Terry Axelrod recently joined us for a webinar in which she explained how to move past the typical expectations of board members and deeply engage them with your mission.

In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here:

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Terry, is it okay if I go ahead and kick us off officially?

Terry: Yeah. Um-hum.

Steven: All right, cool. Well, good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast, and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar “Getting Beyond the Board: Engaging Your Community as Donors and Champions.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s little discussion.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin officially. I just want you all to know that we are recording this presentation, and I will be sending out that recording, as well as the slides, a little later on this afternoon. So if you have to leave early, or perhaps you want to review the content later on, have no fear, you’ll be able to do that. Just look for an email from me in just a couple hours after we finish here.

And please feel free to use that chat screen right there on your webinar screen. We’re going to save some time for Q&A at the end. Just as many questions as we can get to, we’ll try to answer. So don’t be shy. Send in your questions and comments throughout the hour. I’ll be looking at those, and I’ll also be checking Twitter. If you want to tweet us any questions or comments there, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

And just one technical note. We find that these webinars are usually only as good as your own internet connection, so if you have any problems with the audio in particular, if you can dial in by phone, we find that the phone connection is usually a little bit better than the computer audio. If you don’t mind doing that, there is a phone number that you can dial into in the email from ReadyTalk that went out about an hour ago, so try that if you have any problems. It’s usually a pretty quick fix.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I want to say an extra special hello to you folks. We do do these webinars just about every Thursday. It’s something we’ve kind of become known for. But in addition to that, our core offering is donor management software, so if you are in the market for that coming up over the next few months or so, check us out. If you want to learn more, you can just download a quick video demo of Bloomerang and see it in action. Don’t even have to talk to a salesperson if you don’t want to. So check out our website later on if you are interested in learning more.

But for now, I am really pleased to introduce, re-welcome back one of our favorite guests, someone we’ve been getting to know very well here at Bloomerang, Terry Axelrod of Benevon. Hey, Terry. How’s it going?

Terry: Just great, Steven. I’m so happy to be here. Nice to be here.

Steven: Yeah, I feel spoiled. I just saw you a couple of weeks ago. You were in Indianapolis, and you did a great webinar for us about a quarter ago, three or four months ago, really popular. So we had you back because you’ve got a lot of great information to share.

And if you guys don’t know Terry, I just want to brag on her real quickly. She is the founder and CEO over at Benevon, which has been working for the past 20 years or so, and has been training over 5000 nonprofit teams in that 20 years. And they’ve raised a ridiculous amount of money through Benevon. Is it true it’s over $1 billion, Terry? Is that right? Billion with a B?

Terry: That’s right. That is right, yeah.

Steven: That’s ridiculous, but really awesome, too. Terry’s got over 30 years of experience in the nonprofit field. She was originally a development director at a private inner city school where she raised over $7 million in just two years, and she’s bringing all that great knowledge in the creation of the Benevon model. We love the Benevon model at Bloomerang, by the way. It’s something that we recommend to everyone and anyone.

And one thing I like about Benevon is they just publish all their secret formulas, and she’s going to share a lot of that with you, kind of in the same spirit of Bloomerang. We like to give a lot of free knowledge away, obviously. So, great friends of ours. So Terry, I’m going to hand it over to you so you can tell us all about creating community champions. Take it away, my friend.

Terry: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Steve, and thanks to everyone. Glad to be here. Can you hear me okay, Steven? Is it coming through all right?

Steven: Yeah, you sound great.

Terry: Okay, great, wonderful. Well, I am super excited. This is a new webinar for me. This is new content, new material about getting beyond the board, engaging your community as donors and champions, and it’s something that we have been, learned an awful lot about here at Benevon over the years. I mean, when people call in and they say, you know, “If only our board. If only our board would do this. We don’t have a fundraising board. We don’t have that kind of board. If only we had the right kind of board, we would be able to do fundraising.” Everybody’s got kind of what I call that fantasy of the perfect board.

So I’m going to be working using some of the materials from my book “A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting It Right,” and I might even refer to a couple page numbers. You might want to consider getting a copy of this book — I’ll tell you how to do that at the end — because there’ll be more depth on the points I’m going to be covering as we go through this.

But let’s start out talking about today’s board. What is it that we say, what is it that we think about today’s board? How does it work in the world of boards?

Normally people tell us, “Oh, the real job of the board is to govern,” right? That today’s boards, what the common thinking is that the goal of the board is to govern, which is true. But it doesn’t often feel that way to board members. How it feels to board members is what? Think about it. Sooner or later — usually sooner — we’re asking them to fill a table, sell tickets, write a check, write a letter, sign a letter to a friend, whatever, especially those board members who say, “Fundraising’s definitely not my thing,” and we say to them, “Oh, no problem. You won’t have to do that.” Then before they know it, there’s some other kind of veiled way that they end up having to get into fundraising.

So for them, fundraising is often perceived as sort of kind of a, like, something that they’re almost tricked into doing, something that is, there’s some kind of deception. And I would say that when it comes to fundraising, there’s a fair amount of almost mistrust around fundraising on the board. So board members, actually, from their perspective, people, they’re asking friends to give money and then, think about it, think about the times that you have been asked to give money to an organization where your friend is on the board. If you’re like me, before you know it, you’re having to say yes out of guilt and obligation, but did you really know anything about that organization? Would you keep giving when your friend goes off of that board? Probably not.

So in terms of building something that’s sustainable, what we really are looking for are board members who do not feel pressured to give. Because pressure is part of, if you ask board members what they feel, they feel that pressure. And that whole sense with boards, I would say, of board envy. I’ve written a fair amount about this. That everybody thinks that the other group’s board is better than theirs. So board envy, kind of the “give, get, or get off” mentality. You know, if you can’t give the money, then get the money, or maybe you shouldn’t even be on the board at all.

What we say at Benevon is that that is all, that fantasy of the magical board is really just that. It’s just a fantasy, and you really ought to stop wasting your time thinking about what other people’s boards are or what yours isn’t and get on with it. What we say at Benevon is that you, we call it the Benevon golden rule, which is to treat your board members as if they are or will become your most cherished major donors. Major donors.

