Thrive RSS Feed RSS Feed Three Years In: Homeward Still Has It Prior to 2012, none of us had ever heard of a little program called Homeward. In fact, the very idea of an alumni participation brand seemed crazy. Why would you invest time and money in a sphere of philanthropy that had seen two decades of nationwide decline, with next to no solutions or best practices to be found in the field?

You wouldn’t. The pitch for Homeward in 2012 was nuts. It’s hard to believe anyone let us do it.

But, looking back now, it’s equally hard to believe Homeward’s only three years old…that it’s new to our DNA. It has felt so natural, so fitting, so iconically OC from almost day one—and it has been so successful to boot—that Homeward has become a redefining, pacesetting brand for our team. We don’t go a day without talking about it.

Grad Givers 2015

I dream about Homeward. Seriously.

It all makes me think that maybe, just maybe, a little Homeward pride has always pumped in our Eagley veins (that’s what I call a Homewardism)—we were just waiting for someone to tap it.

Believe me when I say that other schools want to tap the magic, too.

They want to understand what you (our grads) did and why. According to the Council for Aid to Education’s annual survey, only 8.3 percent of graduates nationwide gave back to their alma maters in 2014. That’s down again from 2013 and from every year before that for more than twenty years. For the second year running, though, OC grads doubled the national average: 17.4 percent.

Like last year, that’s a stat no one even believes on first blush. I get blank stares, raised eyebrows, and questions that imply I’m bad with math problems.

“No, really, our participation isn’t going down.”

“Yes, those numbers are real.”

“No, you can’t have our grads.”

I truly believe we have the best graduates on earth. (And I guess I never learned to share.) How else would you explain the Homeward Pride: Club Competition, which helped bring in 807 new grad givers and raised $33,908 for student passion projects, including scholarship funds, mission trip efforts, clean water initiatives, and more? How would you explain the club pride of Psi Epsilon, whose graduates took the Homeward Pride mantle this year with an insane 57.5 percent participation rate?

And then there’s Homeward overall. 2,040 graduates giving this year. Up from 860 just a few years ago. Who does that?!

You do.

I was recently asked how I felt about missing the mark on our 2015 goal. We had hoped to break a new campus record with 2,300 grad givers. We were 260 shy. The person asking me wasn’t expecting devastation on my part, I don’t believe, but he wasn’t expecting a smile either. And that’s what he got.

I’m pushing cloud ten, actually. In 2012, all of us would have told you that inspiring 1,500 grad givers would be ambitious. Inspiring 2,000? Probably impossible. And yet you’ve done the impossible... twice.

We’ve set outlandish goals with Homeward precisely because you’ve proven the impossible possible. You’ve inspired us to aim incredibly high, to charge boldly into risky but worthwhile plans, to be a little crazy. And judging by our second straight year of doubling the national average, that ambition is paying off. I’m far from disappointed. In fact, I’m beyond proud.

Watch for more on Homeward 2015-2016 this fall. Until then, go ahead and bask in your awesomeness.

We love you.


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Thu, 18 Jun 2015 15:15:00 CDT 4f982207-0eee-4e29-beec-440920415523
Love Hard Today (And Always) I have no right to author these words. To attempt to articulate the storm of emotion our campus is weathering today and will strain beneath for weeks, months, and years to come. Or to tearfully grasp at the depth of pain and disorientation that can only be consuming our sweet, sweet First Family. That task is above and beyond me.

But I’m writing today anyway, because I simply believe that words need to be written. To go from “Thriving” to “Still Thriving,” without stopping to acknowledge our collective heartbreak…without hitting pause on all our campaigning to tell you that we’re struggling to work today…that we have cried in meetings…that we fight to breathe sometimes…that we feel empty and broken and small…

That would violate something deep within me.

With the loss of our dear friend Joe, and the knowledge that President deSteiguer, his wife Darla, and daughter Abby, three of the purest and most wonderful people we know, have been hollowed raw with grief… we are adrift. We wash in and out of classrooms and offices, our minds dull and our hearts heavy, with little sense of time and even less of purpose.

There’s nothing to do. There’s little to say. The world turns on but everything we considered important yesterday now seems trivial. How can we give finals? How can we take them? How can we raise money or make strategic plans? How can we do anything but put our heads down and our feet forward, hoping against hope we find our way to something meaningful?

But, believe it or not, meaning is already here. And power. And grace. And love beyond my understanding. 

I gush about Oklahoma Christian sometimes, and I know my romanticism can come across as overdone. But if you could be here, if you could see our watery eyes, hold our shaking hands, and hear the otherworldly sounds of heartache and praise being poured out to our Father this week, you would understand. This family is special. This family loves deeply and honestly and without fear. We celebrate and we suffer as one. And we do so through the provision of One who is over all and through all and in all.

Through tears today I watched John and Darla deSteiguer, beaten but as tall as I’ve ever seen them, stand among our graduating seniors and sing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” I don’t know if I’ve ever, or will ever again, see those old and honored phrases offered more genuinely. And immediately following that song, our students and staff began lining up to hug this sweet family that we love so, so much. 

The Eagles are a remarkable few, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

But, what rings even more intensely for me today, is that I wouldn’t trade our greater church family, the people and the Spirit of our God. He is so big. And His love—that love I saw today, that hugs and weeps and quivers with powerful authenticity—is just overwhelming. It’s sufficient now as it was yesterday.

Today, I’m sore with emotion. But I’m praising God for the OC family. I’m praising God for gracious, kindhearted, and emotive leaders. For friends and loved ones. For my wife and my daughter. For the priceless gift of life and for the opportunity we have every day to live it well.

And I’m praising God for God, and for His incredible love that fills us when nothing else can.

If you do one thing for me today, don’t give to Thrive. Wherever you are, whatever you think is important, turn off your computer, turn off your phone, and go home. Leave work before 5pm if you can. Find the people you care about, hold them so tight, and empty yourself of every last ounce of love you have to give.

They’re worth it.


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Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:30:00 CDT be769bfb-a8d2-4bc6-9cc3-5e54f3d1dc9e
Two Million Reasons Unrestricted is Awesome About eight months ago I wrote to you about donor intent—the idea that when a donor [let’s call him Jim] gives money [say $5,000] to OC with specific intent [Jim wants to build an outdoor garden for the biology department], the University can only spend that money per the donor’s wishes [we’ll use $5,000 on an outdoor garden or so help us].

