In this webinar, Terry Axelrod will show you how to identify, recruit, and support a self-sustaining pipeline of passionate ambassadors who will deeply engage individuals from the broader community in your organization’s mission.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Terry, I’ve got 1:00. Is it okay if I get started?

Terry: Absolutely.

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, “Recruiting Passionate Ambassadors for Your Mission.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I am the chief engagement officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get started. I want you all to know that we are recording this presentation, and we’ll be sending out that recording, as well as the slides, later on this afternoon. If you didn’t already get those, you’ll get both of them this afternoon no matter what. So don’t be shy if you maybe have to leave early or if you want to share the content later on with a colleague or friend. You’ll be able to do that. Have no fear. I’m going to be sending out all those goodies at the end of the presentation.

Speaking of the presentation, while you are listening, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your ReadyTalk interface. I know a lot of you already use that. That’s great. We love to have your questions and comments as we go along. We’re going to try to save as much time at the end for a Q&A. So don’t be shy about that at all. We’d love to have your questions and comments along the way.

You can use Twitter to do that in addition to or in place of that, for sure. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter stream, as well. And if you have any connection problems today, if you have any audio problems, specifically, these webinars are usually only as good as your own internet connection. We found that the quality by telephone is usually better. So if you have any trouble and if you don’t mind dialing in by phone, definitely think you should try that before you totally give up. If you don’t mind, there is a phone number in the email from ReadyTalk that you can use if you need it.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I want to say a special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday afternoon. We bring on a great guest like Terry for an informative and entertaining presentation. It’s one of our favorite things we do at Bloomerang, actually, but our main business is donor management software. So if you’re interested in that or maybe you’re thinking about switching sometime soon, you can check us out. Just visit our website. You can even download a quick video demo and see the software in action.

But for now, I’m excited to have back one of my favorite people ever, someone I’ve been getting to know over the last couple years or so, Terry Axelrod from Benevon. Hey, Terry, how’s it going?

Terry: Just great, Steven. Thanks so much for having me back.

Steven: Oh, yeah. Well, you’ve done a couple really awesome webinars for us already. They’ve been really popular sessions. So I couldn’t help but bring you back and talk more about what has actually become one of my favorite sort of fundraising and especially event models that I’ve seen, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I talk to, especially people who are doing like golf tournaments and kind of those blasé events everybody does. And she’s going to tell you way more about it than I do. I don’t want to steal any of her thunder. But she is the founder and CEO of Benevon. If you guys don’t know her or Benevon, definitely check them out.

One of my favorite things is they completely give away their entire model and secret sauce. You can, of course, pay them to help you with it, but they’re kind of like Bloomerang in the fact that we just like giving away a lot of free best practices and information.

She’s been at it over 30 years. She’s raised billions of dollars through the Benevon model. She’s worked as a fundraiser herself. She’s trained over 5,000 nonprofit teams with all the great info she’s going to share with you today. So I’m going to pipe down. I’ve already said too much. I’ve taken too much time. So Terry, tell us all about creating ambassadors, my friend.

Terry: Thank you so much, Steven. Hi, everybody. Just great to be here again. Really, welcome to everyone. And I will just say, full disclosure, that we have a great relationship with Bloomerang and, in fact, have developed a private label version of Bloomerang for Benevon, for any of you who are thinking about Bloomerang, which is a fantastic donor management software, web-based, inexpensive. As I tell everybody, if you can use a cell phone, you can use Bloomerang, and then it’s even better because it’s all customized for the Benevon model. So, end of commercial. Just wanted to say that.

So let me talk about what we’re really here to talk about today, recruiting passionate ambassadors for your mission. Let me go ahead and advance the slides. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Benevon model. I am going to give a quick overview of it because I want to talk about how to deeply engage the community.

So as Steven said, Benevon’s been around . . . we’re now 21 years old. We’ve worked with over 5,000 different nonprofit teams to customize our process, and it’s a process not really for fundraising, even though it raises a ton of money for groups, but it’s really a process for deeply engaging the community, bringing about something even beyond the culture of philanthropy. I’ll talk about that in a minute.

So, here’s today’s topic, “Recruiting Passionate Ambassadors for the Mission,” and I’m going to be speaking using examples from the book that I’ve written called “Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting It Right.” This book is available on our website only, not through Amazon. And I’ll say that again at the end. But I will reference a few page numbers, because I know some of you have already told me you have the book, so it’s right in there. And if you want more depth, you can get one of the books and follow along in there. And a lot of people use these who want to try self-implementing the model.

So I mention “culture of philanthropy.” Many of you may be familiar with this term. The slide is from the study that was done by CompassPoint in San Francisco called “Underdeveloped.” So this is kind of the new mantra in the nonprofit world, how to attain a culture of philanthropy. This is where people within the organization are ambassadors.

I think it kind of started in the healthcare world. I remember working with a hospital maybe 15, 20 years ago, and they said, “We want to bring Benevon in to help us develop a culture of philanthropy. We have doctors and nurses who don’t know how to handle the great gratitude of these patients who really say, ‘You’ve really changed my life. How can I ever thank you?’ And they’re just saying, ‘Well, we’re just doing our jobs.'” So they wanted people in the organization to act as ambassadors and engage in relationship-building, to know how to promote philanthropy and articulate a case for giving.

They wanted fund development to be viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program, not as sort of a separate silo off to the side. Although the worthy good work is being done by the good, hard-working nonprofit folks, and then there’s this fundraising office off to the side, they wanted that all to be valued the same way. They wanted organizational systems to be established to support donors so it wasn’t just a haphazard “Send in your check” or “come to a golf tournament,” and they wanted the top leader to be committed and personally involved in fund-raising.

So, what we found over the years at Benevon is that this is what’s happening, that this internal culture is coming around, and a lot of people think of us now, although we didn’t set out to be this, a lot of people think of us now as the pathway to a culture of philanthropy.

When I think of Benevon is a pathway to a culture of engagement, because the things that I was showing you in the prior slide really are very internal to the organization, and they’re the foundation. Until you get your own house cleaned up and people really aligned on philanthropy, it’s kind of hard to look outside. So the model I’m going to be discussing with you about this deep engagement of passionate ambassadors is really about bringing about a culture of engagement, which is the external community becoming so engaged that they’re the ones breathing oxygen into your mission and sustaining your organization for the long-term.