So think about how you treat your major donors. You would never go up to them and say, you know, “It’s time to write a check,” or, “Won’t you just fill that table for us?” There’s a sense of obligation that we have with board members. We don’t have that with our donors. We have appreciation. We have respect. We have trust with them. So what we want to do is shift the context to one of that kind of deep trust and engagement and respect, treating our board members as if they could be our most cherished major donors.

I want to talk about . . . in fact, Steven, thank you. You just published this today, “10 Tips for Staying Sane About Fundraising and Your Board” on the Bloomerang blog, which I think is one of the best blogs I’ve ever read in the fundraising world today. I’m so impressed with this blog, as Steven knows. I think it’s fabulous, because it’s pithy and right on point, and I hope that you’ll find my little article to be in that vein.

So these are five of those 10 tips for staying sane about fundraising in your board. First of all, you want to let go of any written or unwritten rules that you may have about the right way for board members to participate in fundraising. So everybody’s got their little rules, but you’re going to have to just let go of those.

Above all, let go of the notion that all board members must ask other people for money, because there’s no needing to ask. In the Benevon model, board members don’t ever have to even ask anyone for money.

Accept the rule — this is one of our rules — this 20-60-20 rule when it comes to fundraising in your board, that 20% of the board will actually like being involved in fundraising, 60% will be neutral, and the remaining 20% will want nothing to do with it.

Stop thinking that every other nonprofit’s board does more than your board does. It’s really irrelevant and, as I like to say, highly improbable.

And then recognize that your board members are volunteers who are giving you the gift of their time and attention, and those really are more precious in many ways than money. These are not paid staff, and in most cases they don’t want to become paid staff.

So really get over it. Move on from the board and let . . . that’s why the theme of today’s session is on getting beyond the board. What if you were to engage your community as donors and champions, and stop focusing so much on the board? Not that we don’t want them, not that we don’t respect and trust, love our board members, but what if we could move beyond the board?

So the Benevon model is designed to do just that. It’s designed to deeply engage people. I think of Benevon as a deep engagement model, not as a fundraising model at all. We have people call us, they’ll say, “I just completed the Benevon first year, and oh my gosh, you know, we just raised X amount of money, but that was not the best part. The best part was that people finally understand what we do here. They get it. They want to be involved. In fact, we’ve actually found people for whom our organization’s mission is their mission in life. Instead of pounding on our board members to go out and find friends that might perhaps be interested in us, or at least give us a one-time gift, we’re finding people who really can help us sustain our work.”

So just quickly, to give you an overview of the model, there are four steps to it, and again, this is all referenced in the book. But Step #1 being the point of entry, a sizzling one-hour get acquainted event. A tour of the mission, not a tour of the facilities or the programs. And you would put these point of entry events on twice a month. Each one is hosted by someone we call an ambassador. Each point of entry is a private, by invitation only, event that is hosted by a volunteer called an ambassador who hosts one of these per year. They can do more than that if they want, but they don’t need to. They can do one in their lifetime.

So I’m invited by a friend, or let’s just say you all are in my book club. I’m inviting you to come to this event that I’m hosting. You don’t even know about this wonderful school that I’m involved with, other than you’ve heard me talk about them. But you may not even be interested in education. But you come because I invited you, and maybe we go out for a glass of wine afterwards. It’s the kind of thing we do for one another in the book club. So there’s that relationship quality, that connection between me and you as my book club friends that will come.

And I let you know before I even invite you . . . I mean, excuse me, before you even come, I let you know that you’re going to be getting a follow-up call afterwards from the wonderful development director at the organization, at the school, because the goal is that some of you will be thinking of other people in your lives who ought to know about this school so that when you get the follow-up call, you in turn might say, “I’ve got a group of my own. I’ve got a yoga group. I’ve got a faith group that I’d like to invite to come out.”

So the metrics that we use — there are five key metrics at Benevon — is in the follow-up call, Step 2, at least one out of every 10 guests who came to the point of entry . . . and these points of entry, these back here need to have 10 to 15 people in attendance each time, so 10 to 15 of my book club members. But 1 out of 10 of them, 1 out of 10 of these people will become an ambassador, so that you’re generating in the ripple effect new people. One out of 10 becomes an ambassador the second round.

Now, the point of entry is just a first date. That’s how I like to think of it. But afterwards, in the follow-up call, the person, the development director is asking, “What did you think of the event? How did the stories resonate with you? Is there any way you could see yourself getting more involved?” And if the person says, “I want to be an ambassador,” then that would be the way they’d get involved next. That’d be kind of the second date, would be for them to actually be involved by hosting another event.

But perhaps they don’t want to be an ambassador. Perhaps they just say, “Oh my gosh, that art program was unbelievable,” or, “You need a little help with your art program. Maybe I could come in and help with the kids one day a week, something like that.” So a second date or third date or fourth date with them along what we call the cultivation superhighway would be focused on something that really matters to them. So beyond the art program. And they’re very customized, this whole process. We don’t just generically invite them back to a group event. So it’s more like a major gifts program at a bigger university or hospital setting, where each of the contacts is highly customized.

But after a sufficient amount of dating, shall we say, it’s time to do the asking. Guess who is going to be hosting the tables at the free one hour ask event? It’s going to be all the people who were the ambassadors from the prior 12 months. Every single table at this ask event is going to be hosted by someone who’s already brought a group of people to the tour. So one of our metrics is that 100% of your table captains have been ambassadors and 40% minimum of the guests at their table are people who have attended a point of entry in the prior year. Minimum 40%. We’d like that to be 100%.

In fact, at the first ask event that I put on for the school I worked with in Seattle where this was all developed, we had 85% of the people who had been, 85% of the guests at the ask event here were people who had been to a point of entry in the prior 12 months, and therefore when it came time to do the pitch part of the ask event . . .

So this ask event is one hour. It’s a breakfast or lunch. It’s very highly formalized. There’s a script for it. There’s a whole process. It’s all in the book. It starts with a welcome from your visionary leader and a key talk about the vision for the organization. There’s a seven-minute video here. There’s no video up here in the point of entry. No video at all, no video. But there is a video that you must have at the ask event. And then there are live testimonials down here, too, live testimonials, one or two, and then we culminate with an ask, with a pitch.

