overview. But you're going to decide which is the best time of day or week to have these, after some experimentation. We had our little school where I started this, did these on Thursday mornings at eight o'clock. We had a student greeting people; a little sign-in table where people filled out an individual card giving their name and address, and their email, and their phone number, because they knew in advance that we would be calling them.
You see, the person who invites them, the ambassador, makes it very clear when they invite them — and I'll get into this a little bit later — that the whole purpose of their coming is to help spread the word that you are..."This is an organization I love. I've been involved of a number of years. I've been talking to book club about it for quite a while, and I have agreed to be what we call an ambassador. And I agreed to host a little private tour. I'd love to have you come. We'll do it right before we go to our book club, or we can go out for a glass of wine, or a dinner, or lunch, or coffee," or whatever related to it. "And you will be getting one phone call afterwards from the organization, to see if anyone else came to mind that you might like to invite, and to get your feedback. Perhaps you'd like to get more involved, and perhaps you'd even like to become an ambassador like I am. You just don't know, as you're there, you might be thinking of other people."
So, they know in advance they're going to be asked to signin, and that they will be getting one follow-up phone call. If they come early, there's a little time to look at pictures on the walls, or in our case, watch the students eating breakfast and having teachers help them with their homework. The bell rang and the kids ran off to class, and we were there in this rundown old lunchroom. We mopped off a couple tables and pushed them together in a little square, and started our program.
Now, the Point of Entry is not formal at all. It's very informal and it feels like you've got a bunch of friends sitting around a kitchen table, kind of. So, there's no PowerPoint, there's no microphones, there's no teacher/student effect at all. It's just much more of an intimate setting. And the first person to speak is the ambassador. So, there I am again, welcoming you all as my friends. I'm saying, "Thank you all for trusting me enough to come today. I'm so excited that you're here. You know how near and dear this place is to my heart, and I hope that as you walk around today, you'll be thinking of others. Because when Susan calls you in a couple days, she'll be wanting your feedback."
And then I tell a little bit about why I'm so passionate about it. So, it's what we call the 'personal connection,' so I'm going to tell you what it is about this organization that's hooked me. What is about something in my life? Something a little bit more personal about why I'm involved here.
And then I turn it over to the Visionary Leader, that's the executive director or CEO, who says what their personal connection is, which is very important. People want to know, "Why is that man," or, "woman running this place? And how come they're so passionate about this particular type of nonprofit work?" And then they brag in the middle of that one minute here. This part is two minutes; this part is one minute and it's bragging about the results. What are some of the things that you've accomplished in the, what we call, three 'bucket areas'? So, we take all that you do. We're going to do that as we go through here. We take all that you do and divide it into three broad buckets.
So, some of you on this call have way more than three programs in your organization. You might have seven, or eight, or twenty-five programs. We don't just cherry-pick three of your best programs and call those buckets. No, we cluster all that you do in 100% of your programs into three broad buckets. So, it might be something like supporting individuals, strengthening families, building community— broad buckets. And right here in the Visionary Leader talk, the executive director shares something that they are most proud of in each of these three buckets. A little, quick brag; kind of a preview for what's to come in the Point of Entry. And then there are two more minutes on the vision for the future.
So, most Visionary Leaders— and I know we have quite a few of you on this call, at least according to the list many of you are executive directors or CEOs. You are hugely visionary, but the problem we have is that, so often, when we ask a Visionary Leader to share their vision, they're too good. They sound like they have the whole thing so figured out that people think, "Well, what do they need me for? They've got it all handled." So, we spend a lot of time with the groups that we coach personally in our programs, in our year-long workshop and coaching program. We coach the Visionary Leaders in this entire talk so that it all hangs together and lets people know, "We have a vision for the future, but we're going to need some help to get there."
