Sharing Treasures in Clay

Sharing Treasures in Clay


Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania—Jim Shenk and his team at Philhaven approached Benevon at a point in their fundraising when others might not have.

Philhaven clients

The behavioral healthcare organization, which was founded in 1952 and is located in rural Pennsylvania, was already well established as one of the premier mental health centers in the country. As an agency of the Lancaster Conference of the Mennonite Church, they cared for 25,000 children, adolescents, and adults annually in an atmosphere of Christian love. And they had just completed a special gifts campaign of their own, which raised $6 million. Shenk saw that as the perfect moment to adopt the Benevon Model.

"We needed to build on that campaign, to keep up our momentum, and Benevon was the answer," says Shenk, Philhaven's director of development.

Though Philhaven was widely known amongst other professionals in the behavioral healthcare field, Shenk recognized that the immediate community perceived Philhaven as insular, with most people being unaware of its mission and the nature of the work being done within its doors.

"There was a lot of potential for support in the community," Shenk says—support which wasn't being taken advantage of.

After joining the five-year Sustainable Funding Program with Benevon, Shenk says the relationship between Philhaven and the community slowly began to grow.

"When we began doing tours, it didn't take long for some key people in the community to express appreciation that we were starting to tell our story in an effective way," Shenk says. "Already in the first year it started to change the perceptions about who we are and what we did."

On the "Treasures in Clay Tour," visitors are told the story of a young man who sought Philhaven's residential program when he was no longer able to remain in his family context due to aggression, expulsion from school, and lack of social connections. As the time of his discharge neared, the adolescent was told to create something out of clay to represent where he was on his journey. He returned with a vase that was misshapen, dimpled, and only partly glazed, explaining that although the vase wasn't pretty, it was functional.

Philhaven staff

"People aren't perfect when they leave here, but our hope is they are able to function better than when they came," Shenk explains.

At their first Ask Event, the Philhaven team raised $262,000, and in the second year they raised $333,000. Their third year was also successful, bringing in over $200,000.

Treasures in clay at Philhaven

"It was particularly gratifying to see people make multi-year commitments who had never given us a gift in the past," he says. "That has been the really energizing part about this process—people being interested in what Philhaven is about."

Shenk says that as a result of Benevon, his team has become much more focused on building an endowment. Their goal is to have $20 million committed in the next ten years of fundraising. Part of that figure will be allocated to charity care. Shenk says that $10,000 provides charity care for approximately eight individuals who require in-patient care and are unable to afford it.

Shenk has seen a shift in board activity with the Benevon Model, claiming that the current board is much more engaged in the process. Many board members are responsible for bringing people to Ask Events and on Point of Entry tours. Benevon has also helped Philhaven to find long-term donors. The team has learned the value of having consistent interaction with donors in order to continually deepen their connection to the organization's mission.

"This would be hard to learn from a book," Shenk says. "I have found that the coaching has helped us to refine what we do, it has kept us on task, and I think those two things together are pretty critical to making this process work."

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