And this is a sample of the pledge card that I used at the school when I did the ask event. Now, these, this is kind of marked up a little bit, so let me explain it. It didn’t have all this red stuff in circles on it.

But the pitch that, the person who asked for the money was, in this case, one of our board members. And he came out and told his story about how he’d been connected to the organization. Because everyone who speaks at either the point of entry or the ask event must have a true personal connection. Everything is very relational in the model.

So he came up, he told how he’d gotten involved with the school. He was amazing. And he said, “We know that many of you didn’t know how much we were going to ask you for today. You only came to this breakfast because your friend invited you. So when we thought about what to ask you for, we realized we ought to just tell you what we really need.”

And he went on to tell them that we had given raises to the teachers, causing a shortfall in the operating budget of about $600,000, and we had about 600 kids at the school. He said, “If you believe in what you’ve seen today and you’d like to help to support the ongoing operations of the school into the future, you have an opportunity to become what we’re calling a founding member of our new giving society that we’re just launching called the Sponsor-A-Student Society. Now I’d like to ask the table captains to pass out the pledge cards. You see, there was no pledge card conveniently waiting at your seat so you could fill it out and leave early.”

He said, “Let me walk you through this. Box #1 says if you’d give us $1000 a year for each of the next five years, you’d be sponsoring one student.” Now, he said, he went on several times, he said, “This is just a gimmick. We’re not going, you don’t really get a student. We’re going to use your money for the electric bill for the lights, the gas for the school buses, for the teachers’ salaries. You don’t really get a student. We’re just calling it that.”

Out of 850 people who came to the event, 115 of them checked this box. Now, the IRS requires you must report all pledges as if they are received on the day they are pledged. Therefore by IRS standards, we had just raised over $500,000.

He went on. He said, “We know some of you are capable of giving more. If you’d give us $10,000 a year for five years, we’ll sponsor 10 students.” Eight people did that. And $25,000 a year for five years, four more people did that.

He paused and said, “I want to thank those of you who’ve just become founding members of our giving society. Now I’d like to ask the rest of you who may not have checked off a box yet to tell us in Box 4 how much you’d like to give and for how many years.” So it was a fill in the blanks box. People could say $100 once. They might say $50 three times. Whatever they wanted to give was absolutely fine.

The last box, he, we had it already typed in. It said, “Please contact me. I have other thoughts to share.” This was for the people who, even if they had checked one of the top boxes, might have other ideas. Maybe they wanted to sell real estate, transfer property or stock, just give you some good advice, have you come meet with their foundation. We were very happy to give them a call.

So when you stand back and take a look, from fewer than 130 people out of 850, which is less than 15% of the people that were there that day, we had raised nearly $1.5 million when you include the pledges. And I wanted to know why.

So I got back on the phone and I started to call all the people who had just given money at the ask event, all the people in those top three boxes, the day after the ask event, and I said, “Thank you so much for coming. What did you think?” I was quiet and I listened. It’s a good thing I was. They all told me the same thing. They said, “If I had known how great that event was going to be, how terrific your school was, or that I was going to be giving you all that money, I would have invited other people.”

That seems to be the natural human response when people feel they’ve made a real contribution from their heart, from their abundance, as opposed to a one-time gift out of being pressured or feeling guilty to help a friend out in a pinch. And I started to ask them more. They started telling me the names of their friends. “It’s my daughter-in-law, my next-door neighbor, my buddy from the health club.” I was writing down the names of all these people I’d never heard of.

And finally I caught myself. I said, “You know, here it is, the day after this ask event where you just gave so generously. We’re thinking we ought to have this event again next year. Would you be willing right now, while you’re excited about this, to agree to be a table captain at next year’s ask event, and you would have between now and next year at this time to do the fourth and final step, introduce those other people. How can you do that? By becoming an ambassador. You invite them to the point of entry. You host those points of entry. We will do the follow-up.”

About 50% of the people in the follow-up call decide that they don’t want to go forward with you, and that’s what we call, those people we bless and release them and let them go completely. But the ones who do want to stay involved, we cultivate with some more of those dates and personalized contacts, so by the time they’re sitting at your table next year, they are going to be the people really well-cultivated and ready to give.

And that’s why our prediction is that 10% — this is one of our main formulas — at least 10% of all the guests at the ask event will join the giving society at one of those bigger levels. They will join, at least 10% of the people. So we had way more than that here. We had a lot more. But only, what we want is 10% of all of these people. So if we had had 10% here of 850, we would’ve had 85 people, and you can see we had a lot more than that. But a minimum of 10% will join at one of those top three levels. That’s one of our key metrics, 10%. Okay?

So the next day, as I say, people started getting really, really excited about this school, and by the second year, we had an ask event that was equally productive with all new table captains. We didn’t have any of the same people come back unless they had been an ambassador again in the middle year. Each year you start with new people, because the goal of the model is to then cultivate these multi-year donors, the people who’ve made these bigger gifts. We don’t just wait for them to pay off their pledge and call them on Year 6, Year 5, and say, “Would you like to re-up?” We begin to cultivate them more deeply right off the bat for larger gifts if they’re interested, or to get involved in some other way. So the model is really about building a major gifts program. This is a pipeline-filling system for major gifts, okay?

So to move forward with this, let me go on. Let’s talk about three roles that involve all your board members. So, first of all, these are three roles that do not involve asking for money. You don’t see anything on here that says the board members ever have to ask for money. They do not have to ask at all. But we want them to invite people to points of entry. Ideally every one of your board members would become an ambassador and they would invite people to your points of entry.

Now, is that required in the model? No. We do not require board members do anything at all. I’ll tell you a little bit more about the team members in a minute. But board members, just, board members that you currently have, if you say to them, “We want to do this Benevon thing,” and they say, “Whoa, what do I have to do now?” The answer is nothing different than what they’re already doing. Our goal would be that after you’ve designed a great point of entry event that’s sizzling and moves everybody to tears because it’s so inspiring about your mission, you would invite all the board members to attend that point of entry event, perhaps right before a board meeting one evening, and they would all be very inspired.