But that’s not always how donor intent plays out. Sometimes, when asked, a donor will give us money with a wonderful little wrinkle: “Put it anywhere,” they’ll say.  “Wherever it’s needed most.”

It’s at this point that I lose it (in a good way). The Eye of the Tiger starts playing in my head and I have an irresistible urge to punch the sky in sweet, sweet triumph. “They like us. They really, really like us!” my inner-Oscar-acceptor shouts.


Well, donations come in two basic types: restricted and unrestricted. A wherever-you-need-it-most gift is what we call unrestricted. And it can make big waves for a campus like ours for many reasons. I’ll give you three.

It’s flexible.

Don’t let how obvious that statement is fool you; flexibility is huge. Think about it in terms of your family budget. Let’s say you made $3,000 last month, but your boss is a little quirky and he outlined restrictions for your pay. You’re legally allowed to use $1,000 on your mortgage, $600 on travel (including car payments), $400 on groceries, and $500 on miscellaneous utilities. You’re allotted $200 for debt payments, also, leaving you $300 to spend on incidentals. Everything not spent for its intended purpose in the month must be saved for that specific purpose later.

That’s great. All your major expenses are covered (maybe). But what happens when you have to make that late night trip to the emergency room? Or the A/C goes out at the house? Or you have an opportunity to invest in a promising stock? Or… you name it. You could have thousands in savings in the bank (you could even have millions), but if it were all restricted, you’d still have zero available to get things that need doing done.

It fuels many a ship.

A university budget is complex to say the least. There are hundreds of projects working at any one time—all of them good and all of them meaningful to someone. But not every ship on the OC waters has the fuel to really chug, not all the time anyway. And we need them chugging! 

During the summer months, for example, when our typical fuel (tuition) is low, many ships would have to slow to a crawl without an alternative fill-up. That’s where our awesome unrestricted reserve comes in—filling the tank of not just one ship, but every ship it can.

It sends a powerful message.

It’s an amazing thing anytime someone gives their hard-earned money to Oklahoma Christian. It’s doubly amazing in my mind, though, when someone essentially says: “I want you to use my money to help change a student’s world…and I trust you to do that however you think is best.” To give unrestricted is to show faith in OC to the nth degree. And we don’t take that lightly.

Two million more reasons to love it.

With that third point in mind, I have some awesome news. You may have seen this on OC’s main site already, but an anonymous donor—someone (or someones) who just gets the unique influence of unrestricted giving—has committed an incredible $2,000,000 wherever-you-need-it-most gift to Oklahoma Christian.

But there’s a cool little catch.

He, she, they (I’m trying for anonymity here) wants others to understand the awesomeness that is unrestricted. So the pledge is a challenge. For every dollar our OC family gives to unrestricted between now and May 31, 2016, this donor will match it, up to $250,000 per donating family.

Give $50. Make it $100.

Give $500. Make it $1,000.

Give $250,000. Make it $500,000.

That’s astounding generosity. That’s astounding opportunity, too. And if you’ve ever wanted to make me lose it to Eye of the Tiger, now is your chance.

More (probably) soon.


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Tue, 14 Apr 2015 17:00:00 CDT 57845366-0b05-4427-80e8-050416c07a2b
From London to OKC and 27 Autumns In-between It’s long been my intent to have a guest writer or two on this blog. It shakes things up and keeps the perspective fresh. However, I never guessed my first visiting blogger would be none other than our president, John deSteiguer. I’d be surprised if you didn’t know John (he knows everyone somehow), but if you don’t, you can learn more about our home-building leader right here.

He’s found himself on the Thrive Blog because fundraising is, as I’ve said, very personal business. It’s not about numbers or spreadsheets or flashy presentations. Sure, sometimes those things find their way into the mix, but fundraising is really about people. And when you’re investing your life in others, that leads to some wonderful serendipitous moments and some equally wonderful stories.

And, well, I’ll let him tell you the rest…

Sometimes you just have to do scary things. Remember when you were little and you knew you were going to the doctor to get a shot? Yeah, that was always terrifying. I have seen some surveys that suggest three intensely frightening activities for adults: public speaking, asking for money, and handling live snakes.

I am ok with the first two; the third one not so much.

But, writing this, my first ever blog post, is really scary for me. Will Blanchard is a master at this – he’s funny, he’s a great writer, he explains stuff behind the curtain really well. I already don’t like the comparison!

But, I want to share something personal and fun. So, here goes. In 1987, 27 autumns ago, Darla and I moved to Shepherd’s Bush, a London neighborhood, for our third semester of Law School in Pepperdine’s London Program. It was a great experience. London is a world-class city that rivals Vienna, Austria – the home of OC’s Das Millicanhaus and our Euro Study Abroad Program.

On Sundays, we attended the Wembley church of Christ. At first, our trek involved the London Underground and a long walk. Then, church members felt sorry for us and began picking us up at the Underground stop. Soon, another pattern of hospitality began that we remember vividly. On Sunday afternoons, after morning service and before evening service, Charles and Jeanene Bare would take us home to a delicious lunch and their comfortable flat to relax and study. The Bares became like our parents away from home.

Over the last several years, our past has returned to the present. Darla and I have reconnected with Charles and Jeanene. We get to see them regularly when we are in Houston. They’re great – and they’re just as hospitable as ever! In fact, home is so precious to them that they’re making a Thrive project possible – the $250,000 Apartment Refresh. So, not only did they make home special for two young students in London many years ago; they will be making home special for OC students in some of our apartments for years into the future! The Bares are a blessing!

Oh, and another bit of good news – the Mabee Foundation recently committed a $1 million challenge grant to our Dining Reboot (I think Will plans to tell you more about this soon). We have 12 months to raise the remaining $2.5 million to qualify for the Mabee grant and make the coffee shop and new dining facility a reality. By the way, in the last few days we have asked some donors for this remaining amount ... while they didn’t say yes, they also didn’t immediately say no … and for a fundraiser, that’s not a bad first reaction!

More soon and many blessings.


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Mon, 02 Mar 2015 10:45:00 CST ab72a02d-ac9f-4d19-b073-562b1f1b0adc
Wait…Why’d the Caf Price Go Up? The week before Thanksgiving, I was blessed to be part of one of the most unique and flat-out fun projects I’ve ever worked on: Students Pick. If you followed our shenanigans on Twitter (@OCThrive), you know that 1,977 students were invited to decide the fate of $275,000 in Thrive. They turned out in droves (thanks, Eagles!) and, with 600 votes, cast their lots with the Cafeteria Reboot.