Next, we get up and walk around. We take a tour. And the tour consists of three stops, and each one of the stops, which relates to one of the buckets, we tell a myth-buster fact, a story, and a need. So, some of you, just for example, maybe some of you on the call here work in the area of transitional housing. We worked with a group that had wonderful transitional housing programs, and we took people on a tour. They took people on a tour, I went on the tour. It was upstairs in a three-story walkup, older apartment building. Clean and nice. And when we got to the top of the stairs, about ten o'clock in the morning, bright sunny morning, 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 nine years old, and that's because there are so many children that are homeless. In fact, this morning, right here in our very...the spare room we're in, we said a very bittersweet goodbye to Maria and her nine-year-old son Johnny, who had been here for six months which is almost twice as long as the average family stays here, but that's because they came from a terrible domestic violence situation. Johnny had been kept home from school much of the year. Maria had not been working. They needed help with counseling, healthcare, job placement, job training, financial, housing, transportation, all of it, and we were able to help them put their lives back together. And when they walked out of here this morning, there were a lot of hugs and tears as we said goodbye to them. We're so proud of them as they launch their new lives. For every family live Maria's and Johnny's, what we see is that we need one more caseworker, because that one caseworker would allow us to serve another 35 families and greatly reduce the waiting list so the people don't have to wait as long. We have a long waiting list, that would allow us to cut that down significantly."
So, that kind of gives you a sense of the myth about the nine-years-old. The fact is really, the average age is nine years old. The story that relates to that about a family and the need. In the need, we don't tell the amount of money we need, we're not asking for money in the need, we're asking people...we're telling people what the money would buy. So, we never ask for money at the Point of Entry, at all, and we do this three times, each one very powerful. Sometimes, the stories are told, like I did kind of third person, "Let me tell you about Maria and Johnny." More often they are told with a letter; through a letter or an audio tape. We don't use any videotape here. So, you're hearing from the voice of the actual family or individual that was served.
And then we end with a live testimonial where someone gets up and talks about how your organization changed their life. So, it's ideal if you're going to be doing these twice a month, that you have someone on your staff or very nearby, who's there on the premises, so that if you're doing these frequently, you don't have to go find a new person to tell their own story. In our school, it was a teacher who had been a student at the school, and his lifelong dream was to finish his degree and be able to come back and teach there, and his story was really powerful.
And then we had a final thank you from the ambassador, "Thanks again for coming. I hope that you've really seen why I'm so passionate about this place. And I hope you'll take Susan's call in the next couple days when she calls you, and be thinking about other people in your life who you'd want to have know about this place. Thanks, and have a great day." That's kind of how it ends.
And then that leads to the second step in the model, which is a one-on-one follow-up call with every person who's come to the Point of Entry within two or three days. And the metric here, the second metric, is that you want to have at least one new ambassador be generated out of the follow-up calls from every Point of Entry. So, if you've got 10 people over here, who've come to the points of entry, you want to have one out of every 10 people, in that case, would say, "Yes, I thought that was so great. I have a group myself. The whole time I was there, I was thinking about my work group," or, "my friends," or, "my book club," or, "my football buddies," whatever. And that is the metric, is at least one out of every 10 people. It's actually one out of Every Point of Entry.
So, we have groups that put on these Points of Entry, not twice a month like I said, but we have groups that may put them on way more often than that. They may put them on 10 times a month. 10 times a month, they'll put them on. So, that would mean that they'd be getting 10 new ambassadors per month, right? So, the idea is that you're not asking people to be an ambassador more than once in their lifetime; if they want to do that, that's great, but it's not like we have to go back to people over and over, and over and over. People are human, they have a certain number of friends and a certain amount of time to dedicate to this.
So, the follow-up call has five steps to it. Again, out of the book, pages 33 and 34. You want to thank people for coming, and you really have to mean it, and ask them what they thought of it. Listen closely. And then ask, "Is there any way you can see yourself becoming involved with us? Or anyone else you can think of we ought to invite?" And that's where people will often say, "I really would like to be an ambassador. I want to be like my friend was," or, "The whole time I was there, I was thinking about my work group. I work at the community college, we have programs every day here for people in that kind of a situation," or, "we have counseling programs. I'd like our own staff here to know about what you're doing. I'd like to host one of those." So, it doesn't have to be a big, hard thing to be an ambassador. Most people have a readymade group, and that's the easiest way to find a successful ambassador, is with a readymade group.