And you would do the follow-up call with them just like you would with anybody else. One by one they would get a follow-up call. You’d ask them what did they think of it and get their feedback. And hopefully many of them would agree to become ambassadors. They would say, “This is why I got on the board in the first place. That was amazing. I loved that tour, and I’ve got a group of my own at my office I can invite, or a group from my friends or my children’s school.” Like that. So you want to, one of the main roles for board members that they could do — these are optional — is to invite people to points of entry.

The second role is down here: thanking recent happy donors. How many of you have ever received a thank you call from a board member after you’ve made a gift? People remember that. What we find is that many people will say, “Yeah, I did,” and not enough people say that, because board members are not often asked to do that.

We have one group, they have little, at one of their board retreats, they passed out little file cards with the name of a donor and a phone number and gave those to each board member, and on the break in the morning, they had — it was a Saturday morning retreat — they asked each board member to go out and just call the donor on that card and just say thank you for being a donor.

And people came back, and they were so jazzed. They realized, wow, we have a lot of support out there. And people will remember that a board member calls them. The next year when it comes time to give again, not only will, they will certainly remember that someone noticed, and perhaps they’ll get more involved in their giving and in other ways.

And the third way, the third role for board members, is that we would like to be able to say that 100% of the board gives. Now, we don’t ask board members to ask for money. Remember, I said no asking. If they want to, they may, and I’ll talk about that in a minute. But we do want you to be able to say to your community that 100% of your board gives money. And my feeling is that that needs to be a personal gift from the board members, not get it from their company. That would be lovely if they want to get it from their company also. But the giving, you need to be able to tell your community that 100% of your board members give.

And we say there should be no minimum for that. Excuse me. No minimum. We don’t want to have it be, like, $1000 every board member must give, or $10,000, or $20,000, whatever some groups do. Because we want to have all kinds of diversity on boards, and many board members have many other gifts to give besides money. But we do want to be able to say that 100% give personally, okay? So that gives you a sense of the three roles for board.

Actually, let me just say one more thing about board members that do like to ask, because some board members will say, you know, “I’m not shy. I’ve got no problem with that. I ask all the time. That’s what we had to do on my last board,” kind of thing. We say that is great if they want to do that, but please ask them, if you’re going to use the Benevon model, to hold off until you have cultivated people properly, until you’ve brought them through all that dating process and they really are ready to be asked.

Too often those people who, the board members who say, “I’m not shy. I’ll go out and ask anybody. You know, give me a list.” Those are the people who are going to be often pressuring friends and colleagues who will not become lifelong donors with you. They’ll just be giving as a way to pay back or do a favor to their friend on the board. I don’t think I need to say more on that. My guess is that you know most of that.

Okay, so let’s look at our Top 10 checklist for involving your board in the fundraising process. This is right out of the book on Page 51. This is quite a popular section in the book.

First of all, when it comes to fundraising, what are your biggest concerns about your board? Biggest concerns. What would you say are you most worried about about your board? They don’t do it, they do too much of it, they’re burned out, they dodge my calls, they say they’re going to go and talk to three major donors, but they don’t do it.

What percentage of your total board members would you rate as truly passionate about your work? And I have found this to be a really revealing question in all the years I’ve been doing this. People will often, groups, I mean, think about it. Think of groups that many people would assume certain organizations, board members, would be extremely passionate, like, 100%, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten 100% when I’ve asked this of a nonprofit team. Maybe 80%, 90%. But most people say 40, 35% of the board are really passionate.

And what percentage understand the Benevon model? What percentage understand the Benevon model and are eager to participate in its implementation? Not just how many have heard of the model or nod their heads pleasantly when you discuss point of entry events and ask events.

So this may be a bit premature, this question, but this is a sheet that we use for groups that are actively implementing our model, because they’ll often say, you know, the board members this or that, but I say, “Well, do they even understand the model? Have you really talked to them about the depth of this and the power of this to engage people long-term?” Which is really what most board members want in terms of their legacy. They want to be able to walk away and know that the organization is being sustained by people who really love it and love its mission. Have you told them, in other words, that this model is not really about fundraising? It’s really about engaging people in the mission.

Next, what percentage of total board members have attended your organization’s point of entry event? Again, you’ve got to get them all there. They don’t have to do anything after that, but you want them all to attend, and the easiest way to do that is to host one point of entry event that’s right before or after a pre-scheduled board meeting.

What percentage of your board members have invited others to attend? So this is a good sign of their deep engagement. If they love it, that’s great, but if they say, “I’ve got a group back at the office . . . ” So many times board members will think, “Oh, here it comes. You know, get out the Rolodex, one more time I’ve got to do this or that.”

But we don’t really want necessarily for them to put together a special thing in their home or a special thing with hand-chosen, the right people. We’re very fine with them if they’ve got a group at their office, maybe they do a brown bag series at their office where they invite in a nonprofit every month to speak, and you could bring the whole point of entry with the stories, the myths, the facts, the needs, all the pieces of the point of entry, which I did not go into in great detail, but it’s all detailed in the book. Maybe you could bring, you bring all that to their office and put on what we call a point of entry in a box.

And then what percentage of your board members have been involved in thanking donors, and what percent give money personally? So that would be a checklist just to kind of get you going on how we feel that these would be kind of baseline levels of engagement, how to measure your level of engagement of your board.

Oh, sorry, here’s a couple more. Have you completed a treasure map interview with each board member once a year? What’s that? So a treasure map interview, this is kind of fun. This is, a treasure map is where you put the name of the board member in the middle, and then sitting with them, usually I’ve done this over coffee or lunch, well, just talk with them and kind of go, “Now, tell me . . . ” And you can do this verbally. You don’t have to draw it out at the lunch table on a napkin. But you can if you want to.

But who is there in your world? You know, you’ve got your family and friends, you’ve got maybe neighbors over here, you’ve got your work colleagues up here. You’ve got a faith group over here. You’ve got yoga or book club over here. Maybe you’ve got an alumni association or your kid’s school. So people have a natural network of people.

