San Antonio, Texas—When Pat Good arrived at the San Antonio Humane Society, she found that the "no kill" animal shelter, which takes in and adopts out approximately 5,000 dogs and cats a year, was in desperate need of help.
There was little or no relationship between the organization and its donors. The special events that the shelter held were bringing in a little over $100,000 yearly, and were running staff ragged. To make up the difference, the shelter was borrowing money out of its reserves.
As the economic downturn became a reality, the finance committee calculated that if the shelter continued on the same course, it would spend all the reserves in four years. But Good, development director, had a solution.
"Benevon will cure these problems and put us on the path to sustainability," Good promised board members, many of whom were skeptical about the proposal. Though some individuals ultimately jumped ship, the remaining board members became committed to the new endeavor of sustainability.
"They were so sick of having to ask people for money," Good recalls. "This sounded so appealing to them because it meant they didn't have to keep pestering the people they loved for money or auction items."
After attending Benevon 101, the board members swore to each other to stick with the new plan, a plan they adhered to even when Good's leadership became limited due to health problems.
"The team had become a well-oiled machine by then," Good says. "It was just a matter of keeping the system up and running."
That system included their first Ask Event, a sophisticated event in a hotel ballroom that included meals for 1,000, a gift from the hotel, and a short film testimonial that moved many to tears.
Good says that board members were prepared to follow up with the people in attendance, but were surprised when later that day, many attendees contacted them.
"Their phones lit up like Christmas trees after the luncheon with guests who were thrilled with what they had heard and seen," she recalls.
The Ask Event represented a shift among board members—Good says they finally felt empowered and confident in their ability to make a difference in the financial future of the Humane Society, and that they were now embarking on "legacy building." Their energy was responsible for raising over $1 million between year one and year two.
"We entered year two with rifles blazing," Good says, but adds that their excitement was a bit hasty.
During their second Ask Event luncheon, Good says her team made the mistake of focusing on the amount of people they could get into the room, rather than on the percentage of people who came who had also been to one of the Point of Entry tours at the Humane Society. The numbers affirmed Good's fears: those people who had been on tours gave three times as much money as those in attendance who had not.
Good recognized that they were falling into an old pattern of paying attention to numbers, rather than getting to know their donors. The mistake taught Good and her team a great lesson.
"It's not about one day," Good says. "It's what you do with those donors all year long, about treating them like family."
Good says that Benevon's model of fundraising has allowed the shelter to employ a humane educator whose job it is to teach children how to be responsible pet owners at "Camp Humane." The shelter has also doubled the number of spay and neuter procedures they are able to perform.
Expanding the program to the public, the shelter performed 5,000 spay and neuters for pets in the community, in addition to the 5,000 spay and neuters already done on the shelter's own animals. Now, they are setting a goal of building an animal hospital within the next five years.
Good says she was pleasantly surprised when people approached her who wanted to serve on the Humane Society's board of directors and development committee. Those passionate individuals have also committed themselves to being a part of the Giving Circle. Good says that she feels especially proud of the board, who wish to stay actively involved in the model.
"We are a group of passionate people," Good says. "We just needed a plan, and to own that plan, that's all."
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