DONOR STEWARDSHIP

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What exactly is donor stewardship? Why does it matter? And more importantly, is it necessary?

If you turn to the good old Webster and break down the term, you get this:

Donor:
a : the making of a gift especially to a charity or public institution
b : a free contribution : gift

Stewardship:

1: the office, duties, and obligations of a steward
2: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care;stewardship of natural resources

Fortunately, “donor” is pretty straight-forward, but “stewardship” …. well it’s harder to grasp and relate back to the organization’s bottom line.

Yet, if you look into staff of different charities and post-secondary institutions, they have full-time positions dedicated to donor stewardship.

I was first exposed to the term when I interned at Red River College’s College Relations department last winter. During my three weeks at the College a lot of my work revolved around just that. I wrote articles and updates on specific projects for donor reports. I spent afternoons dropping off goodies to  donors. Also, the department also threw a number of VIP events that catered to…can you guess? You’re right! Donors.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized donor stewardship was everywhere.

Even in less obvious situations I find myself in the act of some form of donor stewardship.

For example, the other day I decided to buy donuts for my co-workers.

Although I support random acts of kindness. This gesture was caused by pure appreciation of something they did for me.

The day before, the girls at work learned I was selling homemade pet treats for the 1001 Iams Winnipeg Humane Society Telethon. I’m a part of the fundraising team and launched the project earlier in the month. As soon as my co-workers learned about my cause, they were eager to buy bags for their own pets and to support my project.

But they didn’t stop there.

Through out the day I had people from other departments, who I have never even met before, visit me at my desk and asked to buy the pet treats. I quickly learned the girls from work were calling everyone they knew in the building and spreading the word on my behalf.

By the end of my shift I had to take orders and promise others I’d bring more the next day I was in. Their own contribution and support for my school project without doubt warranted “donor stewardship.”

The least I could of done was buy them donuts.

But even with that, I got a bunch of “you shouldn’t haves,”  “you’re too sweet,” and one, who empathized because I was a full-time student paying for College even forcibly paid me back for the dozen.

I wish I could of done more to say thank you, but despite that – it felt good to do something nice for them, especially for the kindness they showed me.

To me donor stewardship is about maintaining those special relationships. As much as it is strategic and carefully planned, it’s about having opportunities to simply just say “thank you.”

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LEARNING HOW TO TURN IT OFF

Believe it or not, but I love it when my phone dies.

In PR, a huge part of our role is to stay well connected – not only with our internal and external audiences but with current news and events. It’s our responsibility to know what happened, what is happening right now and if possible, what’s going to happen.

I check my text messages and voicemails at least a few times every hour. Same goes for my emails and social media notifications. Twitter especially, because there’s always something new to read and learn.

I work at the WFP classifieds department, and the average age in my department is closer to my Mom’s age, if not older. Even with the age gap, I still love working with coworkers. However, when we’re in the lunch room and I’m on my phone while eating my sandwich…someone almost always comments on how my generation is so glued to our phones. My manager even jokingly threatened to give me a ticket for walking and texting once. Haha!

I don’t blame them for their comments. It’s a horrible habit I won’t even pretend I can break. Our generation is the “right now” generation. We need information, and we need it NOW.

It hit me how bad it was last night when I was sending off email invitations to an event I’m hosting in early April. Despite it being way after business hours, I constantly felt the need to check if anyone replied to my requests. And surprisingly a majority of them did.

It makes me think, are we ever really “off”?

Late last night I had a dinner date with my boyfriend, and luckily my phone died as soon as we sat down at the restaurant. Our night continued and I left my phone dead until the next morning. That’s my honest definition of peace.

It worries me a bit to think I had to depend on my phone dying to obtain that kind of peace. A new goal of mine is to learn how to learn how to turn it off, without actually turning it off or having it turn off against my will.

So with that said…it’s Friday night and my girlfriends are going to be here in less than five.

Happy weekend.

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WIN SOME. LOSE SOME.

These past few weeks have been kind of tricky for me.

It’s nearing the end of my graduating year and the work load is getting steeper. Deadline after deadline. Meeting after meeting. Sometimes it feels like we’re having meetings to just schedule another meeting.