And, if you’ve been watching the Thrive menu closely, you saw $275,000 land in the Campus Café Reboot pot at the very moment the students made their decision. It was a fantastic and game-changing week for Thrive, and I can’t thank our students enough for making it happen.

Now fast-forward two weeks. Again, if you’ve been watching the menu, you saw yet another change. The price of the Café Reboot, the Students’ Pick, has gone up. A lot. It was $3,000,000. Today it’s $4,246,000.

I’ll let you chew on that a second.

“Wait…what?!” you’re now thinking. “We were less than a million away from the goal! The students just put $275,000 into that project! $1.2M is a lot of money! Why the change?”

We’ve promised since day one to shoot straight with you in Thrive. And that means giving you the truth when it’s easy and when it’s not so much. A $1.2M jump in the middle of the year is a tough pill to swallow, for sure. It was hard for me to get it down when I heard it, too.

But it’s the right pill.

Here’s why. Originally, we conceived developing a redesigned cafeteria in the existing Dining Hall. That’s the model you’ve seen on the Thrive menu and the message I’ve been sharing since day one. In this first iteration, exterior walls would have been removed from the dining area, fixed seating and contemporary food stations would have been added, and the student entrance would have been reconfigured.

It would have been a very positive and efficient change at approximately $3 million altogether. But there was a big, hairy “however” hanging in the wings of this plan: where would we host dining events on campus? The Alumni Banquet, Athletic Hall of Fame Dinner, preachers’ luncheons, scholarship luncheons, college and departmental dinners, prayer breakfasts, Chamber events, employee dinners, Campus Connect, Honors Lunch, and more…without a modular, banquet-style dining space, how would we manage those?

The hard and short answer is that we wouldn’t.

We’d gain a great student space (which is what we want first and foremost), but we’d lose nearly 20,000 square feet of banquet space for alumni and community events—space that would be very, very difficult and expensive to find again. (Building a free-standing banquet space or addition could easily run $4M to $7M on it’s own!)

And we wouldn’t be the only ones hurting. By taking this space away from United Dining, our food service provider (and $1M donor to the new Caf), we would erode their team’s ability to provide outside catering—a revenue driver that allows them to provide fuller and better service to OC and our students.

“Hmmm…” you’re thinking now.

At OC, we don’t like win-lose scenarios. They’re just not our style. So we went back to the drawing board looking for the win-win. And thanks to our clever partners at Glover, Smith, and Bode (GSB) and CMS Willowbrook, and the thoughtful leadership of Vice President Terry Winn, we have a new design that, I believe, is exactly that.

And, because I relish giving you peeks behind the curtain, here’s an early concept of that design:

Dining Hall Concept Schematic

Exterior Concept

Serving Concept

Interior Concept

All plans provided by GSB, Inc.

This new take on the Reboot proposes a 15,872 square foot addition to the northwest corner of the Gaylord University Center. An all-new space that will overlook one of the most beautiful spots on campus.

This revised plan directly addresses many of the weaknesses identified in the current cafeteria (and the first proposed reboot) and turns those factors into strengths: 

  • Location is central to student traffic, just off the main campus commons.
  • Wraparound windows on the north side overlook the Lawson Commons—which include the Freede Centennial Clocktower and McGraw Pavillion.
  • A diversity of fixed seating options will make the space feel more approachable, less institutional, and more like a comfortable, attractive restaurant where students can eat, work, and gather for hours at a time.
  • Students will scan in at the service area only, opening up the entire 11,500 square foot dining floor for “come and go” usage.
  • Serving area, which takes advantage of the existing kitchen, is being built from the ground up to facilitate contemporary food prep.
  • Wider and more natural queuing area, use of existing south banquet rooms for group events, and alternate serving lines will relieve congestion during busy hours.

All of these awesome things will happen while preserving the majority of the existing banquet hall. This will essentially double OC’s dining capacity and will allow us to accommodate daily student life and public events simultaneously.

So, yes, the price is going up considerably. But we’re getting a better, more student-centric dining area in a superior location AND a banquet hall for the price of one project. In fact, the price for resulting square foot of usable dining space is going down by more than a third.

That’s amazing. Means more work for our team and more generosity from the OC family, but I for one am all for it (and I hope you are too).

More soon.


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Fri, 05 Dec 2014 14:00:00 CST 109ad6c8-b69e-4305-bdf8-f35cbe730c2a
Students Pick How do you engage 1,977 undergrads in a capital campaign like Thrive?

That’s the head-scratcher that’s worn a hole in my scalp these last few months. I’ve been consistent in my mantra that Thrive is for our students. But just because you campaign “for” a couple thousand awesome someones doesn’t mean you get the pleasure of campaigning “with” them.

And that preposition needs to change.

You already know that one major emphasis of Thrive is communication. We believe we can do more with this campaign than just raise money; we can transform culture. We’re doing that in part by telling the OC story more overtly and more transparently than ever before. And so far our donors, alumni, and civic community seem to dig it! (Thank you.)

But our communication goals go beyond the typical campaign audiences. For the first time ever, we intend to spend good time (and even money) on connecting current students with the campaign.

In Higher Learning - Higher Calling (Thrive’s very successful predecessor) we communicated victories to our students, but we didn’t bring them “behind the curtain” on the campaign process. As a result, many students (myself included) misunderstood how priorities were selected or financed. 

A common concern among students was that we were using their tuition dollars to fund non-strategic and/or unnecessary efforts. That wasn’t the case, of course. You might recall from previous posts that we don’t use tuition to fund campaigns and that projects are selected based on carefully thought out strategic needs and donor intent.

But perception has a tendency to become reality.

This type of misunderstanding is what I want to avoid in Thrive—not only because I want our students excited and involved in the campaign now, but also because I want to cultivate lifelong Eagles who trust and are willing to invest in their alma mater. (I’m looking right at you, students.)

We are building that sense of trust slowly, I think. But students are busy (can I get an amen?) and finding meaningful ways to get them involved is difficult business. How do we get 1,977 eighteen- to twenty-three-year-olds telling the Thrive story?

The answer came from one of our newest recruits, OC web designer and 2014 grad, Kendra Ribble…

Put the campaign “for students” in student hands.