So how do you get to the culture of engagement? How do you get to those people outside the community? You can never really get there without having these passionate ambassadors, these people out in the community who love you, who really get it about your mission, and who will, in turn, introduce others, some of whom will become passionate.

So, as I go through this, I’m going to showcase five key metrics for how to engage people, and I’m going to go through this kind of quickly because I want to get to the part about the deeper engagement of the ambassadors.

So the Benevon model, for those who are familiar with it, is a circle. I think of it kind of like an old-fashioned toy train track on the floor where the donors get on at that Step 1, and you want them to stay on this track with you and go around and around. So it eventually becomes kind of a spiral up into major gifts.

First step is the Point of Entry, that one-on-one get-acquainted event, like a tour. We call it “a mission tour.” It’s not a tour of your facilities or your programs. It’s a mission tour. You choose three things, three programs in your organization, three. Excuse me. You take all that you do, take all the programs you have, like, let’s say you have 20 programs, and you divide them into three broad bucket areas, what we call “areas of impact” or “buckets.”

So, for a large human service organization it might be supporting individuals, strengthening families, building community, and those three broad buckets are the way that you shape everyone’s experience of your mission at your Point of Entry. You give them the facts, a deep emotional connection, and you capture their names, with their permission.

So everyone is invited to a Point of Entry by someone we call “an ambassador.” And we say, “If you want to deeply engage people, you want to have at least two of these sizzling Point of Entry events per month, each one hosted and filled with at least 10 guests by an ambassador.” So these are private tours. This is not “Put it on your Facebook” or “Put it on your website,” “Open to the public.” You can have those if you like, but that’s different than this. These must be hosted and filled by one person so that they’re inviting their whole book club or their yoga group, people that they know well, who are coming to please their friend.

So here’s the agenda. Just simply put . . . and there’s more of this on page 119 in the book. There’s a greeting, usually from, in our case, at the school where I started this, at the front door. Before we even started, a little child greeted people. There’s a little sign-in table. Everybody fills out a little card because they’ve been told in advance by the ambassador, “We’re all friends from book club. We help each other out. You’ve been hearing me talk about this wonderful school. I know you may not all be interested in education, but I’d love for you to come and see what we’re doing at this special inner-city school so that you can help me think of other people in your life who might want to know about this in the future, because the very best way you can help us is to spread the word, help us spread the word. And if you come, we won’t ask for any money there, but they’re going to want to call you one-time afterward to get your feedback and to see if you might, in turn, like to become an ambassador and help host one of these tours.”

So people know in advance they’re going to have to sign in, and are not put off by that. They each have a little personal card they fill out. And then, if they come early, they might look at photos on the walls. In our case, they watch the kids eating breakfast.

And then the bell rang, and the kids went off to class, and there we were in this rundown old lunchroom. The first person to speak was the ambassador who welcomes people and again says, “Thanks for coming, all of you, my friends in the book club. Like, as I’ve told you, I love this place, and here’s why I’m involved with the school. Here’s what hooked me about it, why I’m so passionate. And I really hope out of being here today you’ll be thinking about other people in your life who should know about it.” So it’s very clearly set up that the goal is “We want more ambassadors. We want people to know about this.”

Following that is a talk from the visionary leader. That’s the executive director, CEO. This is a tightly crafted five-minute talk. And then I won’t go into the details of that, but that’s all in the book. And then we get up and walk around, take a tour, three stops, each stop focusing on one of the bucket areas, with stories, myths, facts and it needs, ending with a live testimonial where someone talks about how your organization changed their life.

And then we come back to the main room. That’s usually where the live testimonial happens, and we have a thank you and wrap up from the ambassador who again says, “I hope you really see now why I love this place so much. And when Barbara calls you tomorrow or the next day, I really hope you’ll take her call and perhaps at that point be ready to say that you’ve got people in your workplace. We can even bring this out to your office, if you’d like, you’d like to be an ambassador also. Again, the very best way you can help us is by spreading the word.”

The second step in the model is that one-on-one follow-up call with every person who’s come to the Point of Entry within two or three days, and the metric for this is we want to generate at least one new volunteer ambassador out of each Point of Entry event. So out of every 10 to 15 people, we want one person, minimum, to say that they would like to become an ambassador.

Now, when I did this at the school, we ended up putting on Points of Entry more often than twice a month, quite a bit more often, and we ended up having way more than one ambassador out of every Point of Entry. In fact, now, the groups who work with Benevon, we have one group, the very first Point of Entry, all 10 people said they wanted to be an ambassador. The topic of this webinar is “Recruiting Passionate Ambassadors for Your Mission.” The very best way to recruit them is to invite them to a Point of Entry where they are truly moved and inspired by your mission.

If that Point of Entry is nice, if it’s just a nice little tour of the facilities or the programs, it is not going to be good enough for people to be willing to trust their friends to attend. So you’ve got to make sure that it really goes deep, and then you’ll get at least one new ambassador.

So the follow-up call has five steps: “Thanks for coming. What did you think?” Listen closely, and really listen for what are the hotspots the tour might have triggered. “Is there any way you can see yourself getting more involved with us?” Right there is where people will say, “I’ve already thought about it. I want to be an ambassador. I’ve got a group at my community college where I work,” or “My football buddies all come over on Monday nights. Can we do it before that?” or “Can I take them out for lunch afterwards with my ladies group?” whatever.

And then, “Is there anyone else you can think of?” And sometimes people right there will say that’s also where they want to become an ambassador. But many of the people will not want to be involved, 50%. In fact, we have a 50% bless and release rate. Those are 50% of the people will either tell you outright “I’m not interested” or nicely tell you they’re not interested or just not even call you back. So 50% bless and release. Do not worry about that, and do not ask for any money at the Point of Entry.

The next step is where, Step 3 in the model, where we do ask for money, but notice that’s not Step 1 or 2. We wait until the “fruit is ripe and,” so to speak. It’s Step 3. So everything between Steps 2 and 3 is what we call “the cultivation superhighway” where we hasten the whole process by contact. The more contacts you have . . . and I think of these contacts like a second dates, third dates. I think of a Point of Entry as a first date, where you don’t tell everything at a first date, right?