I’ll admit – between school, work, college events and other commitments…I’m swamped.

And unfortunately, sometimes – it is impossible to get it all done. And even worse, sometimes it’s impossible to meet everyones expectations.

I think it’s important to realize there’s going to be times where you have to step back, look at your situation and let some things go. At that point, prioritization steps in, which means some things have to be put on the back burner.

At the end of the day you can’t make everyone happy, but at least you’ll keep your sanity.

Recently learned lessons:
1. Don’t over-promise

2. When meeting with a client, write EVERYTHING down

3. Don’t write your meeting notes on single sheets, keep them in a bounded notebook

4. When feeling overloaded and somewhat stressed, there’s always ice cream and funny dog pictures

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THE IKEA EXPERIENCE

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It’s one of Winnipeg’s most prized possessions, along with the Winnipeg Jets and the Golden Boy; Ikea is the newfound source of joy and happy times for Winnipeg shoppers. The global phenomenon of Ikea can be set side-by-side other well-known brands like Starbucks, Lululemon and even Apple. Like those brands, the Ikea brand attracts media attention and consumer devotion.  Thanks to the success of Ikea, cities are able to flourish by the boost in their local economy and by attracting tourists from smaller cities or towns who don’t have an Ikea already.

So what is the appeal the “Ikea Experience? Three simple things: products and services, store layout and the food services.

PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

One of Ikea’s strongest appeal is their product itself. Ikea’s products are functional, modern and affordable. Although they are made of cheap materials, Ikea shoppers are willing to compromise the quality for the overall look and price. Also, Ikea offers consumers a generous range of choices of products and styles.

In addition, unlike other furniture retails, shoppers likely don’t have to order in their furniture, because chances are Ikea has your dresser or table in stock in their on-site warehouse. Ikea’s product and service is immediate and can serve the consumer who needs the piece of furniture now (or even yesterday).

Another comparable bonus of Ikea to other competition is the nature of service Ikea offers. When shopping at traditional furniture retails, salespersons with a motive of earning commission are often in your face moments, sometimes seconds, after entering their stores. Ikea’s system allows consumers to browse the store on their own terms, without the added pressure from salespeople; however, that doesn’t mean Ikea leaves their consumers helpless with their retail needs.

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Convenient shopping at Ikea is another selling valuable factor. In almost every department there is kiosks that holds bags, maps, pencils and even measuring tape. They have computer stations in a variety of their departments that allow consumers to browse their online catalogue and even develop their own digital floor plan. If that’s not enough, each department is fairly staffed and consumers should have no problem finding assistance if needed.

 STORE LAYOUT

With average-sized Ikea’s ranging from 350,000 square feet (Winnipeg’s being 395,000 square feet), there’s no doubt there’s more than plenty to see in Ikea. The layout of the stores strategically sucks consumers into their aesthetically pleasing world and welcomes them to experience the true “Ikea experience.”

As soon as you enter to the store, you are attracted to model floor plans of a bedroom, kitchen and living room only steps away from the entrance.  A friendly, energetic staff member welcomes you and from there you find your way up the wide stairway to the second floor. The second floor of Ikea consists of countless model rooms setup like real-life living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens. The detail in the rooms creates adult (and child) “playground” appeal. Guests are welcomed to imagine the model room is their own. Ikea accomplishes that with the amount of detail each room carries. For example, in the kitchen room models, top cupboards are filled with beautiful glassware and plates, and in addition, the drawers are filled with utensils and cutlery.

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Consumers become so caught up in the detail of each room, it’s easy to lose track of time in Ikea. In addition, with the store’s many wall dividers shoppers are forced to walk through the different departments to find what they need. Shopping in Ikea myself, I often had no clue where I was, but I didn’t mind because I was enjoying myself. When I did finally reach full circle and found my way back at the entrance you don’t realize browsing can easily be an hour or more of your time.

FOOD SERVICES
Swedish meatballs, need I say more? Ikea is not only known for their attractive products, exceptional service, enormous stores, but the retail giant specialize in unique and inexpensive food services. Among those food options, Ikea appeals to the everyday consumer with $1 breakfasts, delicious Swedish meatballs and a variety of mouth-watering desserts.