And you want to do that with them with the goal of having them, ideally, agree to become an ambassador if they’d like to. And again, the easiest way for someone to be an ambassador is to invite a ready-made group of people, like the whole faith group, or the whole alumni association, or the whole book club. You want to have that all . . . it’s a lot easier for people than to have to go and find 10 or 15 other people. If they agree to be an ambassador, they need to host and fill a point of entry event with at least 10 people, so to do that people have to come up with maybe 20 people to start with, but they may want to start over here with friends and family. But you kind of brainstorm with your board members, who is in their personal network?

Number 9, what is your plan to increase or retread your board members’ passion? What are you going to do about it, anyway? How are you going to do that? We have an example of, we call this the passion retread exercise. We do this at all of our workshops, which people come to with a team of board members and volunteers and staff. I was at one of these workshops last week and often there’ll be, like, 7 to 10 people on a team, and often they don’t all know one another. You know, the board members don’t necessarily know some of the staff, and the staff don’t necessarily know some of the volunteers, like that.

So to get everybody on the same page for the big work that this is to implement, we do what we call a passion retread exercise where we ask people to share a little more personally what got them involved in this organization in the first place, and what is their personal connection to the mission? And even sometimes people say, “Well, I just needed a job,” or, “I was looking for somewhere to volunteer.” But then we say, “Well, what got you into volunteering in the first place,” or why did you get into human services, or the environment, or healthcare, whatever aspect of their work.

So we want people to bond and get a little closer because it reminds them of why they’re involved. One of the very first times I did this was with, I was working with a group of the American Lung Association, and I was at one of their board meetings, and we did this after dinner, and I remember saying, you know, “Who would like to start?” And this one man raised his hand. He was clearly kind of the old curmudgeon in the group. He’d been on the board for a long time, and everybody kind of rolled their eyes when I chose him to go first.

And he said, right away he said, “I know exactly why I’m on the board here. I know exactly why I got involved.” He said, “When my son Johnny was nine years old, he died in my arms from asthma.” And he said, “I vowed in that moment that no other parent should have to experience that kind of a tragic loss, and I’ve given my whole life to working to eradicate and eliminate asthma, death from asthma.”

And everybody just sat up straight and really listened and had a lot more respect for him out of that. You know, you can put up with a lot in people once you really know what their motivations are, what’s driving it, and why they’re really involved. So this bonds the team a lot to be able to increase, to retread their passion. And we do that same exercise at board meetings. Like I said, that’s what we did with the Lung Association.

And then number 10, do you have an annual board fundraising retreat where each board member signs a board agreement outlining the options and requirements for participation? Now, some of you may be saying, “Yeah, we do that.” Well, think about it, because I’ve looked at a lot of those forms, and some of them are three pages, single spaced, size 5 font, and you can barely read it, and it feels like an IRS kind of, some kind of a scary form, and people will immediately just sign it to be done with it. That is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about, have you really made it clear to people what you expect?

And I have, in the book, there’s a whole list of what we recommend that is expected of board members, but let me go through this board retreat sample agenda first. This is a 90-minute retreat agenda. Again, this is in the book on page 55. This is how you would bring this whole conversation into being.

So you’d start with a passion retread exercise after the welcome and introductions. I just explained how that works. Then you’d introduce a legacy statement that your team created. So this is in the book also, but this is a handout that we use in our workshops, also. So at the workshops, when groups come to our workshop, we have them, when they’re all sitting right around the table, look deeply at what is the legacy they want to leave, and then quantify that with very specific metrics. So we want them, the team, when they come back from the workshop, we want them to share that with the board, obviously, at the retreat, because the legacy, the whole financial legacy piece is something the board obviously is very concerned about.

Then we want you to review the model, the Benevon model. So we have each group just customize the model for them. So instead of saying point of entry, they would say it’s an open book tour for a literacy group. And explain to them how the model works.

And then you want to go over your financial goals with them. Tell them what are you aiming for in all these categories. You want the board to understand that.

And then introduce the whole concept of ambassadors and make a quick treasure map with the board, not the one that I showed you. The one I showed you was for each individual board member. But you would do one with the name of the organization in the middle, and then around the organization, you’d put all the different pieces of your board. You’ve got an organization. It would have board members, it would have volunteers, it would have parents and teachers or clients, it might have community, other groups in the community, government groups, etc. So that would be an example of a quick treasure map that you would make right there with the board.

And then have each board member make a personal treasure map and identify at least 15 people they could invite, and then review the board agreement document and have some discussion. Okay?

So here’s the job description for an ambassador. I wanted to be sure to include this. Again, this is in the book, page 83. But ambassadors are short-term volunteers who open doors for the organization. This is the thing you most need. More than donors, you need people who are going to open doors by inviting people to points of entry.

So an ambassador, like I said, hosts or brings 10 to 15 guests to a point of entry annually. And it can be in someone’s home or office. It can be at a regularly scheduled . . . or it still can be in your office or at a point of entry in a box. And let them know what it’s all about. In fact, let them know that you really would love it if they, well, the whole time they’re there, they’re thinking about who else they might know.

I tell a story about my sister who came to the very first point of entry that I did at the school, and she is an artist. She’s not really super involved in education much. And she said to me when I invited her, “Why are you even inviting me to this? You know I’m not going to give you money for this.” And I said, “I know, but you’re my sister, and this is what we do for each other. You’re going to tell me the truth about how I’m doing at putting this tour together. And you will not be asked for any money there, but I’ll want you to be thinking of other people. Maybe you know other people that I should be inviting to these.”

And sure enough, when I called her to follow up, she said, “I’m not able to get more involved, like I told you, but I’ve got a group of women that I have coffee with on a regular basis, and I think a few of those women would be interested in education.”

Now, why did my sister tell me that? She told me that because the tour itself, the point of entry event, the mission tour that I’d walked her through for that one hour, was powerful enough that she was very moved by it. No one could not be moved by it. It was, by the time people, by the time we were ready for real-time showtime, it was really, really good. So she trusted that, she could trust that her friends would not be mad at her for bringing them to something that wasn’t worth it, and in fact that some of her friends who are interested, were interested in education would perhaps want to get involved, which is what she did.