So the subsequent dates, once you find out what someone’s bucket area of interest is, what is their hot button, which of your program areas or mission areas are they most interested in, you invite them back for subsequent dates that are related to perhaps they want to meet a program person in charge of that program and that area. Perhaps they want to come to an event you’ve got going on for just the students who are putting on the music pageant, for example, something like that.

So you’ve got to be sure, and the story I tell is a lady who came to our school when I called her to follow up. The first thing she said was, “I’d love to get involved.” Actually, yeah, she sat on the board of the ballet in Seattle, and she said, “The ballet has a special program where they go into the schools and bring dance to the children in inner-city schools. I’d like to be the matchmaker. What do you think of that?” And I’m thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding, lady. We don’t even have any books in the school.” We did not have one book. We had no pencils, no paper, nothing in this school, and she was talking about ballet. And I realized that it was because I hadn’t made clear to her what our needs were.

Once I told her what we needed, she said, “Oh, let me see how I can help you,” and she proceeded to cultivate herself. She kind of managed the dating process, so to speak, herself, by inviting friends of hers to come to Points of Entry. So she used the ambassador process to deepen her relationship with the school. She put on Points of Entry, and her friends, when we would call them, all got more involved.

One had a big shoe store and donated shoes for every child every year. One had a big box store, and he donated a backpack and school supplies, which was incredible. She had friends who had a manufacturing company that made uniforms. They donated all those. And then friends on the sports team who built us a whole sports facility. It was unbelievable. As her friends got more involved, she got more involved. So by the time we were ready to ask her for money, she was kind of wondering, “Why hasn’t anybody asked me for any money yet?” She was out talking to her friends about our school, and she was ready to give.

So, in the model, there are two ways to ask, either one-on-one or it’s something we call “a free one-hour Ask Event.” Whichever way you ask, you want to include two ingredients, and here are the metrics for that. The ask event, if you do the Ask Event the second way on the right . . . because the model is really designed to build long-term major donors. So this is a major donor model, and it’s a pipeline-filling system for major gifts. So I’m going to talk for a minute here now about the way on the right, the free one-hour Ask Event, and we’ll talk about one-on-one asking in a minute, before we get to the full piece about ambassadors. But I want to set this up so that you have the context for what we’re trying to build here.

So the one-hour Ask Event has to have . . . every table captain at this event must have been a successful ambassador. Again, the whole point of ambassadors is that they’re engaging their friends in your work. Half of their people they invite, roughly, will be blessed and released, but the rest of them will be completing the dating process and be ready to attend the Ask Event as a guest of the same person who was their ambassador. So we don’t have any random table captains who filled the table at last year’s event. We only invite people who have been successful ambassadors this year. “Successful” meaning that they met that first metric, 10 or more guests. Okay? And they’ve done that in the prior 12 months.

And also that 40% of the guests at their table have come to a point of entry in the prior year. So we, minimum, minimum . . . at my first Ask Event we had 80%, and we raised a million and a half dollars because we had done the cultivation and dating so well, all orchestrated through the ambassador process.

So my Ask Event we aim to have 1,000 people and 100 tables of 10 each, but half the people, I figured, would be ripened fruit, the people ready to give, and the other half wouldn’t be. But if you imagine that you’re one of the people who’s not ready . . . Let’s just say that I’ve been an ambassador twice. I’ve had 30 people or 25 people come to Points of Entry, and half of them were blessed and released, and the remaining people were ready to come to the Ask Event but the day before the event a couple people backed out for various legitimate reasons and I’m down to two empty seats at my table of 10 and I call you because you’re a dear friend but you’ve never been to the Point of Entry, and I invite you to come and you’re thinking, “All right. I’ll do it, really out of guilt and obligation.” You’re kind of dreading it, but you’re driving there anyway.

It’s a dark, rainy November morning in Seattle and you’re thinking to yourself, “Why did I tell her I go to this?” You walk in, and before you even get out of your car you see these adorable kids standing at the front of the hotel, holding hands, looking up, these two little girls in their plaid uniforms and hair braided welcoming you. And then there are two boys at the base of the escalator. As you go upstairs, they’re handsome, shaking your hand, “Welcome.” You go up and listen to the music playing in the big ballroom as you’re going up the escalator.

You grab your name tag, go inside, and who’s there to greet you? Your friend the table captain. You find your place. The program starts right on time, a welcome from a board member. Then there’s an emotional connection. In our case, we had our pastor do an invocation with a little girl. But you can do a song, a poem. Sometimes we work with a domestic violence group. They’ll do a 911 call-in, somebody calling in for relief, for help.

Then the board member gets back up and says, “Enjoy your breakfast,” while you’re eating. Look at the little table tents on your table that show you all of the things our kids are doing these days. Each table tent was a story of one child in a photograph.

And then the visionary leader comes up and talks for about five minutes, casting this large, impressive vision of what the organization is really all about, but with enough of a gap that you can say, “Wow. I see that he or she really knows where they’re taking this organization, but they’re going to need some help to get there.” You’re very engaged in that talk.

There’s a seven minute video with close up shots. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but powerful stories that showcase each of the three bucket areas that move people to tears, and then a live testimonial where someone talks about your organization, how it changed their life. In our case, we interviewed the little kids, 10 of them from the choir, asking them really powerful questions that emoted really why they were so passionate about the school.

And the last thing was the pitch. By the time the pitch, you’re kind of wondering at that point. You’ve been moved to tears several times at our event. It was really, really moving listening to these little children talk about what they wanted to do with their lives. You could really see that the school had given them a dream that was not going to happen otherwise. So now you’re kind of wondering, “How are they going to ask me for money, and what am I going to do?” The person who makes the pitch, the person who asks for the money, needs to be what we call “a credible schoolteacher,” somebody who loves your mission. They’re not just a big name celebrity. They’re connected to you, and they’ll follow the script.

