I am about three and a half months into the new job–14 weeks and going on 15, to be more precise–and April has been the busiest yet. The good news is that our office is running really well, and we’ve been notching a few big wins as we go. This week we wrapped up our employee giving campaign, and we hosted our spring donor event.
The spring donor event was decidedly different–we changed up a lot of things that had traditionally been done year after year: the menu, the decor, the music. Tradition is important, and I was admittedly a bit nervous about what might happen if we messed with it.
But our team of folks really came through. The food, handpicked by our event organizer, was by all accounts very good. (We used Langtree Catering and Events, and they really pulled it off.) The decor was a step away from the “fish fry” model we’ve used and leaned toward a more business banquet appearance. We used a college band to provide the music, and they had several inquiries about other gigs by the end of the night. We slightly improved the beer and wine offerings, and we included a 20-minute program in the middle of everything, which was well received.
There were no obvious maladies, and by all accounts our guests were happy. When I climbed into bed at quarter till eleven that night, I was exhausted but felt very good about what we’d done. We’d changed things–and we hadn’t suffered because of it.
The employee giving campaign was a month-long project, and the results blew me away.
Employee giving campaigns are never easy–they weren’t easy at Davidson–but last year’s campaign had very low results, and the overall consensus from our team was that it was time to shake things up.
We’d also formed an employee volunteer group, and we spent time listening to their thoughts on the campaign. They had incredibly useful feedback–they wanted to see impact with their donations, and they needed some incentives to keep them motivated–which we then plugged straight into the new formula.
In the end, we ran a four-week campaign with a goal of 50 percent employee participation. It was important to me that we advertise this strictly as a participation campaign–the size of the gift isn’t as important as the act of giving, that is. Unless otherwise designated, we put all of our campaign commitments toward the creation of a scholarship program, which we can in turn use to help steward employee donors throughout the next year.
But the neatest hook came from an idea I gleaned from somewhere else: any donor who gave at a minimum $10 threshold was invited to write a personal note of encouragement that would be taped to the chair of a student graduating this May. The volunteer group really hung onto that idea, and we noticed it had a particular resonance with our donors.
We kicked off the campaign with a simple donut and coffee breakfast for all employees on all three of our primary campus locations, and by the end of the week, we’d exceeded our first goal of 12.5 percent participation. In fact, we were pretty close to meeting the 2016 results.
To keep things fun, we reached out to several businesses in Statesville and Mooresville and asked if they’d contribute giveaways. The response was fantastic–nearly $500 in prizes. So every Friday at noon, we had a drawing for prizes, and everyone who’d made a commitment was entered to win. The prizes ranged from restaurant gift cards to handmade jewelry, but they were all fun, and our winners clearly were happy to have their names picked out of a hat.
We hit our Week 2 goal on the nose, and then we came up short on Week 3, which was the week after Easter and also the local school system’s spring break. But for Week 4, we aggressively messaged (emails nearly every day), and we saved a big drawing for last: three $100 gift cards.
We needed every minute to reach our goal, but in the end we exceeded it and reached 52 percent participation–tripling our 2016 results.
Now onto the last two months of the fiscal year. We have some hard work to do in terms of fundraising, and we’ve been operating with an open position since December, meaning our team is down one member. We’ve re-written the job description, advertised it, and now we’re nearing the time to interview applicants. With any luck, we’ll close out the year with a full staff, a better fundraising total, and a solid vision for 2017-18.
This job hasn’t been without its challenges, and there have been a few days when the inherent processes of what it is we do have been truly frustrating. But no two days have been the same, and it is incredibly gratifying to see our team put up big wins. (Beyond fundraising, we’ve had great publicity the last couple of months, and we’re putting out some very good content on our digital spaces.)
I’ve written in excess of 800 words about my job and made no mention of my family. And though this week was the worst in terms of work/life balance, it’s important to note that it’s up to me to carve out time for Kelly and our children. The responsibilities of this new job are bigger than the responsibilities of my former one, and though I no longer have to spend time on the road traveling for work, there are many days when I see the kiddos in the morning and at night for dinner and bedtime. I worked through their spring break week, mostly because I reset the vacation days clock when I started the new job, but it’s time for me to block out days off this summer and focus on planning a few things for us all.