So she, [inaudible 00:38:51] my sister actually became an ambassador, even though I sort of blessed and released her, she said, “Well, let me just bring the whole group there before our next coffee meeting in a couple weeks.” And out of that, three of her friends became ambassadors and very heavily involved with the school. So definitely don’t presume anything. Let people know in advance that what your big, what your greatest need is is for more people to help you spread the word.

And then an ambassador can also, if they would like, attend the free feel-good cultivation events. What are those? Those are those mission-focused events you’re already doing anyway. We don’t want you, if you’re going to use the Benevon model, to cook up some new events that you don’t need to be doing any more events than you’re already doing. What we want is to look at what program-related events you already have.

For example, at the school, we’re a school, so guess what we got to do once a year? A graduation. Our free feel-good event was not just to say to the donors, “Come to the graduation.” In addition to that, we planned a reception in the small room next door to the big auditorium where the principal came and spoke about the test scores and the grade point average. He got into some of the numbers and statistics about how proud he was of where the kids were all going off to school next. And then we had a grandmother and her grandson talk about the impact of the school on their lives, and then everybody was invited to go in the big room.

So that free feel-good cultivation event serves as kind of a point of re-entry. It’s kind of not the first point of entry, but a subsequent point of entry, and we did follow-up after that, just like we did after a first-time point of entry. So we would love it if your ambassadors, if they would like to, would come to your free feel-good events. That’s just an optional thing.

Now, length of service, it says one year, but we really would like it to be all over within two or three months. People are excited. Get them right into the game of being an ambassador. You know what happens when we say we’ll do something within a year. We don’t even start thinking about it until month number 11 and a half, right?

Okay, team member job description. So this is if people say, “I really want to be on the Benevon team.” This is not all board members. When we train groups in our Benevon programs, where they actually pay us and come to a two-day workshop and we coach them for a year, we require the following for team composition. And if you were to try this on your own using the books, you would want to have this same composition, which is you’d want to have your executive director, which is what we refer to as your visionary leader, VL. Your team leader, who is . . . team leader, sorry, that’s an L. Your team leader is usually the development staff member who will be coordinating the effort.

Then we want to have one other staff member. You can decide who that would be. That might be another program person. It might be a marketing person. So one more staff member. And then two board members. One staff, two board members who really want to do this. So not all the board, but two board members who say, “This is my thing.” Maybe there’s someone who’s been helping you with a gala or the golf, or maybe there’s someone who’s so tired of the gala and golf that they say, “I’ll do anything so we don’t have to do that again. I want to be on that team.”

And then the rest of the people to get, so this is one person here, one here, that’s three, five, so the rest of the people leading you all the way to 7 to 10 people should be someone who is not on the staff. That would need to be other board members or other volunteers. Perhaps it’s donors. So you want to get a whole great mixed team of people. But each one of them, after they come to . . . you should have them watch the free video, come to a Benevon live session. We do a lot of those. In some way, they’ve got to understand the model, learn about the model.

And then they need to come to one point of entry event themselves and then agree . . . you don’t want anybody to agree to be an ambassador until they’ve experienced it themselves. And bring 10 friends. So everybody who’s on your Benevon team, on your, what we call sustainable funding team — which should really only be probably two or three board members, not all your board, unless they want to be on it — would agree to be an ambassador and host point of entry right away.

Then they’d agree to make a personal treasure map with you twice a year and add names to the list, not necessarily that they’re going to host two points of entry, but they’re going to at least host one, and maybe out of their treasure map come up with other names of friends who could be ambassadors.

They’re going to make thank you calls. They’re going to come to free feel-good events. They’re going to take on other special roles if you’d like them, if they’d like to, like being a greeter at your points of entry. They’re going to come to a Benevon monthly team meeting that you’re going to have, and then ideally they will serve as a table captain at the ask event and fill their table with all of their other guests who’ve come to a point of entry.

So this is in the book. It’s very important. The team member job description, okay?

And then let me talk a little bit about some of the resources that are available through Benevon, and we’ll come back and open up for questions. So first of all, we’ve got the books, and there’s a whole library set available. This is only available on our website. The book I’ve been referring to is this one right here, “The Step-by-Step Guide to Getting It Right.” I believe it’s $79.95. And this is all sold kind of as a package deal for, I think it’s $125.95. And that includes this book, which is quite popular, “Missionizing Your Special Events: How to Build a System of Events That Engages Donors Who Will Stay With You for Life.”

I mean, how many of you put on events? I’m assuming most of you are raising your invisible to me hand right now saying, “Oh my gosh, yes, we put on a lot of events.” Well, what if you could extract the best elements of those events and then infuse the events with other elements of the Benevon model so that each event, if you do decide to keep it, would forward your depth of relationship with individual donors?

Many groups, in fact, in the book, there’s something we call, I think there are 17 soul-searching questions about events, special events. You know, the key question, one of the key questions is, if someone were to come in and write you a check for the full amount that your event nets, would you keep doing that event? Would you keep putting on that event? And some of you are saying, “Yes, we would. It’s worth it to us. We don’t really care how much money it raises.” Or, “It really raises a lot of money, and we would not change that event.” And others are saying, “Oh my gosh, for the amount of work that thing is, we would get rid of it in a heartbeat if we had something better, something that would deepen relationships.”

And then in the middle here is the video, which is free on our website. I should have mentioned that at the beginning. So it’s a free video of me presenting a session live in one of the cities that we work in, a little two-hour session that we do. This is the one-hour excerpt of the model. It’s actually 55 minutes long. And it is free. There’s no reason why you would have to buy it, but a lot of people want it and they get the whole set. So this is available on our website.

We also have . . . there they are. There’s the videos. I mentioned that already. And Bloomerang, Steven didn’t say enough. I’m super proud of this. We have a special relationship with Bloomerang and a special software product that they have customized for the Benevon model. So it’s got all the processes that I just described to you built right in. It’s got the point of entry. It’s got the follow-up calls. It’s got a whole bunch of stuff about the ask events and about the cultivation process.