And in our case, the pitch person said, “We got 600 kids at the school,” and he told his own connection. He was really passionate about the school. “And we have a shortfall of about $600,000. If you believe in what you’ve seen today, we’d like to ask you to join our multiple year giving society. We’re calling it our ‘Sponsor a Student Society.’ We’d like to have you become a founding member of that. Please pass out the pledge cards.” They hadn’t been passed out yet because we didn’t want people to read them and leave early. And he walked them through it.

He said, “The first box says if you’d be willing to give us of $1000 a year, you’d be sponsoring a student for each of the next five years.” Out of 850 people, we didn’t get 1,000. One hundred and fifteen did that. IRS requires you must report all pledges as if they’re received on the day their pledged, so by IRS standards we just raised over half a million dollars. He said, “If you’d be willing to give more, $10,000 a year would let us sponsor 10 students for 5 years.” Eight people did that. “And $25,000 a year to sponsor a whole classroom of 25 students.” Four more people did that.

He paused and said, “I want to thank those of you who’ve just become founding members of the Sponsor a Student Society, and 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. A fill-in-the-blanks box you could give $100 once, $50 three times.” whatever people wanted to give was fine. Last box, we filled it in. We had written it in, “Please contact me. I have other thoughts to share.” People could check that box even. If they had checked one of the boxes above, they were willing, they wanted to give, be contacted, because they had other thoughts to share. Maybe they had real estate to transfer or stock or wanted you to come meet with their big board for their committee or their foundation. We were happy to give them a call.

That’s 127 people on the right in the circle. So out of 850 people at the top, 127 of them joined the Giving Society, which is less than 15% of all the people there, and that equaled nearly a million and a half dollars when you include the pledges.

I was shocked. I wanted to know what had happened. So our metric, our final metric, is 10% of the Ask Event guests joined the Multiyear Giving Society and one of the three top levels. That will only happen if you’ve had passionate ambassadors. That will not happen by the board members alone calling up their friends and filling tables. That will not happen with the staff doing that. It will not happen with a big open house. The only way you’re going to get these kind of numbers is if you’ve got the passionate ambassadors.

So I got on the phone the next day. I called people and said, “Thanks for coming. What did you think?” As I listened to them . . . I was calling the donors, the big donors in those top three boxes, and one by one they started telling me the same thing. They said, “If I had known how great that event was going to be yesterday, that I was going to give you all that money or how terrific your school was, I would have invited other people.” That seems to be the natural human response when people feel they’ve made a real contribution. And they started telling me the names of these people that they wanted to introduce to the school.

At that point I said, “Would you consider becoming an ambassador, and over the next year, you host a Point of Entry where we will educate and inspire your friends? We’ll follow up with them. If they’re not interested in staying with us, we’ll bless and release them. If they are interested, we will cultivate them with some more of the dating process, so by the time they’re sitting at your table next year, they’re going to be the people ready to give, or they don’t need to give at all.”

Going back to this slide, we do a lot of work on one-on-one asking, either as a leadership or challenge gift that’s announced at the Ask Event, right before the pitch, or even off-line of the Ask Event entirely, people, going to them and showing them the pledge card, if you done enough cultivation. If you really have that relationship with the donor, you don’t ever need an event. So whichever way you ask, use these units of service, these top three bite-size chunks of your mission, without which we never would have raised that much money. That top box is only $83 a month. That equals $1,000 a year.

And you’ve got to ask for multiyear pledges, not for capital or endowment in this part of the model, but really for unrestricted operating funds. You see, the pledge card lets people choose. They could give you $1,000 a year down in that fourth box. So if they’re choosing Box 1 over Box 4, they’re telling you that they really are passionate about your mission and that they get it, that they want to be closer to you. So that’s why you’ve got to bring them closer at free feel good cultivation events. That’s our generic term. Not free tickets to the golf or gala, but actual mission-focused events like your graduation. We call these “point of reentry,” because you show them the facts.

Right before our big graduation in our big auditorium, we had a little reception for all of our multiyear donors and people who wanted to become new ambassadors for the next year. We gave them the facts. The principal bragged about the test scores and a grade point average of the kids that were graduating. We had a grandmother and her grandson talk there, and we didn’t have to capture the names, because we knew the people. We had invited them. They were our donors.

So two days later, I’m on the phone calling the people who just came to the graduation, thanking them again and getting more ambassadors. Every single point of the model is an inflection point for asking people who else they know and who else they’d like to involve. This is how we had 1,100 people take the tours of our school in the first five months. We were evicted shortly after this, had to do a capital campaign for $3.2 million. We only had the first batch of donors that I’ve shown you. We started doing points of reentry about capital and raised, in six months, from 18 of the same donors, $3.2 million, and got back to work.

Shortly after that, I left the school. The second development director came in, and she tripled the results. By the time she left, we had over 500 people in our Multiyear Giving Society. I just showed you the first Ask Event, which was 127, but we had over 500 by the end of the fifth year, and that’s when the board said, “I wonder how much we need to have in an endowment so the earnings alone would be enough to cover our operating?” And they decided we would need a $15 million endowment, which we completed by the end of the seventh year.

We didn’t stop fundraising, mind you, because now we had so many people who were so passionate about us. Really, that culture of engagement that I talked about it the beginning, we had over 500 . . . imagine if you had 500 people making pledges of at least $1,000 a year. They don’t want you to stop. They’re saying, “Well, that’s nice that you got all that money now, but what about your mission? You’ve got a bigger mission than just educating the kids at our one school.” And they were so engaged with us that they wanted to help us. They offered summer jobs for the kids. They helped us when the kids got in trouble. There were so many things that they did. That’s what I’m talking about about a culture of engagement.

So these donors who joined, initially they joined this Giving Society, this is their unrestricted gift, and they can extend it for years. They can increase their pledges. Some groups we work with even do something they call “evergreening,” where they just add a year on every year. The donor just says, “Just keep adding on, and every few years ask me and I’ll give more,” but this is just a pool of donors to go back to for the bigger gifts, for capital endowment and restricted major gifts like a library, a technology center, like that.

So there are the five key metrics. Let’s get into talking now about how are you going to build this for yourself. So, looking again at the circle model, I want to talk about who are you going to engage. How do you identify? How do you find people who are going to become your first ambassadors? We teach something we call a “Treasure Map.” This is written up extensively in the book. This whole exercise is in there, but I’m going to walk you through it, because I think this will help you to see.