Okay, on to step number three where we finally get to ask for money. Notice we didn't do that at steps one or two, we wait until people have been well cultivated, and that happens in this second step here, the Cultivation Superhighway. So, the Cultivation Superhighway is where... I think of the Point of Entry like a first date, and the Cultivation Superhighway is where we have some more dates with those people who are interested. You see, in the follow-Up call, about 50% of the people are what we call 'blessed and released'. Blessed and released. Those are people who say, "You know, it was really great, but I don't have time," or, "That's not really my thing, or they don't even call you back.
So, we allow in our model, 50% of the people to be blessed and released. Of the remaining people, one will be an ambassador and all the other five, you're going to want to do this dating process with, inviting them back to things. Cultivation steps that focus in on aspects of what they most liked. So, in the follow-up call, if they said to you, "You know, I really love that art program that you're doing with those kids," you're going to want to invite them back, perhaps to meet with an art teacher, to come to an art night, to maybe invite their friends to come over and be volunteer art teachers in your school, whatever. But it's something that relates to their specific interests. It's not like you're just inviting them to another event that's more of a generic kind of an invitation. So, each one of these, very personal.
We tell lots of stories about people in many... If any of you are self-implementing, you probably will know that you've got people who, just by coming to the Point of Entry, will say, "This was really great. I want to come back. I want to bring some other people," and as their friends get more involved, they get more involved. So, by the time you get around to asking them for money, down here in step three, many people will be wondering, "Why hasn't anybody asked me for any money yet?" You know, they're out there talking to their friends about you, and you've become their thing. They are very, very passionate about you.
So, the ask happens in two ways: either one-on-one, or it's something we call a free one-hour Ask Event. So, the Ask Event is what many people know when they think of Benevon, which unfortunately is not the only thing that Benevon's about at all, in fact many of our groups don't put on the event, or they skip a year from time-to-time because they have so many donors. But at the Ask Event is a free one-hour Ask Event, like I said, and every one of the table captains — this is metric number three — 100% of the people who serve as table captains at the Ask Event have been, guess what, ambassadors in the prior twelve months. And guess who is sitting at their table, all of the people who came to the Points of Entry up here. At least 40%, and usually it's 50. And my first Ask Event, it was 80% of the guests at this Ask Event are people who have been to the Point of Entry. So, they come to the Point of Entry and then they come to the Ask Event, and they're sitting at the table of a friend who's an ambassador. That is the only way that you will the metrics.
So, the one-hour Ask Event, very powerful. It's quick, it's easy, it's in and out. And, again, the only people who should be coming there are people who've already been to the Points of Entry. If you end up having a few people who haven't been to a Point of Entry, let's just say you get 80% who have and 20% who haven't, the 20% who haven't should not be giving you any money at the Ask Event. In fact, many of the 80% may not even give, but we certainly don't want anybody giving money at the Ask Event unless they've been to the Point of Entry.
So, here is the pitch that we do at the end of this one-hour Ask Event. You can read about it in the book [INAUDIBLE 00: 22: 30] format for the whole event. It's very, very moving. There is a video. There's testimony, there are stories throughout. There's a powerful talk from your Visionary Leader in front of a larger audience, and it ends with a pitch where someone gets up and talks about why you need the money.
So, at our school, the man who did this was fabulous. He said, "My name is so-and-so, I'm on the board here at this school. I love this school. We know many of you didn't know what we were going to ask you for today, so you just came because you trusted us, and let us tell you what we really need," and he told them about how we've had to give raises to the teachers causing a shortfall in the operating budget of half a million dollars, now up to six hundred thousand. "And out of that," he said, "today, we're launching something called the Sponsor a Student Society," and he asked the table captains to pass out the pledge cards. He said, "If you believe in what you've seen today, and you'd like to help to support the ongoing operations of our school into the future, we'd like you to become a founding member. The first level is, if you would consider giving $1,000 a year for each of the next five years, you'd be sponsoring a student." Out of 850 people, 115 people checked that box. Now, the IRS requires you must report all pledges as if they are received on the day they are pledged. So, by IRS standards, we had just raised over $500,000.