And you know, those of you who are followers or users of Bloomerang, how big they are on donor retention, just like Benevon is about long-term sustainable funding and sustainability of donors, building relationships. So it was very easy for Bloomerang to get it about what we do and to infuse our practices and processes into their software in a very usable, user-friendly, and I will say inexpensive way. So we have a lot of groups that work with Benevon that use the Bloomerang for Benevon software.

And then we have live introductory sessions, so we have one going on right now, in fact, in Tacoma, Washington, but these are some other cities that we go to. These are just little two-hour sessions where we’ll come out and do an introductory seminar free to all nonprofits. So if you live near any of those places, we add new ones all the time, so keep checking on our website for more of these sessions. And then we have conference calls and webinars like this, so other conference calls that we do. Some of you may be self-implementing the Benevon model, and we’re offering some special webinars just for you.

And we encourage people. If you want to try it on your own, try it. Use the books. That’s what the books are for. Many people find that that works really well for them, and some decide, nope, they want to come to one of our workshops. So these are the dates of the upcoming workshops that we have. This is a two-day workshop. And if you want more information about that, I believe there’ll be a little pop-up question at the end to ask you to let us know about that.

Okay, so Steven, I think I’m ready to take questions if you want to open up for questions.

Steven: Great, yeah. We’ve got a lot here, probably more than we can get to before the hour here, but we’ll try to answer as many as we can. And if you haven’t asked something, please feel free to do so, because I’m sure Terry would be happy to answer questions offline, as well. Hope that’s okay, Terry, that I just offered that for you.

Terry: Yes, that’s fine. Um-hum. You bet.

Steven: Okay, good. You’re always a good sport.

So it seems like the two things here are getting the board involved and thanking people is a really big piece. And we had a lot of questions around that idea. We’ve got one from Shannon here I thought was interesting. Shannon’s been with her organization for just about a year, and they haven’t gotten the board engaged in doing this sort of thank you process. How far back can they go if they start? Should they just start with recent donors? Should they go back a year, multiple years? What do you think about that?

Terry: I think a year is a good amount to go back.

Steven: Okay.

Terry: It kind of depends on how many donors they have, Shannon. I mean, how many donors you have. I mean, if we’re talking about hundreds of donors a month, that’s a lot of people. If it’s maybe you, I don’t know, maybe you have 200 donors a year, then yeah, I would go back a full year, and I would stratify probably based on dollar level, and I would be very careful who I have call which people. I mean, definitely some of those people probably should’ve been called long ago by perhaps the CEO or somebody key on the board. You may have some apologizing to do.

But if you don’t, if you’ve sent them nice letters and you just never called them to thank them, I would say start with the largest donors and kind of work your way down. But yeah, about a year going back is good.

Steven: Okay.

Terry: It’s never too late. Having said that, it’s never too late, though. I mean, it could be five years later. And a lot of groups will use the point of entry process as kind of a good reason to call donors. We call these separate silo donors, donors who have been giving to you for many years, and they don’t know at all about your use of the Benevon model if you decide to use it, so it’s a nice way to call them and say, “We’re going to have a special point of entry.” You wouldn’t call it a point of entry. A special story hour, or whatever you’re going to call it, just for people like you who’ve been long-term supports of ours, and invite them to attend that.

Steven: Yeah. And the second piece I was thinking is the event side. So we’ve got a lot of people asking about the event, and specifically the timing. So we are doing this in late June, if you happen to be listening to the recording of this later on, so we’re actually probably getting close to the time where we’re planning our year end events. So, Terry, say someone wanted to do these type of events, the point of entry and the ask events and those kind of things. How do they fit into sort of that maybe already pre-established sort of year end event schedule? Should they replace them? Should they be side by side? How do you think people can kind of fit these in in the sort of third and fourth quarters of the year?

Terry: Okay, great. Great question. So to do the full Benevon model, you need a year. You need 9 to 12 months of at least two points of entry per month in order to get the metrics to have enough people to come to an ask event of about 200 people, which is our minimum size, and make the money that we’re talking about. Our average group, the groups we train — I don’t track all the ones that do it on their own — but the groups we train raise about an average of $200,000 the first year in cash and pledges. Please don’t hear that as just go fill a table, you know, gee, we’re already doing our gala in the fall, or our whatever holiday event.

Steven: Right.

Terry: Let’s just get people to give. This has got to be, it’s all in, the internal metrics have to be met. So the groups that came last week to the training that we did in Detroit are putting on their ask event next year in the spring.

Steven: Okay.

Terry: If groups are wanting to put on their ask event in the fall, they would need to have already been starting this. So I would say don’t try this by the fall. It’s way too soon. Do what you’re already doing.

Steven: Yeah.

Terry: But for next year, like, when we do our normal intake process, Steven, when we talk to people who want to, who are thinking about coming to Benevon, we ask them every little question about golf, what day, what month is the golf in, what month is this in, what month is this in? And if, in fact, they’re doing a breakfast or a lunch kind of an event, and they say, “Well, wow, we aren’t getting the kind of results you’re talking about, and we never did those point of entry things very well,” then we may say to them, “Would you consider switching your event that you do as a breakfast in the fall or the spring to become a true Benevon-style ask event? And if so, you’re going to have to work backwards a year to get ready for it.”

So having said all that, if they already have events planned for the end of this year, I would recommend not changing them, but infusing them with some of the principles of the model. Definitely do not ask for the five-year pledges there unless you were already doing that. I wouldn’t just pop the question in a whole new way to people just because you’ve just listened to this webinar.

Steven: Yeah.

Terry: Because you will get a lot of people upset with you. But you can begin to, for example, if people have an auction and there’s a, what do they call it, fund a need at the auction, where people make kind of an open bid, they give money just to really basically, it’s a contribution to the organization. To me, that’s a sign that those are donors who really care about the organization. They didn’t need to get the bottle of wine or the free trip or the not so free trip. But those people need to be cultivated as if they are potential individual donors.