The café on the second level is family friendly and is enough to seat guests on their busiest days (e.g. the Saturday after they opened in Winnipeg at lunch hour).  In addition, the marketplace and fast food service on the first floor is quick and shopper friendly. The appeal of their food services is probably one of the strongest drives to their store, contributing to the “Ikea experience.”

During our Monday morning visit, I found a lot of the shoppers were young mothers, accompanied by either a friend or parent, and of course their toddlers. Seniors and their friends also were another demographic I noticed.  I’d argue a majority of shoppers were consumers were recreational shoppers, who weren’t looking for something specific.

The “Ikea experience,” from the trendy products, detailed showrooms to the delicious food services, is captivating shoppers on a level other competition hasn’t been able to tap into. As for the future of Ikea in Winnipeg, I only see a bright and prosperous road. In Winnipeg, Ikea is also providing growth opportunities for other businesses in the surrounding area.  Large chained businesses like Boston Pizza and Cabella’s have already begun construction of their new locations directly beside the retail giant, and it’s unlikely they’ll be the last.

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JUST DON’T DO IT.

Have you ever wanted to be someone you weren’t?

As a child, I admit to have exaggerated situations or even fabricated fake stories to my parents and friends just to say something interesting.

OR more often, if asked a question and if the “real” answer may have gotten me in some trouble… I admit to have lied in some of those situations as well.

E.g. Mom: Did you eat the lunch I packed for you today?
Me: Yes, Mom.
– In reality I threw my boring sandwich away, and my friends and I went to Dairy Queen.

OR
Friend: Did you tell Friend2 I thought she was annoying?
Me: No.
– In reality, I may have let it slip last night on the phone. Opps.

I’m proud to say as I got older those habits die. For me at least, I think before I act. As you get older, you gain more responsibility and I guess – you have more to lose if you were acting unfavorable.

On our first day of Creative Communications, our program coordinator told us “our careers start now.” She explained, everything we did and everything we said that day until graduation would represent who we are to future colleagues (our instructors, people in the industry who presented and of course, our classmates).

During my communications for nonprofit class, one guest ended her presentation with the simple advice:

“Don’t lie. Just don’t do it.”

In communications, whether it be professional or personal – trust is a huge deal breaker. When you lie once, you lose that credibility.

When watching Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah, I found myself questioning the authenticity of his answers. Although he finally did admit to a majority of the accusations, I found myself thinking twice when he didn’t admit to some of Oprah’s questions.

To be honest, I didn’t know him much as an athlete. I didn’t know anything about his cycling career or his Tour de France “wins.” I knew him as the CEO of Live Strong. Growing up and especially today as a communications student, I admired his companies work and mission. I bought those little yellow bracelets, and so did all my friends.

Now unfortunately all his lies have overshadowed everything good he’s done, and he doesn’t have anyone else to blame.

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VALUES

What is your salary expectation?

To me (and probably most of you) that is a scary question.

Nobody wants to answer that wrong. If it’s too high, would they throw my application away? If it’s lower than what they usually pay, would they underpay me? As a communications student wanting to go into a nonprofit, it makes it a bit more tricky because of some of their limited resources.

An honest nightmare of mine is to lose my ideal “dream job” because they can’t afford my requested salary.

In PR class last week my instructor, who has done a number of hiring in the communications field, explained the question isn’t as literal as some of us take it. In reality, it actually reflects how reasonable the applicant is.

E.g. 38,000 in an entry-level communications job = reasonal
150,000 in an entry-level communications job = probably not reasonal

From there we got into the discussion of employee incentives other than monetary – like benefits, employee discounts, vacation and even working environment.

In the past, I’ve held positions where the pay wasn’t as great as other lower-skilled jobs – but I was given freedom, flexibility and fulfillment. I also felt valued.

In my five-years of studying communications, “value” would be a reoccurring key term covered in my rhetoric, business and communications courses.

As a writer, we have to create value for our readers.

As a business owner, we have to create value for our customers (in other words in our product or service).

And as a student, soon to be graduate – what do I value?