From November 14 through November 21 we’re breaking all the rules and putting real money behind the idea that Thrive belongs to the students. In what promises to be an historic week at OC, a couple thousand of our favorite people will vote to determine where $275,000 cash lands in Thrive.

Only the student vote counts. Our favorite president doesn’t even get a say.

Meanwhile, as our Eagles explore and cast their decisions, we’re encouraging them to get involved in telling the Thrive story so far. As students share Thrive (@OCThrive) on social media, post on this blog, and submit ideas for future Thrive projects, they’re all entered to win some awesome prizes, like an iPad Air 2, Pebble smart watch, GoPro Hero4, and more. (If I was capable of making an impressed whistle in text, I would. These prizes are sweet.)

You might just see a couple thousand Thrive tees roaming around campus, too.

It promises to be an epic week. My thanks go out in a major way to Mark and Beth Brewer for entrusting our students with their gift and with this big decision. You can learn more about the whole week at

Students – if you’re reading this (which I hope you are!), you’ve got just over 160 hours to make history. Believe me when I say: I’m incredibly excited to see what you choose.

More as it develops.


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Fri, 14 Nov 2014 11:15:00 CST fed34218-d471-4dda-9950-c4362296888c
44 Days 44 days.

That’s how long it’s been since last we talked. Shame on me; that’s a long time.

“Why the radio silence?”

There are many reasons, I suppose. With this blog I’ve wanted to give you an honest, behind-the-scenes look at Thrive. But I’ve also wanted to make every post count—to give you something meaningful to chew on each and every time you visited. Whenever I’ve found myself posting simply for the sake of an update, something deep in my bones has told me frankly: “Shut it down, Will. Shut it down.”

And that’s the pattern that’s played out time and again over the last month. You might recall me saying that you don’t want to know everything. I believe that. Your time is valuable, and I want your moments in Thrive to be well spent.

“But what of your moments at OC over the last 44 days?”

Interesting that you ask. Let me give you some of the highlights:

Day 1 (Oct 1) – Partnered with the School of Education on a $50,000 grant proposal to the Cox Connects Foundation for an Outdoor Classroom. Team selected as finalists! (Presenting today, 11/13, so prayers appreciated.) 

Day 2 – Partnered with our intrepid programmer, Jamie Scott, to launch the first ever all-digital student callout process. When you get a call, they can take your gift securely that night! (You have no idea how exciting this is.)

Day 3 – Joined gaming and animation professor, Jeff Price, on a trip to Francis Tuttle to explore 3D motion capture systems, 3D printing, and digital drawing labs. A future Thrive project, perhaps? Time will tell.

Day 5 – OC Lectureship 2014 begins!

Day 6 – Celebrated Benton and Paula Baugh and their $1,000,000 pledge to OC Engineering! Marked our second banner “complete.”

Day 7 – Completed a multi-week analysis of team operations and reported findings to our fearless leader, Kent Allen. Also redrafted a $100,000 proposal for a donor family interested in investing in our new coffee shop!

Day 9Met with a major Thrive donor to discuss the possibility of a secret, awesome project… (The secret will be unveiled Nov 14. Tomorrow!)

Day 10 – Worked with OC deans, Jeff McCormack and Jeff Simmons, on future plans for our College of Natural and Health Sciences and our College of Business Administration.

Day 12 – Research project with doctoral candidates at Pepperdine University culminated in a study on best practices for alumni storytelling using new media. Findings from this study are informing how we do Homeward 2015—also coming to you tomorrow!

Day 14* – A cross-departmental team convened to discuss the future of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) at OC. Together, we’ve built a new $1,000,000 proposal for Thrive. Expect to see more on this soon!

*This also happened to be my anniversary...and we all had the flu. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed, honey! That's a tough one to beat.

Day 16 – Our teams from events, spiritual life, marketing, and advancement met to make plans for our surprise effort on November 14. (That’s all I can say… for now.)

Day 22 – Ben Langford and I met with a group of students planning a Spring Break mission effort to Cambodia. (Very cool.) We were able to build the students custom online giving forms to use in their fundraising. This is a first! Check out for an example.

Day 23 – Plans for Homeward 2015 were finalized. Tessa Wright, Stephen Bell, Kendra Ribble, and I launched into the design, copy, and web functionality for what will be a truly unique year for Homeward. (Get excited, grads.)

Day 27 – 17,200 somethings ordered for Homeward 2015. Also, first draft of the STEM team’s proposal put in play. 

Day 29 – Terry Winn hosted a facility planning meeting, during which our teams met with architects and designers for the new cafeteria! We emphasized a warm, inviting area that students could take ownership of… “home,” you might say.

Day 30 – Enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Santa Fe Depot and a tour of the Harvey House in Waynoka, OK, hosted by our dear friend, Sandie Olson.

Day 31 (Halloween) – Homeward site received storytelling functionality. What’s that mean? You’ll see soon. President deStieguer, Kent Allen, and I also built a timeline for Thrive proposals made by the end of the year.

Day 34 – Outdoor Classroom team received word that we were finalists in the Cox Connects Grant competition!

Day 36 – Homeward, Thrive surprise, AND Homecoming planning hit a fever pitch. Dozens of amazing people worked around the clock (and are still working) to take vision to reality.

Day 41 – Kris Strobeck, Wes McKinzie, Judson Copeland, and I start working in earnest on Thrive and Homeward videos. Coming soon!

Day 42 – $1,000,000 STEM proposal finalized.

Day 44 – 8,600 Homeward mailers prepped outside my door by our incredible assistant, Sharon Lindsey, and a team of hearty student workers. Across campus, our teams in marketing, events, and spiritual life prepared for Friday’s Thrive surprise. Homecoming logistics analyzed in the advancement war room (Okay, it’s just a regular conference room…but this time of year it feels more epic than that.) and final plans put in place. The fundraisers met to discuss a calendar year end appeal to the OC family and to finalize Thrive proposals for the fall. Proposals for heritage health sciences, the coffee shop, the cafeteria, fitness equipment, and STEM drafted and redrafted.

…which brings us to today, November 13. Just 24 hours away from Homecoming, Homeward, and a historical Thrive surprise. We’re busier than perhaps we’ve ever been, and it’s awesome. Plus, since we spoke last, we've partnered with over a thousand people to raise $650,000+ for Thrive and developed plans for $9 million in new proposals by January 15. (I feel a lot of blog posts coming on.)

