Positive Model for Positive Change

Positive Model for Positive Change

Samaritan House

Fort Worth, TexasSamaritan House of Forth Worth, Texas, provides supportive housing and resources for positive change in the lives of over 400 homeless and low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS and other special needs.

Greeting clients at Samaritan House

Steve Dutton, president and CEO, was admittedly struggling with the fundraising needs of the organization. An annual campaign had fizzled out, and the board had recently given up on the duty of fundraising.

When Dutton heard a presentation about Benevon, a light came on for him.

"We had just completed a capital campaign, and I thought to myself, 'I have all these names.' It was like a cookbook," Dutton recalls.

For Dutton, the model seemed like a logical way to present Samaritan House to the community.

"Why it makes so much sense is that it gets us out of having to put on these fancy events, and the competitive environment of having to outdo other organizations' events," he says. "It keeps our focus on selling the mission—not just looking for one-time financial support, but trying to get people who respect what we do, and enlighten them on ways to get involved."

Board members, staff, and major donors weren't initially convinced that the Benevon Model would be more successful than traditional fundraising events. After all, Dutton points out, he was unable to predict the outcome of an Ask Event.

"It takes a couple years to build up the confidence in it," he says of the model's Ask Event.

When Samaritan House began their work with Benevon six years ago, its goal was to raise $150,000.

Dutton laughs as he reports, "We raised quite a bit more than that in our first year."

To date, Samaritan House has raised over $1 million.

Samaritan House volunteers

That sum has come in part from learning how to cultivate and ask for one-on-one gifts. Dutton says that through cultivating a long-time donor, he was pledged a $100,000 leadership gift to be announced at the organization's next Ask Event.

As Samaritan House's fundraising program has improved, so too has their reputation. Dutton says that using the model has helped the organization gain good publicity.

"Our reputation today is unbelievable compared to what it was before Benevon," Dutton says. "It gave us significant traction to become a major nonprofit."

Dutton has plans to retire within the next two years, and within that time period he is confident that Samaritan House will be able to achieve its goal of securing a $1 million endowment.

Until that day comes, Dutton remains committed to the Benevon Model.

"It's hard when you have staff changes, external factors. It's a lot of work to do a good job using the model," he says. "But it's a lot of work no matter what model of fundraising you use. It's just a matter of whether you believe it makes more sense to sell your mission, or to sell galas, good times, and parties. I don't believe that's our mission—to sell parties. Our mission is to sell our mission, and gain support from people who believe in what we're doing."

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