I value the idea of taking time off after right after graduation to go away and celebrate. I also value independence, so I’m hoping to find a full-time job that will help me move out for the first time in my life. And as a hopeless romantic, I also value the idea of being married in the next few years – so I’d also have to find a job that won’t have excessive work loads preventing me from planning it in the evening.

I guess the key to finding the right job for me would depend on my values, and in addition, the values of the organization. If our values match up and “click” then I’m sure I’d fit right in.

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MY THREE WEEKS

I’m officially done! Well…for now. 🙂

After a few networking events, articles for the websites, a donor report, a communications strategy, and a cupcake and dim sum send off…..semester 3 of CreComm is fini!

My three-week work placement flew by like a breeze. Although I’ll enjoy my extra freedom and the idea of being paid for my 9-5s, it’s still a bummer I won’t see the team everyday. The College Relations staff really grew on me. I was definitely one of the lucky ones to be able to spend three weeks with such a great (and very entertaining!) bunch. I learned more than I ever expected to and I also now have a few valuable pieces that I can add to my portfolio.

I see now the importance of opportunities like this. To be invited to join a very busy team and be trusted to contribute what I can to their many projects has really given me a special outlook of what I want from my career. They weren’t kidding when they said the real-world is nothing compared to school. To think of it – I’ve been in school for almost 20 years now. From kindergarten to university and college, everything I’ve done was just practice. Practice for the real world. The real world where letter grades don’t matter. What matters is the quality of work that you produce. Write a great proposal and possibly change the face of your organization for the better…or screw up on a proposal…and well I don’t want to know.

But I won’t get ahead of myself. I have a few more months of classes and a couple of events to coordinate before I walk down that road.

For now, I’m going to wish you guys a happy weekend and thank you for reading (Hi David!).

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INTERN LIFE

Today marked my second full week interning at my College’s Advancement department. I learned earlier in the week one manager originally oversaw the entire team of marketing, communications and advancement. Since this summer, they hired a new addition to the management team to help with the enormous task.

I said it in my last post – but this department does a TON. It’s mind-boggling how much they do. Luckily for RRC they are a team of bright, enthusiastic and committed ladies and gents who are EXTREMELY good at what they do. As a student I was already a fan of my College and its reputation but being able to see internally how it functions as an entity has really been a treat.

In the past two weeks I’ve been able to get to know instructors, staff and alumni while covering their success stories for the College’s blogs. One story is about a 5 year partnership between PGI and Barry Callebaut, while the other is about a Business Admin grad who went straight to Germany after convocation to play pro hockey.

To be honest, as a PR major, I didn’t expect so many journalism assignments – but suprisingly I don’t mind. It’s been a nice reminder of the importance of story-telling and it also allowed me to learn more about RRC and all the great success stories.

On the other of the stick, I have attended my share of networking events on behalf of the dept. and have been working on fundraising research assignments. I’m really lucky to work with so many passionate fundraisers in my department. Sometimes just listening to them work out their thoughts out loud has been eyeopening. Fundraising is really a process you have to know in and out. There’s so much to learn.

For my last week, I’ll be working on communications strategy to implement more philanthropic initiatives at the College. Quite the task – but luckily we’ve done enough of them in my PR major I know what I’m doing. I’m excited for the project to carry along next year and to think my ideas may be able to get the ball rolling is exciting. This weekend I’ll definitely be trying to search deep down for those BIG ideas.

Oh! And I even lucked out and was able to join the team for the annual Christmas party. Below is a photo of a little treat given to me from one of the great gals from the office. Sweet isn’t it?

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2012 ALUMNI DINNER

Today marks the end of my first week at Red River College’s College Relations department for my second-year work placement. I have another two more weeks to take in what I can. In the past week I’ve learned so much about the college and the great people that make it what it is. I’m also very impressed with the amount of work that comes out of this department. Between college advancement and marketing/communications – they do a ton.

For my first assignment, I was asked to write a piece for the College’s Alumni blog “Going Places.” They asked me to talk about my experiences at the 2012 Alumni Gala on November 16.

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When I was asked to attend Red River College’s 2012 Alumni Dinner — and act as a student ambassador on behalf of the Creative Communications program — three thoughts danced around in my head.