Check back in tomorrow around 11:20am CST (that’s chapel time… hint, hint my near campus friends) for more on our Thrive surprise. It’s been a very good month and it's about to get even better. I promise.


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Thu, 13 Nov 2014 12:15:00 CST 5015b457-5a70-4351-81bb-a8c0a9e05952
What's Really Happening? The conversation often goes something like this…

“Thrive’s going pretty well, I guess, huh?”

Me: “Yes! People really seem to like the approach. It’s different. It’s honest. I think we’re on to something.”

“That’s awesome. I know we’ve really enjoyed following along. We can’t read the blog every week, but we always appreciate the updates when we have a chance to visit.”

Me: “I’m so glad. Well, if there’s ever anything you want to hear about on the blog, just let me know. I’m not always sure of the answers everyone’s craving. I’m happy to give those answers, of course; I just need the questions!”

“We get that. Let us think on it and we’ll let you know. Just for right now, though, where exactly are we on the Campaign? What’s the latest from behind the scenes?”

Me: “Oh man, there’s so much happening. My life is Thrive! It’s hard to give you all the highlights quickly. You should check the website, though; we’ve made amazing progress on several projects—Cail Auditorium, Hardeman, our College of Engineering, Das Millicanhaus, Ethos, and more. Over $5 million’s been committed to the Year One menu already. And we’re up over $6 million to all projects across campus.”

“Yes! Great, great news on all those fronts. But what’s really happening? Where do you think we are in terms of our progress on the Campaign? Would you be comfortable giving us an up-to-the-minute, behind-the-curtain report?”

Me: “Uh… Sure, I’d be happy to do that. What would you like to see? I’m afraid my report might sound redundant.”

“You know, just give us your metrics—what you’re seeing.”

Me: “Oh, well the best report I can give you is probably on the website. That information is about as comprehensive and digestible as I felt I could make it. You’re seeing what I’m seeing. I could always adjust how you see the details, though, if I’ve made it too convoluted somehow. Wouldn’t put that past me!”

“No. It’s fine. We like the website. Maybe you don’t understand what we’re asking for. We just want to know: what’s really happening?”


You can see where this is going. The rabbit hole just gets deeper and deeper from here.

As you probably know from personal experience, there’s a weird double edge to being atypically transparent. Many people relish your honesty, but based on very valid experience, they always expect that you’re holding something back. There are the facts you share and the facts you don’t. And, again based on experience, the facts you don’t share are often the most telling.

With Thrive we’re attempting to be 100% real with you. We’re human, of course, so we may only ever achieve 99.8% reality; but we’re giving it all we’ve got, stretching until it hurts, and pushing well past the boundaries of accepted campaign communication. I can’t tell you how often I post something to this blog, for example, and almost immediately think: “that probably wasn’t smart. Nobody puts information like that down for the world to see…especially online.”

But before my mind drifts to “yikes, might be smart to have my resume ready,” I have to remind myself that president deSteiguer, our Board of Trustees, and all of you have challenged us to be boldly different with Thrive. And bold honesty, even when your gut says it’s “right,” doesn’t immediately feel “smart” all the time.

So we’ve gone bold and I’m proud to say that, four months in, we’ve stayed that way. What’s really happening with Thrive, as it’s depicted on this website, is in fact what’s really happening. And the updates you see on the homepage represent the best summary we believe we can give you of our progress to date.

Now, I’ll admit we haven’t given you every detail of the campaign process. But I stand by what I said in this earlier post: you don’t want every detail. You want to know about our real progress and our outlook for the future, and on those fronts we’re giving you an all-access pass on a daily basis.

(Of course, if you want to hear about the granular bits—how my caffeine addiction plays into our daily campaign efforts and expenses, for example, I’d certainly tell you. Though my description may be delivered grumpily if I’m pre-coffee. [wink])

However, I’ll also admit that the information on the Thrive front page is sometimes hard to digest in summary. What are the totals we’ve raised? How much is left over? How much time is left? We need to put that data more front and center (and we’re going to!).

Until we make those changes, let me give you all the information I can, straight from the front lines. With 243 days remaining on Year One, we’ve funded five projects and had 933 generous people invest in Thrive. Their investments look a little like this:

You’ll notice that I [boldly] added a “proposals we’ve made” column, just to give you a fuller taste of our progress so far. In total, we aim to raise $12,614,000 before May 31, 2015. We’ve already asked for $10,324,556 and received gifts/pledges of $5,255,778. (This is just for named projects, remember. The “off-menu” and our “projects TBD” categories are not included in these numbers. Explore those categories on the homepage for more info.)

You can look at all of this from the other side, too:

Thrive Update Table 2

As you can see, we’ve been successful so far in 51% of our proposals. We have $7,359,247 left to raise for the year and, based on our current success rate, we need to build proposals for another $11,385,000 to get it all done.

You might be looking at categories like the OKC Marketing Initiative or Heritage Plaza and thinking: “Whoa. Zero percent success?” That’s right. We built $2M in proposals for those projects and our prospective donors said “no.”

Not something you typically hear on the marketing front, right? But that’s the reality of fundraising. People say “no,” and they do so for a variety of very, very good reasons.

Does that mean those donors won’t give at all? Nope. They may, in fact, give as much or more to something else. Or even reconsider the original project we proposed. Right now, though, these answers are “no” and we want you to see them.

Thrive isn’t about fabricating a perfect scorecard. Thrive’s about showing you all the columns, wins and otherwise. (Check out our wins, though, right? What a year!)

We believe in this approach, and we’re throwing comfort to the wind to give it to you. My greatest hope is that you do more than like it--you love it.

And that’s what’s really happening.


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Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:45:00 CDT 85efca43-dcd6-437a-bdc2-2223905f1939
On Black Holes and Everything Else black hole
a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape.

a place where people or things, especially money, disappear without trace. 

If you’ve been watching the Thrive menu closely, then you know that late last week a new item elusively popped up at the bottom of the list: The Ever-Important “Off-Menu.”

“What on earth is that?” you’re thinking. “I thought the point of Thrive was to focus on clear and concrete projects…not on big, amorphous pots of cash…”

“This looks squishy.”

“I don’t like black hole fundraising.” you’re adding now, as you consider the matter further. “If OC’s going to be upfront about where Thrive dollars go, then be upfront, Will Blanchard!”

Wow. Great points and you’re spot on, as usual. I don’t like black hole fundraising, either. You know, the kind of fundraising where every dollar given is mysteriously sucked into one ambiguous pit? Yuck. That’s old school campaigning. And Thrive is 100% new school.

