Greensboro, North Carolina—Laura Holley began as a piano teacher at the Music Academy of North Carolina in Greensboro, North Carolina. She quickly fell in love with the organization's mission of enabling students of all ages, interests, abilities, and backgrounds to discover, develop, and express their musical talents.
Wanting to get more involved, Holley signed on as director of development, despite the fact that she had no experience in the field.
Holley recalls her boss introducing her to the Music Academy's fundraising tactics. The idea of calling donors for renewals without getting to know them personally and spending most of the year planning the ice cream and music festival was overwhelming.
It didn't take long for Holley to desire a different approach to fundraising. When she received an email invitation to attend a presentation about Benevon, Holley jumped at the chance to learn a different way.
"Within seconds of the presentation it was resonating within me," she says. "Surrounding ourselves with donors who love our mission, and having a systematic approach was exactly what I had been looking for. I thought to myself, 'I can do this!'"
Holley's enthusiasm for the model would be tested in the following months, as she attempted to convince the Music Academy's board to support the venture.
It wasn't until one particularly influential board member advocated for Holley and Benevon that the board voted in favor of proceeding with the model.
Holley recalls being terrified when she and her team began holding Point of Entry tours. Despite the fear, they successfully hosted twelve tours in their first year, and held an Ask Event that raised $100,000. The outcome gave the board a great deal of confidence in the model.
The Music Academy has now been using the Benevon Model for four years, and board members are now asking to be actively involved in donor cultivation.
Holley, who now serves as the executive director, grew to love implementing the model, and she says that there are days when she misses her old position.
"I loved all of my lists of things to do, I loved talking to people after they came to tours, I loved getting plans in place for the Ask Event itself, because it's so much about our mission, whereas the ice cream and music festival I had worked on for years—spending hours on the phone trying to get Porta-Johns donated, it just felt like I was wasting so much time on things that didn't have to do with the Music Academy," she says. "When I worked on the Ask Event, finding a performer or talking to students about sharing their stories, every second of that was an investment in the Music Academy."
Though Holley has given up her day-to-day responsibilities for implementing the model, she remains involved as the organization's "Visionary Leader" in cultivating and asking for major gifts.
To that end, she has begun working with her coach to answer the question, "what is our greater need?"
Holley's vision for the Music Academy of North Carolina is that it will one day be able to afford to employ a full-time faculty. That core faculty would be deeply involved with the organization, and would be able to "go wherever the need is."
"I am most proud of the fact that the board and staff have made hard choices about the direction we're going to take," Holley says about her work with Benevon. "We've brought together all these people. We're honoring our faculty's commitment to us. We're in a really good position moving forward."
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