Because many groups, when they first come to Benevon, we offer training and coaching and whole programs, and people say, “Well, we don’t have anybody?” or “Our mission is confidential,” or “We could never do this in our sized community,” or “We’re in a really tiny town. How are we going to invite . . . who are we going to find?” So I want to show you that, yes, everyone has a Treasure Map, and it’s unique to your organization. You put your organization in the center and then surround your organization like kind of spokes on a wheel with all these different groups that you come in contact with on a regular basis. And you’ll have your own. These are just some that I’ve put together for you to show you.

And then you identify what do these groups have in abundance. So looking at the board, for example, that top left, they might have expertise. They might have time. They might have money and commitment. The staff have expertise and contacts. Donors have money and time and contacts. But you want to do your own version of this, because you will have some other subcategories. Like, if you work in workforce development, you might have employers as a category. If you work in healthcare, you’re going to have a separate sector. You’re each going to have more spokes on a wheel than this, but I’m giving you the generic concept.

Start a branch, and if you already have volunteers, you might even want to do a circle around the word “volunteers” and then draw spokes on a wheel beyond that that show, for example, you might have volunteers who packed lunch backpacks on Friday, and you have other volunteers who drive or volunteer driving, different clusters of volunteers, each of which could become a source of an ambassador and other people to come to points of entry.

And then we look at what’s the self-interest of those people. Going back to the board and the green, they want to make a difference. They want to feel good. See, we want to honor people’s self-interest. We don’t want to think it’s a bad thing. And, for example, with volunteers, they might want to socialize. They might want to learn new skills. They might want to add it to their resume, be able to put it on there. Let’s know what those self-interests are so we can play to them. Let’s help them with that.

Out of doing this Treasure Map, most groups will identify at least 30 ambassadors. Some of them are what we call “ringleaders.” So, like, if you have a group of volunteers, let’s say you have volunteers who come in from one church, and they work with your soup kitchen only on Thursdays at lunch, there is probably one person in that group who could be a natural kind of organic ambassador, and you ask them to first come to a point of entry, and then have them host another one.

So if you could identify from looking at this Treasure Map, when you take a lot of time to do this in detail, you’ll probably be able to come up . . . I mean, the groups we train come up with at least 30 potential ambassadors who are what we call “the gold standard.” They’re the people that love you so much anyway that you’re not really stretching. It’s not a reach to ask them to come to be an ambassador. But you don’t want anybody to be an ambassador unless they have first attended your Point of Entry event, because they’ve got to experience, they must have experienced what it is they’ll be inviting people to.

Then we work on your personal Treasure Map. So this is what we ask each ambassador to do. So think for a minute. Play along with me, all of you, as you’re looking at this. Put yourself in the middle, and now put around you–I don’t have it written out here–but the different groups you’re involved with, your book club, your yoga group, your kid’s school, your you name it, your work friends, your alumni association, neighbors, friends and family, and like that.

And think again, “Well, what do they each have in abundance?” Maybe they have an abundance of curiosity about you, or maybe some of your family members have an abundance of advice to give you. What’s their self-interest? Why would they want to come and learn about this organization? Maybe to get you off their back. Maybe because they actually are curious about “What is this place you spend all this time at?” Maybe they actually have a need for the services that your organization offers. Then you can see that you could pretty readily become an ambassador.

The easiest way to have somebody be an ambassador is that they have an existing, ready-made group. They bring that entire group to a point of entry, and then they can all go to the regular weekly meeting, or they can go out for lunch or out for a glass of wine or whatever it is that they want to do, but you can pair it with something that’s social. Or you can do it, as I said, at your office. Most of you have a work group, you have a group of colleagues, and eventually you can take the Points of Entry out on the road.

So, looking ahead, let’s talk about the job description for an ambassador. So we have very clear expectations of an ambassador. Ambassadors are short-term . . . and by the way, you don’t have to call it an “ambassador.” A lot of our groups are quite put off by that word, so don’t feel you need to use it. You can call it “a friend of” or “a connector” or “an advocate” or “an ally,” whatever you want to call it, but we just generically refer to it as “an ambassador.” And we say they’re short-term volunteers who open doors for the organization, introducing new people with 10 or more guests at one Point of Entry.

And the qualification to be a gold standard ambassador, the number-one qualification is their passion for your mission. They’ve got the love what you do. If they’re just doing it to get you off their back, that’s what will communicate to the people they invite.

I would also say a qualification, another one I would just add there, is of course that they must have attended a prior Point of Entry. So again, you don’t want them just saying, “Oh, I’ve got a group. I’ll bring them over.” No, no, no. They’ve got to know what it is that they’re inviting people to so that they can get them properly pumped up about it before they come. Right?

So, next we get into the roles and responsibilities. They’ve got to attend at least one Point of Entry event each year. So an ambassador normally only is an ambassador once. They don’t have to do it over and over again, but I put this note in the slide because if you’re thinking, “Oh well, they were an ambassador three years ago. Now they could be a table captain at my ask event.” No, no, no. They must have attended a Point of Entry in the prior 12 months and been an ambassador in the prior 12 months in order to be a table captain. So that’s got to stay refreshed.

And host and fill a Point of Entry with 10 or more guests. I think I’ve said this enough times. They can be in someone’s home, office or at a regularly-scheduled Point of Entry in the organization’s office. So you get the idea of how that works.

And then they must inform the guest of what the Point of Entry will be about and that they’re going to be getting a follow-up phone call and that they will not be asked for money. So if you’re going to be an ambassador, think with me for a moment about a group in your life that you’re thinking, “Wow. This group would be great. I already know that there are two or three people in the group who’d be interested in what we do, and the rest of them are good enough friends that they would be willing to come just to help me out and be able to think of other people in the future.” So, if you’re going to get one ambassador out of every Point of Entry, you’ve really got to set it up so that people know in advance what you want. It won’t just happen out of the follow-up call. It’s got to be set up right from the beginning. So you’ve got to inform them. And aim to have at least one become an ambassador.

