New Haven, Connecticut—"Someday you'll be eighty-five and want a great place to live, and this is it," says Sharon Bender, volunteer and former board chair of Tower One/Tower East in New Haven, Connecticut.
Tower One/Tower East provides high quality living arrangements for individuals who are sixty-two years and older. Originally sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, the Towers is a non-denominational, multi-cultural community grounded in Jewish values and traditions. More than 375 seniors call the Towers home, fifty percent of whom are Jewish.
Rent and government subsidies cover the operational costs at Tower One/Tower East, but the cultural programs, social activities, day trips, and lifelong learning opportunities offered by the Towers are entirely dependent on donations.
Bender was instrumental in bringing Benevon to the Towers as a way to ensure the ongoing nature of those programs. She recognized how Benevon could provide a formalized approach to fundraising.
"It was a concrete system for moving our plans and dreams from point A to point B. Before we had volunteer committees putting together events, but there was no formalized method. Signing on to try the Benevon system was a huge leap of faith for our board," she says of the initiative. "But they trusted my judgment, and I had black and white testimonials from six other organizations that had success with Benevon."
The Towers team initially struggled to implement the model; the concepts felt foreign and forced. They repeatedly referred back to the Benevon workbook to ensure they were accurately following each aspect. Coaching proved especially helpful during that time period.
"Coaching kept us answerable to someone," Bender says. "It gave us the opportunity for everyone on our team to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. Left on our own, we could easily veer from the proven Benevon methodologies. We learned Benevon wording about how to talk to donors, and that's really made a difference."
Soon, the effectiveness of the model became clear.
"The Points of Entry are a very positive thing," Bender says. "They give us a concrete schedule of opportunities to show our organization from a mission-based perspective."
The Towers' Ask Events also offer that opportunity, especially because the organization is able to host the events in-house.
The Towers team stays connected to donors with thank-you notes and small gatherings at team member's houses. Bender credits Benevon with teaching the importance of mission-focused cultivation efforts.
"Benevon taught us to turn our face outward to the community. To keep showing and telling who we are, what we are doing, what we are going do to, and what our unmet needs are. We didn't know how to do that before Benevon," she says.
Some of those unmet needs, which team members hope to meet in the near future, include adding an occupational therapist and an on-site gym. The Towers would also like to grow its endowment and raise $150,000 at its next Ask Event.
Bender says that it's still the systematic nature of the Benevon Model that initially attracted her that keeps the Towers moving forward.
"The system is invaluable for institutionalizing a plan," she says. "We are all so busy that we need a plan. The Benevon Model allowed us to be educated together as a team and know what we're supposed to be doing to get to the next step. Single types of events were too hit or miss and required too much time. By spreading our limited resources over a system, we're able to do much more."
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