Lawrence, Kansas—Cindy Hart, development director at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, in Lawrence, Kansas, was not originally sold on the idea of the Benevon Model.
"I remember getting an email from (CEO David Johnson) at one point, saying, 'Check this out, a lot of people are talking about it,'" Hart says. "And I come from a background in capital campaign and feasibility study consulting, so I have a strong bias against anything that's events-related, and I just clicked on the link and did a quick look and thought, this kind of looks like events, I'm not so sure about this. Then I heard Terry speak at a Mental Health Corporations of America or a National Council Conference, and that's when she gave a good, hour-long presentation that really resonated with me. I started to think, hmmm, there might be more to this."
Once her interest was piqued, she started to have some conversations with people she knew at a local community theater who were already implementing the Benevon Model, to learn more about it and assuage her healthy skepticism.
"I actually attended their Ask Event," Hart says. "I went into the Ask Event knowing all the theory behind the model, behind the Ask Event, and that there was going to be a video that was going to make me tear up three times, and then they were going to ask for money. So I knew all of this going in, and I was just there to observe. But I was so moved by the event that I ended up making a five-year contribution to this organization! Once I came back and told Dave about that, we were both pretty much sold that this is a model that works."
The Center, which offers comprehensive mental health services to about 5,000 people in Douglas County, Kansas, is now completing its third year of implementing the Benevon Model, and has raised nearly $900,000. But it's not the money that Hart is most proud of.
"For us the hardest thing as a behavioral health organization has been sharing our stories, and explaining all that we do," Hart says. "We have probably close to 40 different programs and services, so how do you talk about all that you do? We've had three Ask Events now, and three amazing videos, and we've done 94 Point of Entry Events, where over 1,200 people have attended those events, and so a lot of people have heard our story. It's because of the format and structure that Benevon gave us that allowed us to put our story together in a way that's brief, and that resonates. It's informational yet emotional. There's a lot of good dialogue now around the community about Bert Nash, and about mental health in general."
Additionally, Hart says she has seen a big shift in their board.
"A perfect example is our incoming board chair, who attended the most recent workshop," Hart says. "It was very eye-opening for her to see that it's not a fundraising model, it truly is about sharing the mission and the message, and about changing the culture. And we've seen some natural selection, and attrition, if you will, of folks. It's hard, because you get so event-focused, and you get so stuck in the mindset of just how you raise money, and this is very different, so it's just not comfortable for some board members. But really, we've seen the board embrace it, because they learn more about this organization that they're involved in and are passionate about, and they see that the support comes when you share that passion."
For nonprofit organizations that may be considering the Benevon Model, Hart advises first getting the board educated and excited about the model, and ready to be active and engaged in the implementation.
Most importantly, Hart advises new organizations to stick to the model, and not get creative with it.
"We've committed ourselves to that, and it's challenging, because you want to think we know it, why can't we just do it ourselves, or it's a little bit different for us here, let's do it a little different. But we've committed, no, we are going to follow this model, and we have, and I think that's why we've been successful."
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