And then you’re the one, if you’re the ambassador, who welcomes the guests and opens and closes the Point of Entry using the “How to Open and Close Program,” which is in the book. We even recommend, print that out on a little card and laminate it and give it to the ambassador so you’re positive that they will really follow the script, because if they just say, “Thanks for coming today” and turn it right over to the visionary leader, you’ve missed the whole point of having an ambassador.

You see, the reason this works is because of only one thing, and that’s the relationship that already existed between the ambassador and the guests. It’s not because of what you say there. That adds to it, but if a bunch of strangers come in a room and listen to all that you say, you’re going to have a lot less interest than if they were invited by someone whom they already trust and have that relationship with. Okay?

Length of service, as I said, 10 or more people within three months, and they have the option to complete after one term or continue for another term. Let me just say, we have many groups that have been doing this for so many years now. We have one group that has over 100 ambassadors that are already, that have actively been ambassadors, and then they have maybe another 50 that are in the process of fulfilling on being an ambassador, because it takes something to . . . just because somebody says they want to do it doesn’t mean they’re going to. They need a little help, often, to organize the pieces of it and put it together.

But I want you to think big. Imagine, we have one group we work with that puts on 16 Points of Entry per month. That means they’re getting 16 new ambassadors every month in the follow-up calls. So the thing scales really fast. You don’t ever even need to have a fundraising event after that. Imagine, if you just had 1,000 new people come through your organization at the invitation of a dear friend and they were moved to tears by what they saw, you know what to do. You’ll be spending your time building the relationships, not on putting on events.

So here’s the script for how to open and close the Point of Entry, from the book, page 122. “Thank you all for coming. My name is Barbara, and I’m an ambassador with this organization, which means I’ve agreed to help them spread the word by inviting people. Our goal today is to give you a first-hand experience of the work of this place, and we hope the session will educate and inspire you, and over the next hour, please be thinking of other people so when you get the follow-up call in the next few days, I hope you become an ambassador. I hope you’ll take her call or his call, and I hope you’ll become an ambassador.” So you say it right up there.

And then in the close, again . . . Oh, sorry. Before that. Then the ambassador shares their own personal story about why they work or volunteer with the organization, and if there are 10 guests or fewer . . . ah, you could even do it with 12 guests, the ambassador should ask people to go around the table and briefly say their name and their connection. That gives the person making the follow-up call . . . we refer to that person as “the team leader.” That gives that person kind of the icebreaker line, “Oh, I remember you saying that your daughter had her babies here at our hospital,” like that. That’s the opening. It’s very helpful when people can do that.

And then the ambassador thanks everyone and turns the program over to the visionary leader. So that’s the beginning. That’s the opening.

And then at the end . . . you can just follow the script on page 131. “We’re going to end now. Be sure you honor . . . to our time commitment to you.” You must end on time. “Thanks for joining us. We appreciate your taking the time. You’re going to be getting a call from Barbara or Susan or whomever in the next few days to get your feedback. Please take their call, and hopefully you were inspired. The very best way you can help us is by telling others and inviting them. And if you’d like to host a session like this, please let her know when she calls you. Thank you all and have a great day.” So you get the point. When people get 10 out of 10 guests saying they want to be an ambassador, that’s not an accident.

Now, even if you are all my best friends and you all came to a Point of Entry, if the Point of Entry doesn’t sizzle, if it’s just ho-hum or kind of nice or we take you on a nice little walking tour, that is not going to get anybody to want to be an ambassador either. You’ve got to have both, the relationship between the ambassador and the guest and a sizzling point of entry.

So here’s how to invite guests to a Point of Entry. I think we’ve said enough about that, but again, I don’t have a real detailed slide on this, but the main thing is think about your own connection. Share your own personal connection. What is it that matters to you? You can’t just say, “I’m involved with this cool group.” You’ve got to say, “My child receives services there, and it made a huge difference,” or “This is where my mother’s been for her medical care,” or her nursing care, whatever is needed there. So you want to share your personal connection when you invite people, and then you want to give them the details of what it really will entail to come to this Point of Entry. So they’re going to be getting one follow-up call afterwards, and you will not be asking them for money. Okay?

All right. We’re just about ready to open for questions. Let me give you a little bit of information about the Benevon resources so that you’ll know what’s available to you if you choose to follow any of this. And I’ve tried to both show you how to recruit passionate ambassadors and how to integrate them into them system so that it will really scale up for you and not just lead you to more and more Ask Events and parties, but actually into major gifts and deep relationships with donors.

So the three books . . . sorry, two books. That thing in the middle is a DVD, which is actually free on our website. You don’t need to buy this. You can download for free a 55-minute webinar . . . excuse me, a 55-minute video that I have made of me leading a live session like this that I did here in Seattle. So there’s a free 55-minute video. Honestly, after today, if people say, “I’m interested in knowing more,” don’t try to explain it to them. Just tell them to go to the website and watch this free video. I think it’s a lot easier.

But the main book that people buy is the book on the left, “The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting It Right.” It’s got all the metrics and the things I’ve been referring to. The book on the right is how to missionize your special events and turn them into a system that will become what we call “a system of events.” So I’m sure many of you do a lot of other special events that may be burning you out, or maybe you love them, but whatever they are, they may not be forming a total well-thought-out system and process that would forward this kind of thinking, this kind of culture of engagement.

There’s actually a checklist in that book. We call it “the soul-searching questions” to ask about each event to kind of vet the event and decide, “Is this really worth keeping or not? And if we are going to keep it, how can we missionize it even more?” So this is all sold as a package, $125.95. It’s a discounted package on our website. It’s only sold on our website. And you can buy the elements individually also at

And then I mentioned the videos already. Bloomerang, I just want to put in another plug for the incredible software. And you can kind of see as I walk you through this how many things you’d want to be tracking. You definitely want to track who’s been an ambassador and who were their guests, who got blessed and released, and every note from every follow-up phone call that you make, and there are many calls along the way and contacts throughout the years. This is just the first year that I showed you, but the subsequent years . . . I mean, our groups ramp up to significant major gifts. In fact, by the . . . well, actually, let me go ahead here.

Here’s the slide for Bloomerang, for Benevon. If you are interested after today, I know there’s going to be a little survey you’ll get, so please let Steven know, because I really love this product. It’s so easy to use and really meshes beautifully with our program.