Sure, black hole communication makes updating you much simpler, but it also has an air of shadiness to it and that makes my stomach hurt. No, Thrive truly is all about the clear and the concrete. I stand by that.

So then what’s the deal with this “Off-Menu” thing?

Here’s the deal. In a typical year, the OC family supports more than 200 unique projects on campus—special and powerful efforts across departments, extracurricular programs, athletics, scholarship endowments, facilities, and more.  Just to give you a taste, here are a handful of projects supported by our family last year:

The list could go on and on and on, because our OC family is amazing and our donors have very diverse interests. (If you’d like to see more of the options, check out our new “off-menu” giving form.)

It probably goes without saying that we want to count this medley of generosity in Thrive, and for two big reasons:

    1. We want to be perfectly frank with you about every dollar we raise, not just the on-menu bits.
    2. We want to give credit where credit is due for our sacrificial families who choose to invest off-menu.

So, for us, including work on these other 200+ projects in our Thrive updates is an absolute “go.” But where do we count it all?

We can’t package these gifts with existing projects on the Year One menu; that’s not what our donors intended. And we can’t grow the Thrive menu to 212 projects. At that point Thrive would start to confuse all of us with details, and the sheer noise of everything would become worse than the black hole we’re trying so hard to avoid. Plus, there’s a clear philosophy behind every official menu item. Adding each project on campus to the menu would water down the strategic value and purpose of Thrive.

But we need a menu item. As you’ve seen on Thrive’s homepage, without a slot on the menu, there’s no other place for us to share good news like this with you.

Since June 1, we’ve had plenty of good news on this front, too. More than 440 people have given $683,951 to off-menu projects! That’s some astounding kindness at work. Of course, up until late last week we hadn’t told you about any of it…

And that’s not cool.

When we’re touting transparency, hiding away nearly $700k in gifts simply because we don’t have a designation that’s easy to reference is silly. And it was that realization that brought us to last week, when we created a somewhat ironic menu item, the “Off-Menu.”

The Off-Menu is where we’ll count gifts made to everything else at OC.

This is not where we’ll count general or unrestricted gifts (those go to the General Scholarship Fund). And we won’t count undesignated Thrive gifts here, either (you’ll see those in Investments Assured/Projects TBD). However, this is where you’ll see restricted gifts to a variety of OC projects that aren’t quite comprehensive enough to make the main Thrive Menu. Make sense?

So if you’re interested in making a gift to baseball or the history department or to a family scholarship today, do it! Your gift will show up right here and every dollar you give will count in Thrive. And if you ever have a question about the details inside the Off-Menu, ask away.

No black hole here.


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Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:45:00 CDT 474946b0-069f-4dd9-85d3-1fd7e3ed89fb
Introducing Cail Auditorium We call Thrive the Complete Campaign because we aim to move several very visible, very important OC projects from “in progress” to “complete” over the next three years. I’m very excited to tell you that today we had the pleasure of marking our first Thrive effort, DAH Auditorium, as complete from stem to stern.

Plus we got to surprise an OC legend in the process.

Introducing James Cail Auditorium! Current and future home to many, many potent spirits and minds. And since not all of you will be able to read the tiny print on the plaque above, here’s a transcript of Dr. Cail’s story and his powerful and humorous influence at Oklahoma Christian:

James Cail

“Oklahoma Christian University is blessed with a storied history of servant-hearted heroes who led this campus and our OC family to bigger, better, and brighter things in both academic and Kingdom work. One of those heroes is the legendary Dr. James Cail.

A renaissance man, Dr. Cail was a powerful force for thought, for God, and for belly laughs across two of our campuses and across many chapters of his life.

Beginning his impact as a student in Bartlesville in 1956, Cail was a character to watch from day one. A talent to be reckoned with on the debate stage, Cail took home two Junior College Tournament titles for Oklahoma Christian. He had a regular presence on the theater stage, too, performing in and writing for OC’s original show, Songs America Sings.

Cail’s second chapter at Oklahoma Christian began in 1963 when he assumed leadership of the admissions team. For most of the 60s, hundreds of students would get their first taste of that special OC “something” through Cail’s passion, heart, and humor. He kept writing and performing, too. Few from that era are unfamiliar with his guitar or his silky vocals, which were fixtures at First Week Follies.

But Cail’s third and most beloved chapter began in 1972, when he joined the OC faculty as a professor of psychology. He held court in this auditorium for 31 years. Students loved his seminars in family studies, psychology, spirituality, and more – not simply because he brought academic depth to the subjects, but because he made them wonderfully human. (And speaking with him now, you’d find he still does.)

Throughout every chapter, Cail made his home here. It’s on this campus that he met his wife, Judy (’67), and it’s here they raised their three children: Trey (’92), Mindy (’96), and Liz (’05). And the Cails welcomed a large extended family of seekers and fun-lovers from the student body for decades, too. Their family continues to make a difference on this campus daily, and we expect they will for many years to come.

For being a tireless performer, teacher, advocate, comedian, scholar, and family man, Cail has been honored many times – as the Gaylord Distinguished Chair, as an outstanding alumnus, and as a professor emeritus. Today, however, thanks to the generous gifts of his students and family, and prompted by the exuberant love of thousands of Eagles, we’re thrilled to give our friend, Dr. Cail, his greatest honor yet, as we remake this legendary auditorium and officially make it his.

Many of us learned at his feet. We’re thrilled to know that generations more will learn in his seats. It’s with great pride, and a whole lot of love, that we dedicate Cail Auditorium.

May all who learn here see Jesus in the world and humor in the air.

September 19, 2014”

What else can we say, Dr. Cail? Words don’t do you justice. Thank you.


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Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:45:00 CDT 8c1eee6f-ab8c-490d-87e1-3c4387ec1a5c
One Million Dollars Closer to a Brand New Caf I often have to remind myself to "keep it simple." Sometimes there's greater power in few words than in many. And with that wisdom in mind, I bring you the news of the day: we're closer than ever to hitting our goal for the Campus Cafe Reboot.





Get excited, Eagles. We're two-thirds of the way to a brand new "Caf."

More details soon.


Cafeteria Reboot Banner

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Wed, 17 Sep 2014 9:45:00 CDT 135397db-bffa-44e3-835f-3632af54f3d9
A Dash of Personality This blog, like the OC experience it describes, is diverse—sometimes emotional, sometimes informational, sometimes inspirational (I hope)…but at all times wonderfully maroon and gray.

