Is the timing of the dinner really that important - you have a lot of topics to cover and people love us?
When we created our dinner model, we took the best components from dinner models around the country to create one ultimate dinner model. Over the years, some think the time given to eat is too short – well, remember that even though the word 'dinner' might be in the name of your event, the evening's primary focus is to give your team as much time as possible on stage. Others think the program is too long or too short or that there are too many speakers going up and down. This model has been done over 2,500 times in the last 30 years and has proven to be the best and most effective way to conduct a Development dinner. Every possible scenario has been tried so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes we have made. The evening has been timed to go exactly 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Why is there a first and second half of an appeal? Aren't we hammering them over the head with a need for funds?
On the contrary, by splitting the appeal we are actually softening the potential blow that they may be expecting. When people go to the typical banquet, they usually expect to be clubbed over the head with an appeal. This is done typically at the end of the evening and done in a very heavy-handed manner. At our dinners, our desire is to make the evening as comfortable as possible while still challenging them with an opportunity to partner. Plus, people have indicated that at typical dinners, the end of the evening appeal alone doesn’t give enough time to hear what God is saying about how or how much to give. Our first appeal (conducted right after the Ministry Update), allows for someone to think and contemplate their options early – thus taking the pressure off the rest of the evening. By the time the second appeal comes (actually simply a recap of the first appeal), the individual is adequately prepared - having heard the messages, testimonies and songs - to give as the Lord truly leads. The last half is focused more on filling out the envelopes rather than the appeal.
Why is it important that the person who does the first half of an appeal also do the second?
The person who does the appeal MUST establish credibility with the audience. It is nearly impossible to do that by just doing one portion of the appeal - most people need to earn the right to ask. During the first half you explain the ways to give and then you promise to come back again and give them the opportunity. When the guests see you the second time, they know in their minds that it is time to give. You don’t want them being surprised by your arrival. Surprises hinder giving.
Why do we include a faith promise in the financial appeal?
Sacrificial giving is an important part of our spiritual journey. It is more than just “tithing”, it is a way to trust God for more than we see in front of us. In II Corinthians, chapter 8, Paul gives a great example of sacrificial giving. In writing to the Corinthians, he uses the giving practices of the Macedonian people as an example in showing how giving should take place. It says that they gave “according to their ability and beyond their ability….they gave of their own accord”. He shares that they gave not just from what they saw in front of them (their current income or savings), but they gave beyond their ability (money they can’t currently see). It shows them – and of course, us – that giving, sacrificially and beyond our ability, should be the way we all should give.
Very few individuals have ever experienced true sacrificial giving. The faith promise approach allows people the opportunity to experience sacrificial giving – which is real biblical giving. Not everyone at your dinner will want to try this – in fact a great majority won’t – but even if a few try it, their life will be changed forever as they trust God to work. The stories of those who have tried it are some of the most inspiring as God can move miraculously when He wants. We should not deny people the opportunity for God to work – and by not offering a faith promise option, you are denying guests a blessing from God.
We do not have them indicate whether their commitment is faith promise on the envelope (or anywhere else) – that is between them and God – we simply ask them to indicate that amount just like any other commitment. We really don’t want or need to track that faith promise giving as it is private. But when the faith promise option is offered, giving can be two to three times more than when it is not offered.
It seems the most exciting part of the evening are the testimonies. Why don't you eliminate the larger messages, even the main message, in favor of more testimonies?
Testimonies are a critical component in the Vision Dinner strategy. But, just like your favorite food, you'll get tired of it eventually. The same is true of testimonies. You should always leave the audience wanting more. Too many testimonies and people tend to lose their appreciation for the current testimony being presented.
The purposes for the Ministry Update and Main Message are simple. It is critical that we cast vision for individuals. While testimonies motivate people and lend credence to our past activities, a solid visionary challenge for the future is what is going to motivate people to give and get involved in our activities. The Ministry Update should paint a picture of the problem that exists in our society and with our young people (lack of a relationship with Christ) and shares the solution to that problem as presented by us. Included should be our history, why we exist and how we accomplish those strategies and solutions – this entails building credibility for what we do. But our future plans provide challenge and opportunities to give. The main message usually focuses on why reaching college students is the most effective use of their money and time. This is the culmination of all they have heard and takes them to the next level – testimonies alone will not accomplish this goal.
Who should we choose as a ministry partner testimony?
A few years back, I read an interesting press release from a ministry called Women Doing Well. Here are a few of the statistics it quoted: Consider challenging a female for this role.
An estimated 70% of $41 Trillion wealth transfer will go to daughters.
70% of women work outside the home, one in eleven working age women is an entrepreneur and the majority of degrees are earned by women.
More women are directing household financial giving – 92% make the decision to give (39% as the sole decision maker and 53% jointly with spouse) within their household.
So for the last few couple years, we’ve changed it up and had a female be our ministry partner testimony, and it’s been interesting to hear from both our male and female staff after the dinner talk about the connection they felt with the donor testimony. So before you pick up the phone to talk to the husband, think about it and possibly ask his wife. (Side note, I find that women also tend to stay on time, and not run long.)
Second and Subsequent years: don't we need to change up the program each year to make it more exciting for your guests?
In reality, you are changing your program each year because you use a new main speaker, new singer, new videos; what you aren’t changing is the overall format of the dinner and that is what’s critical to keep the same. With dinners happening no sooner than every 12 months, guests will not remember the format, only the participants in the program -- so the format will not get old. If you had the same main speaker, same videos, same singer, year in and year out, then the program would get stale. We have found that this format has worked perfectly for more than three decades in thousands of locations so don’t alter that -- only the participants.