And then we offer live sessions where . . . I was just out on the road this past week, along with a number of our other people here, doing a little two-hour introductory seminar around the country. Here are some of the cities that are coming up, and this is on our website if you’d like to send some people to it or come meet me or come meet one of our people.

And then we have a lot of conference calls and webinars that we offer also, including for people who are self-implementing this model. So please check out our website for those, in addition to the webinars that we get to do with Bloomerang. And here the next one’s coming up about self-implementers, for self-implementers. So definitely check those out, and that our workshops.

So the main thing we do at Benevon is offer two-day workshops with a year-long coaching program. Average group the first year raises $200,000 in cash and pledges. But we don’t come to you. You come to us with a team of 7 to 10 people. We customize everything I’ve just shown you just for your organization and coach you to implement it effectively. So if you want to know more about how to put a team together, how to come to Benevon, this year the tuition is $18,000. It includes many coaching calls and gets everything you need to be successful to reach our average, which as I said is $200,000 the first year in cash and pledges. So it’s not all cash.

If groups are interested in staying with us, they join a longer term, sustainable funding program, and that’s where this really starts to ramp up into major gifts, which is what we want for you. We gave awards a few years ago . . . well, every few years we put on a conference, and we give awards, not to groups that know how to put on the Ask Event, but to groups that have met all of their metrics for sustainable funding.

So think for a minute, what would sustainable funding look like for your organization? What would sustainability be? Is it just raising enough money to pay the teachers more to meet the payroll? Is it putting together a reserve fund for kind of a rainy day emergency thing? Is it a capital campaign? Is it an endowment? Maybe it’s all of those. In which case, how much each bucket, so to speak, would you need?

So we have groups. We really go deep in looking at what would sustainability look like. You bring this team with you. Each team sits at its own roundtable in a room of maybe 10 or 15 other nonprofits, and we customize all this. You meet your coach there, and they work with you. You walk out of there knowing everything I’ve shown you, how the Point of Entry’s designed, a lot about ambassadors. How are you going to find them? How are you going to tend them? How are you going to manage them? How are you going to generate more ambassadors out of all that?

So, over time, the groups raise way more money. By the third year, the groups that stay with us in our longer-term program have raised a million and a half dollars, and by the fifth year, three and a half million dollars, including pledges. So you’re not going to get that from an event. That’s got to come from actually learning to develop the major gifts muscle. So we’re talking about a process for long-term engagement of individual donors and ultimately a shift in the culture to that culture of engagement.

Here are the dates of our upcoming workshops for the rest of the year. So do let us know if you’re interested. In fact, ooh, look at that, there’s even two on there for next year. So if you want to work with Benevon, you’ve got to come to us one full year, roughly, before it going to put on your Ask Event. That’s why we showed you all these dates here, because if you know that you want to put on your Ask Event in the spring, you’d want to come to us in March or April next year and put on your Ask Event in the spring of 2019. If you want to put on your Ask Event in the fall, you’ve got to come to us in these Q4 options that we’ve given you here in D.C. or Dallas or Orlando, so that you’ve got enough time to ramp up and do enough Points of Entry to meet those metrics.

And that’s the workshops, and there you have it. There you have it. That’s the model. And I hope I given you . . . I’m looking here at what we promised today, how to identify, recruit and support a self-sustaining pipeline of passionate ambassadors who will deeply engage individuals from the broader community in your organization’s mission.

Okay Steven, I think I’ve talked more than enough. Let’s open up for some questions.

Steven: All right. Cool. Thanks, Terry. Wow, 2018 dates already. That’s kind of scary. I don’t know how I feel about that.

Terry: I hear you.

Steven: We got some questions here. This is really great. By the way, those workshops are really awesome and definitely worth the travel and the time. I mean, I had the chance to sit in on a couple of them, and just the organizations that participate, people were just in tears around their table going through all the exercises and all the great things that Benevon does for you. So definitely consider that and check out their website to learn more about it.

But yeah, we’ve got a few minutes for questions here. Probably get to maybe four or five questions. I’m just going to kind of pull out some ones here that I thought looked interesting. But Terry, are you willing to take questions by email if we don’t get to all of them?

Terry: Sure. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, I’ll do my best. I don’t promise it’ll be an instant response, but yep, go for it.

Steven: So a lot of people asked about the training. So you identify your ambassadors. You kind of pick out your people. How do you train them? Is it a certain number of hours? What kind of things have you done to kind of get them ready for that role? What have you seen work?

Terry: Well, it’s a great question. It’s really pretty easy. The only training would be that they’ve come to a Point of Entry themselves and that they’re really inspired, and that’s all. Usually, they need more support kind of and management, because let’s just say I come to your point of entry and I love, loved it, and then I get a follow-up call and I say, “Yeah, you’re right, I could do that. I’d like to be an ambassador. I’ve got a group in mind,” and if you don’t follow up with me and keep it going, I’m probably going to forget all about it or get too busy and not follow through. So more than actually training the ambassadors is the issue of how to manage them to fulfill on what we know they really want to do. So there’s a whole process for staying in touch with them, having them choose the date.

Before they even hang up the phone, ideally, when you make a follow-up call, if they say, “Yeah, I was thinking about it. I’d like to do that,” you don’t just say, “Well, that’s nice. I’ll call you in a week.” You say, “Well, let’s talk a little bit more about that. Is there a group in mind that you have, or is it your employees? Who would attend? When would you like to have it?” and actually zero in on a date, and then “Where would you like to have it, at your place or ours?”

So once you get those three things figured out, then you’re usually ready to schedule the second call, and you can say, “I’ll call you in a week or two weeks.” Usually we do the Treasure Map right there on the phone, with the people. Like, we kind of say, “Get out a piece of paper, and kind of imagine the world that you’re thinking of.” Now, if they have a ready-made group, they don’t really need a Treasure Map, because it’s the whole book group or the whole yoga group, but if they do need it, if they need a little help . . .

There’s one woman, I actually saw her this week. She’s wonderful. She said, “100% of the people I call in the follow-up,” because she’s a team leader. She said, “100% of them tell me no, that they won’t be an ambassador,” because they just say, “I don’t know anybody. I don’t know who I’d invite.” And she said, “I help them. I go, ‘Now, let’s think about that a little bit. What about your kids? What about this?'” and she kind of works with them gently, because she knows that they want to help her and they want to be an ambassador, but they just don’t have maybe a ready-made group. So you’ve got to be patient with people to think that all through on the phone. Okay?