One reason Oklahoma Christian is such a special place is because of this diversity of experience and expression. Our academics are top-tier. Our spiritual life opportunities are some of the best around. And our on-campus living community is not unlike yearlong summer camp…only with the biggest, smartest, most service-oriented and fun-loving group you’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a hall with 24/7.

But there’s still more to the OC magic. If you’ve been here, you know. It’s hard to articulate what makes up our “special sauce” (believe me, I tried earlier this summer), but there are two ingredients I know of for sure: (1) a whole lot of Christ, and (2) a dash of personality.

And when I say “personality,” I don’t mean “identity.” Most college campuses have an identity or a brand. (Some more than others.) OC is different, though. Our community is more human than that. We have personality. We have character. When I close my eyes and picture Oklahoma Christian, I don’t see a crest or a jersey or a color scheme. I see people. Wise, big-hearted people who have humor in their eyes and smiles curling on their lips.

I’d expect when you close your eyes, you find something similar. And I think a big factor in why we see our OC home this way is because the human experience is modeled here daily by our professors and staff.

You expect a crew of high-achieving academic types to be stuffy—to have up their shields of invulnerability and sage-dom for the thousands of 18-22 year olds flowing through their classrooms and offices. But that’s not our culture. No one here aims to be prototypical. We let our hair down. We let our hearts show. We open the doors to our homes and our families.

And, in so doing, I think we do more than just make this place home. We also teach our students an important lesson: that the words wisdom, growth, power, success, meaning, purpose, responsibility, and maturity are not synonymous with “putting on airs” or fabricating your professional brand. That denying self does not mean denying personality.

This unique ingredient in OC’s special sauce is never more evident than in First Week Follies, our free employee variety show that celebrated its 36th production last week. It’s an incredibly fun, incredibly human, incredibly embarrassing two hours…and the students eat it up every year.

I’m attaching two videos from this year’s show and I’d encourage you to watch them and laugh. Also, take time to pick out the deans, department heads, administrators, and our president as they cut loose for one reason only: to make you happy.

Yes, they’re horribly goofy. No, we’re not raising money for Follies in this campaign.

But these videos will give you a taste of one of our most special ingredients and a better sense of the powerful culture we intend to see Thrive.

As always, more soon.


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Wed, 03 Sep 2014 9:45:00 CDT d4216fc2-470e-471f-b118-4f6767866d7d
OCThrive is on Twitter As of today, @OCThrive is a thing on Twitter. Now you can follow Oklahoma Christian's awesome fundraising antics here and in your feed! I'm biased, but I definitely recommend you do just that.

Love you, friends.


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Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:15:00 CDT 049a90c5-6d25-4daa-920c-1ee8cc591e5e
How We Do What We Do (Part 2) Let’s review. You had questions…

  • “Is the Thrive Campaign intended as a crowdsourcing effort? The Thrive menu feels like a Kickstarter or Kiva, but the number of givers suggests otherwise.”
  • “Why did the team shoot past the goal for Garvey HD? The improvements in Judd sound wonderful, but with limited resources, wouldn’t you want to push donors and their gifts to other strategic priorities first?”
  • “What are you counting on the Thrive menu page? Are these real, tangible dollars that OC has in-house or are these pledges to give?”
  • “If the dollars listed are pledges, then where does OC get the money from right now to actually accomplish these projects?”

…and on Friday I gave you answers. Wait, you’re saying I didn’t give you answers? I explained our gushy, heart-warming philanthropic philosophy but didn’t get to the logistical meat?

Hmmm. Okay. Then let’s get to it.

How We Make the Map

There’s a rub here, isn’t there? You may have felt it all weekend. You understand my philosophy, but the dollars still have to come in. “You can’t rely on ‘good feelings’ to balance the budget and finance the future.” you might be saying to yourself.

You’re absolutely right. Philanthropy is about dreaming, it’s about relationships, it’s about the power of giving and the heart for change…but you have to build a strategic, logistical framework around those ideas to make sure the important gifts happen.

So how do we do that? (Here’s where some of your answers come out.)

Well, beyond the work of our relationships and our guts, we closely examine other factors about our OC family: capacity to give, history of giving, connectedness to the University, philanthropic interests, and more. We then use these factors to identify prospective donors for various projects and at various levels.

This prospecting process is ongoing. But, at the outset of a campaign like Thrive, we use this groundwork as a roadmap for how we’ll accomplish all the projects on our menu. For a project like our Campus Café Reboot ($3M), this roadmap might look something like:

  • 1 major gift at $1,000,000 (4 prospects)
  • 2 major gifts at $500,000 (8 prospects)
  • 3 major gifts at $250,000 (12 prospects)
  • 5 major gifts at $50,000 (20 prospects)
  • Total approached: 44
  • Total committed givers: 11

It might also look like:

  • 3 major gifts at $1,000,000 (6 prospects)
  • Total approached: 6
  • Total committed givers: 3

Neither map, by itself, is right or wrong. It all depends on the project and our potential donors. What you can see from these maps, though, is that we ask for a bit more than our targets. In the first scenario, our plan is to ask four families for $1M each. If they all give, we’ll raise $4M, which is more than we’ve projected needing for the cafeteria. However, we know from experience that all four families will not be able or willing to give $1M right now for the cafeteria project. They might decide to invest in something else, or at a different level, or at a different time.

To ensure success, we need to make sure we don’t put all our eggs in one proverbial basket.

How We Crowdsource

This speaks to the realities behind two of your questions (crowdsourcing and overshooting some goals). On the crowdsourcing front, we absolutely want a large pool of OC families to get engaged with Thrive. But we're also very aware of what we call the 80/20 rule: that 80% of all funds raised typically come from 20% or fewer of our donors. (This rule proves true time and again.) We need to make a map and we need lead donors to drive momentum on these efforts.

So is Thrive a crowdsourcing effort? Well, yes and no. We’re using many “traditional” methods in raising investments in these projects, but our transparent communication style and online giving options open this Campaign up to a broader group of influencers than any other university campaign out there.

How We Overshoot Goals

Meanwhile, on the overshooting front (which I honestly hope happens often), you can see one wonderful reason why that might happen: more people say “yes” than we expected.* Now that’s not ever the whole reason. Garvey HD, for example, was a very intentional expansion based on a reevaluation of our needs in those venues. But, the added funds to Garvey were only made available because more people gave us the go ahead than we initially mapped out.