First, I was thankful because it meant I had a legitimate reason to go shopping and find a pretty dress. Second, I figured based on the ticket price alone, I was bound to receive a complimentary fancy dinner. And third, I thought the event was a valuable networking opportunity to chat with professionals in my desired industry.

When I entered The Fairmont Winnipeg on Nov. 16, the evening of the gala, I remember being taken aback by the sheer number of guests waiting patiently to check their table number. Thinking back now, I don’t know why I was so surprised – after all, our College will be turning 75 years old next year.

Aside from the well-dressed crowd, delicious meal, beautiful venue and exquisite décor — the 2012 Alumni Dinner proved to be much more.

The Dinner was a celebration and appreciation of the many grads that contribute to the success and growth of our college. When I looked across the dozens of tables that seated approximately 500 guests, I felt moved knowing each and every one of those guests had a special connection with my College.

During the evening, such speakers as Wayne Morsky, master of ceremonies and 2011 Distinguished Alumni recipient, and Stephanie Forsyth, President & CEO of RRC, commented on how the College has evolved over the years. As a current student fortunate enough to go to school everyday in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, it was humbling to hear stories about our history.

Those stories brought me back to a week prior, when a very generous host and his beautiful wife invited 16 current RRC students — myself included — to join them for dinner.

Bob Tallman, CEO of Princess Auto and now Distinguished Alumni recipient of 2012, shared stories of his time at the Notre Dame campus, where he graduated from the Business Administration program in the mid-1970s.

Despite our generation gap, Bob and I both agreed that RRC has contributed to our love for Winnipeg. Before entering Creative Communications, I was convinced I wanted to leave our little city and move to Toronto. Become an event planner in the big city – that was my plan.

However, during my time at RRC, I’ve been exposed to so many new experiences and faces of Winnipeg through assignments and contacts. It was because of the program I finally visited the Manitoba Theatre Centre, toured the Winnipeg Art Gallery, interviewed a war veteran, and even volunteered at The Forks.

It is because of the opportunities given to me by Red River College that I’ve had the honour to meet so many successful and inspiring grads like Bob Tallman, who not only achieve success in Winnipeg but also contribute to making it the great city it is today.

My most treasured memory of the gala and my dinner with the Tallmans was meeting and getting to know 15 other Red River College students from a wide variety of programs, among them Child and Youth Care, Culinary Arts, Business Administration, Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, Automotive Technician and Power Engineering.

As students, we become so preoccupied and involved with our own program, we forget we’re just a small part of what makes Red River College what it is.

After having attended the 2012 Alumni Dinner, it was obvious how proud our alumni are of Red River College. Being given the opportunity to meet and share my experiences with other students, I know we as current students are proud of RRC, and as it continues to contribute to the growth of our great city, I have no doubt Winnipeggers will be just as proud of the College as well.

For more information about Alumni Relations or the benefits of memberships, events or publications, see rrc.ca/alumni.

THE CITY I LOVE

– Taken at one of my favourite places in the city: The Forks

So last week, I blogged about a networking opportunity I was invited to on behalf of my college.

Bob and Cathy Tallman were kind enough to invite 16 current students from RRC out for dinner to chat about our experiences with RRC last Friday.

The couple was so generous, and so very genuine. I think at one point of the evening I even referred to them as “adorable”. They shared their experiences at Red River College and University of Winnipeg – the two schools I’m attending for my degree program. It was interesting to hear about how times have changed.

Despite our age difference, Bob and I both agreed Red River College contributed to our personal love for Winnipeg. Before Creative Communications, I was convinced I wanted to leave our little city and move to Toronto. Become a writer and event planner in the big city – that was my plan.

However, during Creative Communications we are exposed to so many great things in Winnipeg through assignments and presentations. It was because of CreComm I finally visited the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, attended a Remembrance Day ceremony, volunteered for The Forks and even attended my first City Hall meeting.

And it is because of CreComm I have had the honour to meet so many inspiring people, like Bob Tallman (and many of our instructors), who not only succeed in Winnipeg but contribute to making it the great city it is today.

Since RRC, my goals have changed. Instead of wanting to move to the big city, my new goal is to stay here right here in Winnipeg and contribute my “little something” to the city I love.

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