Steven: And for the first one, since you want future ambassadors to shadow one, is your first one probably a founder, and ED, a board member? Who is that ideal person to be that first . . .

Terry: Good question. Yeah. Actually, the first ones, plural, are the people who are on your, what we call “Benevon team,” your sustainable funding team. So if you’re going to pull this whole thing off, because you don’t want to just do an ambassador program in a vacuum and have one lonely staff person filling up their plate and drowning, or whatever, but you want to have people who will . . . so you want to have a team of 7 to 10 people, like I said, and that includes the executive director, the development person, one other staff member, two or three board members and two or three volunteers from the community, who might be former board members or not.

But each one of those initial core team members are your first ambassadors. That’s part of being on the team. Their assignment is that they will not only help you design the Point of Entry, but they will host the first point of entry, and if they do all that within the first three months, then you’re kind of launched, and then in the follow-up calls you’ll get new ones, each in a circle. The circle gets bigger and bigger.

Steven: Yeah. What about, Terry, organizations that don’t have kind of a traditional physical location? They can’t really do the tour thing, or maybe it would be difficult. What advice do you have for those organizations? Have you worked with some that maybe had kind of a cloud location or like a virtual location or not just a centralized brick-and-mortar? What can they do?

Terry: Yes. The Points of Entry cannot be virtual. They may have a virtual location, but the Points of Entry need to be live. So they will either be in someone’s home, in a church basement, in an office, but they do need to be in a physical place where they can be presented. I’ve seen many done in offices, kind of in a boring conference room that you’d think, “How are you going to bring that thing to life?” There are chapters in the book on this too. You bring enough props, and once you design the stories for your point of entry and you go deep with the emotional component of the story, the myths, the facts, the need . . .

I didn’t spend a lot of time on that in the webinar here, but there’s a lot more in the books, and certainly if the people work with us, we spend a whole day on customizing just that piece of it. But once you’ve done that, people will . . . the team members will be excited, and you can then ask them to host these virtually in whatever location. You can actually take it on the road and do what we call “a Point of Entry in a box.” So they’ll actually bring some of the props.

Like, if you’re a Red Cross chapter, kind of timely for today, and you’re doing it at your chapter office, you’re going to be able to show them stuff in your office. But if you take it on the road, you’re going to bring with you maybe a blanket or various props from the Red Cross that you bring with you out into an office space, and you could bring it to life there. Okay?

Steven: Makes sense. But you still need the video. You still need a service recipient, testimonials.

Terry: Well, there’s no video at the Point of Entry.

Steven: Oh, right, right.

Terry: Only a video at the Ask Event. So you don’t need a video at the Point of Entry, but yeah, you need one person to be the testimonial speaker. Often, that is . . . it can even be the ambassador, but usually it’s . . . usually you have to bring like two or three people with you, yeah, to pull it off on the road.

Steven: Well, get a church basement or somebody’s house. That solved that problem there.

Terry: Yeah. Yeah.

Steven: Probably got time for one more. There are so many good ones here. I just want to make sure I pull out one that can be pretty cogent for you. A couple people asked, Terry, what do you do if maybe it doesn’t go well? You picked an ambassador, you felt good about them, and they just didn’t capture that information. I mean, I know it can be kind of hard to “fire someone,” quote, unquote, but have you ever navigated those waters where you had to maybe change out the person, and how did you kind of deal with that?

Terry: Yeah. I don’t know if the people who are asking this are talking about ambassadors to say they want to be one and then don’t follow through. That’s usually how they fail, if you will, is that they just don’t come through. Sometimes they’ll just invite . . . they don’t get 10 people. You’ve got to start with a list of at least 20, at least 20, maybe 30 people to get 10 who are going to all show up at the same time, unless it’s a regularly scheduled . . . you know, the book club, we always do, and then we go to dinner on Thursday night, you’re going to have to start with a bigger list.

So if they’re, quote, “failing,” it’s just because you’re somehow magically thinking that they’re going to pull this . . . and no one’s going to just automatically come through for you without some support. So you’re going to have to work with them to keep them . . . It’s like anything. You’ve got to just support people, and reminders and helping them. That’s why it’s really helpful in the very first call for them to list for you who they’re wanting to invite so that you can even remind them in subsequent phone calls, “Well, wait, now, didn’t you say you had that other . . . the whole other people over here? Let’s go back to them,” because they sometimes forget.

Steven: Yeah, that makes sense. Well, we’re about up against 2:00, and I don’t want to keep people, especially if they haven’t had lunch. So Terry, how can people get a hold of you to find out more or email you?

Terry: Yeah, I watch it closely. We all watch it here. Info, Definitely be in touch, folks, and answer the survey. Steven, thank you so much. You know how strongly I feel about Bloomerang, and super excited to be part of your fabulous webinar series today.

Steven: Oh, yeah. We love having you. We love having the Benevon version of our product. It does all these great things. You can track all these events and ambassadors and all that great stuff, and the multiyear pledges. It’s really cool. So if you are listening and you’re a mutual customer of ours, let us know, and we can plug that in for you and then turn it on. But we’ve got some great webinars coming up on future Thursdays. We’re back next week even though it’s a holiday week.

We have Mark Quigley joining us from Australia. So we’ve got a special 10 a.m. addition so that he’s not up in the middle of the night doing a webinar for us. He’s going to be talking about how to get ready for your next capital campaigns. So if you’re in the midst of planning a capital campaign, definitely check that one out. It’s going to be a good one. Lots of other webinars you can check out if that one doesn’t quite tickle your fancy. But we’d love to see you again on some other Thursday webinar. So we’ll call it a day there.

Thanks again, Terry, and thanks to all of you for hanging out with us, taking time out of your day. Look for an email from me in just an hour or so with the slides and the recording, and hopefully we will see you next Thursday. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a safe Labor Day weekend, and hopefully we’ll talk you again soon.

Terry: Thanks, Steven. Bye-bye.

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.