Lakewood, Colorado—The Action Center in Lakewood, Colorado, founded in 1968, responds to its community's basic needs, such as food and clothing, and promotes self-sufficiency.
Mag Strittmatter, executive director, remembers a time when the Action Center served 150 people in a month. Now, she says, they've seen that many clients by noon on any given day.
But the Action Center didn't have a stable source of income, and they feared that the drastic increase in clients might cause the quality of their services to suffer.
"We wanted to be for ourselves what we do for our clients, and we didn't have a way to fundraise in a smart way," Strittmatter says. "We were jumping from special event to special event, with no system in place to produce the type of dollars we needed to support ourselves."
The Action Center came to Benevon hoping to achieve financial sustainability.
At their first Ask Event, they raised $280,000.
"That just blew everybody away because they never thought that that little investment would mushroom into that type of return. That was a really big a-ha moment for us," Strittmatter says. "There was a real system here, and it worked."
The Action Center continued to work the system by crafting their Point of Entry, which explains their three "buckets": intervention, connection, and prevention. The Action Center team uses these areas of impact to introduce their mission to donors, which Strittmatter appreciates.
"The superstar of the model is the mission," she says.
One of the stories they share on their Point of Entry tour is about Mary, a single mom who had been laid off for three months when she came to the Action Center, seeking money to pay her utility bill. If the bill was left unpaid, she wouldn't be able to cook meals for her family, or heat their apartment. But Mary was fifty-fourth in line that utility day, and Action Center had run out of funds by the time her turn came. To ensure she would be far enough ahead in line to receive money on the next utility day, Mary arrived at the Action Center at 3:30 a.m. Amazingly, there were already two people there in front of her.
That story is just one of many that reveal how much people in the community rely on the Action Center to provide for them.
The Action Center has had 5,000 people attend one of their Point of Entry tours.
Joe Haines, director of development, says that has resulted in a huge increase in their volunteer force. Where the Action Center used to have thirty volunteers per day, they now have eighty or ninety every day. During their last fiscal year, that translated into 80,000 hours of volunteer work hours. Haines says that is a clear non-monetary benefit of the Benevon system.
Benevon has seen the Action Center through times of transition. Over the past eight years, the Action Center has had three development directors, two executive directors, and four cycles of board change.
"Part of the learning over the course of this is that you're going to have staff change, and you're going to have board change and volunteer change. It's really important to be able and ready to reload as you need to by making sure the culture of the organization is Benevon-centric. It's just a matter of holding true to the principles of this process," Strittmatter says.
The Action Center has held eight Ask Events, which have raised a collective $2.94 million. Haines says their most recent Ask Event has been the most successful one yet, bringing in $500,000.
"We have transitioned the focus of the breakfast over the years. The first couple years it was all about the breakfast. Now, we've been developing our system with Ambassadors and Shepherds and cultivation as Benevon has taught us, recognizing that our long-term success is through regular cultivation and one-on-one asking," Haines says.
The Action Center now recognizes its position of leadership within its community. Strittmatter and Haines credit their success to the Benevon Model.
"It's good to be talented, but it's even better to know you have a great fundraising system that works," Haines says. "Versus me coming to Mag and saying, 'Okay, have you thought about doing a spaghetti dinner? Have you thought about a golf outing?' Instead I'm saying, 'Look, these are the donors that we need to follow up with and cultivate, and this is our leadership goal, and this is what we need to do to get there.' Success is about staying on task and following the system."
Strittmatter adds, "In terms of advice for others, I would say, whatever you would spend on a golf tournament, consider instead taking that same dollar amount and investing it in something that will give you an exponential return on that investment."
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