Q: I am on the board of an organization that has adopted the Benevon Model. The first Ask Event is planned for May of this year and we are setting our giving levels for the Multiple-Year Giving Society. Our board has had much debate about whether we should ask for three- or five-year pledges. Can you explain why you have stressed five-year pledges so I can bring that back to the rest of my board? Thank you for your help!
Carol in Minnesota
A: At face value, it's easy to see how a well-intentioned board member could feel that asking for three-year pledges would generate more interest and giving at the Ask Event than if you asked for five. In 20 years of working with organizations to implement the Benevon Model, we have found that a donor who is willing to make a pledge for three years is usually willing to make a pledge for five.
Remember that the donors who join your Multiple-Year Giving Society are unlikely to be brand-new people who are coming to the Ask Event unaware of your organization's mission. If you have been implementing the full Benevon Model, they are people who have been engaged by a personal friend, family member, or colleague who already believes in your work. The guest has attended a prior Point of Entry Event at the invitation of this acquaintance and likely came to the Ask Event as their guest. They have come to believe in your work and to develop trust in your organization.
Your Ask Event program is emotional and inspiring, building on their enthusiasm that started with the great stories and big vision they heard at your Point of Entry. When it comes time to give, asking for a three-year commitment rather than a five-year commitment usually means you will be leaving money on the table, because that same donor would have happily pledged for five years. They only pledged for three because that's what you asked them to do.
The purpose of the five-year pledge in the Benevon Model is not just the predictability that comes with a multi-year commitment, although that makes a big difference in being able to plan your work and programs beyond the next year. Rather, a five-year commitment allows you to focus on getting to know this donor and engaging them in your mission in just the right way based on their interests. That engagement will ensure that when they complete their initial pledge, they will feel so connected to your work that they would never consider leaving you. These donors become members of your organization's family because you have time to focus on building and deepening a relationship with them.
With a three-year pledge, you don't have the time you need to build that relationship organically. The donor is close to halfway done after they make their first pledge payment.
Remind your board members that we have the fill-in-the-blanks line on the pledge card, where a donor may certainly give for three years or less. You will thank them and try your best to engage them as you would a donor who pledged for five years.
We anticipate that if at least 40% of your Ask Event attendees have attended Points of Entry in the prior twelve months, you will see 10% of your attendees joining your giving society by pledging at least $1,000 for five years. On average, about 50% of the attendees at the event make a contribution of some amount, meaning that people feel very comfortable giving at a level that works for them.
Finally, remind your board members that once you establish your giving society, you cannot change the levels of giving for future years. It's critical that you set it up right from the start!