And he went on, he said, "We know some of you are capable of giving even more. If you'd give us $10,000 a year for five years, you'd be sponsoring ten students," eight people did that, "and $25,000 a year for five years," four more people sponsored a whole classroom of students. He said, "I want to thank those of you who've just become founding members. And now I'd like to ask the rest of you, who may not have checked off a box at all, to tell us in the fourth box how much you'd like to give and for how many years. In other words, a fill in the blanks box, leaving the donor right in the driver's seat, which is the only place to leave your donor. Some people said, "I'll give you a $100 once," or "$50 three times." 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 top three boxes, might have other ideas: want to sell real estate, transfer stock, just give you some opinion, introduce you to their friend who's on a board somewhere. Whatever it was, we were very happy to give them a call.
So, when you stand back and take a look, from fewer than 130 people, out of 850, which is only 15% of the people, we had just raised nearly a million and a half dollars, when you include all the pledges. And we were shocked. I wanted to know, "What had we done right?" So, I got back on the telephone and I started to call those people, and I said to them, "Thank you so much for coming yesterday. What did you think?" I was quiet and I listened and they all started telling me the same thing. They said, "If I had known how great that event was going to be, how terrific your school as, I would have invited other people."
This seems to be the natural human response, when people feel they've made a real contribution, and they started telling me the names of all these friends and family they wished had been there. And that's when I said, "Well, no problem. Would you like to, between now and next year, become an ambassador? You would have an opportunity, right now, to invite those people to our Point of Entry. You could become an ambassador and invite them, and that's the fourth step in the model, introducing others. You invite them to the Point of Entry, where we will educate and inspire them, we will follow up with them."
So, the idea is that people would then invite their friends to Points of Entry, we would follow up, and then eventually, they would come and be table captains the next year. So, over and over, the model goes round and round, and people are getting new people. The ripple effect starts to happen, and the model expands out and out and out. That's what we want for you.
So, I want to go forward now, to the whole concept of ambassadors, and really talk about what that would entail. So, let me go back and review with you the five key metrics, first of all. I neglected to say this very last one, which was…this is a minimum of 10% of your Ask Event would join the Multi-Year Giving Society. The average Ask Event will have between 200 and 300 people, and that we would expect 20 to 30 of those people, then, would join the Giving Society.
And if you do that year after year, it really will grow, but that means that you must have new people at the Points of Entry, new ambassadors, new table captains. This is not about having the big event in town. This is not about having the same people come back every year, because they love your events so much. No. We are not about the event. We are about the relationship that's being developed. So, here you have these five key metrics of the Benevon model. And I would say this will…if you can adhere to these five, you will be successful. They are not easy, but they are definitely attainable.
Okay, so I want to shift gears now, now that I've kind of given you the overview and you've got the jargon down, to talking about what it would really take to grow this. How are you going to find ambassadors? How are you going to find those people? So, we say…we do an exercise at our two-day workshop, where you'll have your whole team with you. It won't just be one or two of you, what we call a Treasure Map. You stand up at the wall, and you've got one of those big, sticky Post-It notes, those white sheets, and in the middle, you put your organization, the name of your organization, and then, you surround yourself with all of the groups that your organization comes in contact with on a regular basis.
So, who would those be? It might be...
"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
"Benevon provides us with a map to reach our goals. Following that map is not simple or easy. It takes discipline that we get from the Benevon classes and coaching to stay on course."
Tom O’Brien, Board Member at Marbridge in Manchaca, Texas
"This session fully sold the team, especially the board members."
Paul Dole, Executive Director at KCEOC Community Action Partnership in Barbourville, Kentucky