Q: At our school, we run the common annual fund program, which runs throughout the year as a series of letter appeals to donors. I can see the advantages to the Benevon Model compared to the annual fund but how do you make the switch? Or do you? Can you run both simultaneously? It seems counterproductive to stop appealing to these people who write a check every few years (or every year). I'm curious how you coach people on this.
Ben in Vermont
A: Many organizations are doing something new in their fundraising when they start implementing the Benevon Model, and it is important to analyze how your current activities will fit in as you adopt this approach. We would suggest that you continue doing your annual fund. These are loyal donors who are in some cases supporting you year after year with their gifts and we don't want you to lose that! There are some key ways to leverage your annual fund as you begin implementing the Benevon Model.
First of all, this is a great place to look for people to invite to Point of Entry Events. These events happen twice a month and have on average about ten to fifteen guests. While the Point of Entry Events will be used to introduce new people to your school, they can also serve as a way to further engage and cultivate your annual fund donors. You could have board members and high-level staff call these donors to thank them for their annual support. Tell them how their contributions have made a difference, giving an example of the impact of their gift. Go on to share that you have started offering a free, one-hour tour of your mission and programs. It would be a great way to show these loyal donors the impact of their financial support. If they know the school well, tell them that you'd love to get their feedback on how you are sharing your mission with the larger community. Make it feel special; you could even consider having board members host these events just for groups of these donors.
Once they attend, you will make the Five-Step Follow-Up Call within three to five days. On this call, you can find out what most moved them about the Point of Entry, which areas of your work they are most interested in, and if there is any other way you could involve them more in the work of your school. We would definitely recommend looking at these donors as potential Ambassadors after they attend a Point of Entry. An Ambassador is someone who agrees to bring ten to fifteen people to a future Point of Entry within about three months' time. If they don't want to be an Ambassador, you should still follow up and continue to cultivate and eventually invite them to your Ask Event. If they have been a successful Ambassador you should invite them to be Table Captains, inviting the people they have brought through the Points of Entry to sit at their tables. Otherwise, seat them at tables with board members or other special VIP tables. Some of these donors will elect to join your Multiple-Year Giving Society, which will be launched at your Ask Event. This giving society is a minimum gift of $1,000 per year for five years.
If any of your annual fund donors join this society or make larger contributions at other levels, you would take them off of your direct mail list. Now that you have a more personal relationship with them, you shouldn't ever ask through something as impersonal as a mailing. You should continue to cultivate and engage them in the areas of your work they are most interested in.