So, for example, if you were to have, let’s say you have an October auction kind of gala, the donors who give to that fund a need item might be people that you can invite afterwards to a point of entry that might be hosted by someone whose table they sat at, so that you can start treating them as if they’re going to become really the very precious major donors that you’d like them to be, instead of treating them as if they are a one-time kind of episodic event donor. Okay?

Steven: Yeah.

Terry: And the other thing I’d say, I’ve written quite a bit about holiday giving and all the things that begin to consume us as holidays come, and I don’t even really want to think about it yet, but it is almost July.

Steven: It is.

Terry: And then we sort of are on the slippery slope towards Christmas before you know it. But because there’s so much giving at holiday time, because there’s so much socializing at holiday time, it’s a great time to set up your points of entry for the start of the next year. If you’re standing around the punch bowl with someone and they’re saying, you know, “Boy, that . . . ” You know, “How’s your year gone, Bill?” And Bill says, “You know, I’ve just retired, and I’ve got some time now, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life.” You know, “Okay, great. Well, I’d love to catch up with you, because I’ve got some ideas for you.” And right away you’re going to be in touch talking about, come to a point of entry and perhaps be an ambassador.

So once you kind of get this way of thinking in your head, you begin to see opportunities in things you’re already doing that could feed this model so well that don’t require you to erase the slate and start over with this.

Steven: Yeah. You read my mind exactly. I was going to ask you how you could incorporate those kinds of things into existing events. So that’s great.

We’ve probably got time for a couple more questions. If you haven’t sent one in, please do so, because we’ll definitely get them to Terry offline.

Here’s one from Tina. Tina is completely redesigning her development department. So established organization, over 15 years, but they’re kind of blowing up the whole department and starting from scratch. What would you recommend, Terry, that she do in terms of a first hire and sort of a first couple maybe tasks or big projects? Do you have any experience with working with orgs who’ve you’ve worked with that have completely started over from scratch?

Terry: Yes, actually, I was talking to another one today. I don’t think it was your organization, Tina. And it’s hard for me to answer without knowing the answer to many other questions about the size and scale and how much you’re already doing in major gifts. But the traditional organization we work with is not doing very much in major gifts. They’re doing a lot of events and grant writing and direct mail, and they’re not really doing the individual giving.

And unless you have a significant major gifts program, I would say if you do want to use the Benevon model, you don’t need to hire a full-on, super-experienced, university-type major gifts person. Those people are expensive, and they’re wonderful, and they know how to produce major gifts. But if you’re wanting to build a pipeline, I would recommend that you bring in a little more junior person who’s open to learning a new model, a new process, and the first thing I would have them do is get going on finding ambassadors who can host points of entry.

Because again, there’s no organization, I mean, we work with a lot of organizations, and a lot of them are brand names that you would all know. And let me tell you, like I said at the beginning, the whole myth, the fantasy of, “Oh, well, if we only had that board,” it’s just not true. They are all still saying, “People don’t understand what they do. Even though we are a name, they don’t know all that we do.”

So if you could get points of entry going, you will immediately start seeing money, and you can even invite your big prior donors, those separate silo donors, to attend those points of entry and deepen your relationship with them.

Steven: Love it. Well, I think we’re almost about out of time. There’s one last question — I don’t want to ignore it — from Vicky. Vicky does not have a board, so they are a type of organization where they’re not able to do so, which I know is not completely unheard of, but not too common. Can all this work without a board? Is it a matter of, Terry, of just maybe going out and getting those volunteers, the kinds of ambassadors that you recommended?

Terry: Yeah. Yeah. What I’d recommend is, and if you don’t have a board, Vicky, you probably are just getting started. You may not even have put something together. And I’d definitely say you can do points of entry in people’s homes. You can do them in church basements. I mean, if you’ve got a vision for an organization, or a mission that you want to start something of, other people in your community probably would love to hear about that. So you can definitely start by, with just a group of volunteers that would be ambassadors, and the model, this model will generate board members.

We have groups, we have one group, 27 board members. They’ve been with us for nine years. And all the board members cycled through, and all the new board members, all 27 were people who had innocently been invited to points of entry by friends in the community, and each one of those 27, one by one, fell in love with the mission, didn’t know there was a system behind it, became an ambassador, became a table captain, became a major donor, and ultimately said, “How do I get on the board here?” That’s what you could build, Vicky, if you were to follow the process.

Steven: Very cool. Well, we’re about out of time. I know we didn’t get to all the questions, but Terry, is it okay for people to email you? I guess I can put your email address in the packet online.

Terry: Yes, that’d be fine. That’d be absolutely fine, yeah.

Steven: It’s terry@benevon.com?

Terry: Yeah. Um-hum. Thank you all.

Steven: Cool.

Terry: Thank you so much for having me, Steven. I’m really grateful. And do let us know if you’d like to hear from Benevon. I mean, we’d love to have more of you involved with us, and I certainly encourage you all to consider Bloomerang for Benevon. I think it’s just a fabulous product. Thank you so much.

Steven: Yeah, we agree. We love the model, and like I said, she just kind of gave it all away for free. They don’t charge to give the model away for free. I mean, it’s something that all of you listening can try. I think you should. Maybe ditch one of those events that you think is not going so well and try point of entry. I think it’ll work out for you. But definitely check out their books. They can help you with the model along the way.

And we’ve got some other great resources on our website, as well. Lots of free downloadables and ebooks, and our blog, of course, that Terry mentioned. Thanks for that shout-out. I appreciate it. And we’ve got, of course, our webinar series. We’re going to take a couple weeks off for the July 4th holiday, give my voice a break and our guests a break, as well. But we’re back here in just three weeks or so with Mazarine Treyz, and she’s going to go over the new Atlas of Giving results that just came out from their recent study. Going to be a really fun session, lots of data that will be helpful to any organization of any type and size, honestly. So check that out. We’ve got some other great webinars scheduled through July and August already, as well.

So hopefully we will see you next month. Look for the recording and the slides from me later on this afternoon. I’ll get that in your hands. But have a great rest of your Thursday, have a good weekend, and have a good summer vacation if you’re taking one, and hopefully we will talk to you again next month. So we’ll say bye for now.

Nonprofit Sustainability

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.