*One important caveat: we don’t throw extra money at projects just because we have extra. Our philosophy is almost always to budget conservatively based on the core needs of an initiative. Chances are, if we are given extra, we can most definitely use those dollars in a wise and beneficial way. But, in those rare instances we can’t or shouldn’t, we would work with our donors to move their gifts to something else or to even (gasp) return their gifts. (Never seen that last one required, by the way.)

How We Count

Per your questions on counting, it’s good for you to know that one important tool in the philanthropy box is the pledge. I might not be able to give you $500k right now, but I might be able to give $100k each year for five years. (I can’t do either, but stay with me.) It’s crucial for OC to know this and respond accordingly. Because if the University bases all appeals on what can be done right now, then millions of dollars will be left on the table and hundreds of projects will be left on the drawing board.

This plays into the roadmap strategy. When it comes to capacity, we don’t always look at someone’s ability to give in the here and now. In fact, we rarely think in such a short term. Instead we look at their ability to give over the next several years.

And when those awesome people commit to giving, you better believe we tout their investments in total to the world. So the progress you see on the Thrive menu represents gifts and pledges.

How We Build with Pledges

Now to your other very good follow-up: if I commit $500k to the Coffee Shop now, but I’ll be giving $100k each year for five years, how does OC build the Coffee Shop before 2018?

That gets tricky.

We can’t go ask other people for the money. Even though we do ask beyond our targets in the planning stages, as I’ve mentioned, we never do so after our goal has been met. That would be deceptive. We only ever use your money for the project you selected, after all (see my post on donor intent for more info). So, in a case like this we’d be over-asking, and in five years we’d end up with $400k that we can’t use on anything but an already completed Coffee Shop.

Then how do we do it? Well, the most common way is that we use unrestricted dollars to fill the gap until the committed gifts come in. “Unrestricted gifts,” just as their name suggests, are gifts made free and clear to the University overall. Donors who give with an unrestricted intent are essentially saying, “Use my investment for whatever makes the most sense.” Gifts to our Associates Program are unrestricted in nature. We also sometimes receive planned gifts (estates from our friends who have passed away, for example) that are unrestricted.

These gifts give us the flexibility to use the first payment of a five-year pledge ($100k) along with $400k in present unrestricted cash to immediately build something like the Coffee Shop. Then, as future pledge payments come in, we can refund those dollars to our unrestricted accounts and use them for other important projects.

Clear as mud, I’m sure. If you’re wired like me, you’re probably wondering now how all this movement shows up on the Thrive website. Questions breed questions, don’t they?

Let’s talk about that later this week. Until then, reflect with me on the amazing generosity of our OC family and be blessed!


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Mon, 25 Aug 2014 9:30:00 CDT a5f8a1bf-7bb1-48c3-bb1d-27b4e376400f
How We Do What We Do (Part 1) I know I promised more updates on our Thrive projects this week. And those updates are coming! But I’ve received some interesting questions in the last few days that have prompted me to go a different route with today’s post.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • “What are you counting on the Thrive menu page? Are these real, tangible dollars that OC has in-house or are these pledges to give?”
  • “If the dollars listed are pledges, then where does OC get the money from right now to actually accomplish these projects?”
  • “Is the Thrive Campaign intended as a crowdsourcing effort? The Thrive menu feels like a Kickstarter or Kiva, but the number of givers suggests otherwise.”
  • “Why did the team shoot past the goal for Garvey HD? The improvements in Judd sound wonderful, but with limited resources, wouldn’t you want to push donors and their gifts to other strategic priorities first?”

Wow. Great questions.

The beautiful serendipity for me here is that your rather astute inquiries all relate to a common topic: Oklahoma Christian’s fundraising method. That’s exactly what I want to tell you about today and Monday, and hopefully I can answer your questions along the way.

My Philosophy on Philanthropy

Let me start big picture with you. To work behind the scenes in a fundraising team like ours, you need to understand one important idea. It’s not about money.

“What? Of course it is.” you’re thinking. “That’s the whole point. Your job is to raise money.”

You’re right. That’s our job. And, at the end of the day, there will be no Thriving without dollars coming in the door… but that’s not what philanthropy is all about.

Once, in front of an uncomfortably large crowd, I was asked, “why have you chosen to make your career as a professional beggar?” You could hear a pin drop after the question (but no one in the room denied having an interest in my answer).

Funnily enough, I’d never seen my career that way, but I could see in that moment how someone else might. The perception this young man had was that my job was to pry money away from people for a cause that couldn’t support itself—and that would mean degrading myself and pestering those around me until the job was done.

But that’s not philanthropy and that’s not how fundraising works at OC. If I’m really honest with you, it might be smart of me to perpetuate this young man’s myth, because then few of you would know that I have one of the greatest “feel good” jobs on the planet.

Think about that feeling you get on Christmas morning, when someone you love opens your present. Or that feeling when you give to a food drive. Or when you serve at a camp or on a mission trip. The emotion of giving is one of the most powerfully good feelings we can experience as human beings (feels even better than getting and there’s biological proof of that…ask me sometime and I’ll tell you about it).

People want to give. Moreover, they want to give to ideas and causes that are meaningful to them—that stoke their spiritual fire. And that’s what our team’s job is all about. We get to know our campus, our students, their needs, and their dreams at OC. Then we get to know our OC family, their interests, their needs, how they want to make a difference, what they hold dear, their precious memories, and the dreams they have for the future.

And then we bring those two powerful visions together—helping our donors fulfill their philanthropic passions AND pushing Oklahoma Christian forward on a strategic and momentous path.

It’s a wonderful life. You should give me a call to try it out. (*wink*)



"Wait, wait, wait. You haven't answered anything." I know. This is what I like to call the emotional build--an important teaser before I get all technical. Come back Monday for the logistical bits and your answers!

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Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:45:00 CDT b4d97d4e-d5c5-49db-9208-8a9a12f8ca3e
U-Dining Sets the Table for Seven Figure Success It’s been quiet on the Thrive Blog front. “What’s happening?!” you’re thinking. “Where’d you go?!”

Well, I ventured to the west coast for some business. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I was too exhausted most nights to put my sentences together in a way worthy of your readership.

But I’m back now and much has happened. (My absence often has that effect!) We’re finishing construction on the new and improved DAH Auditorium, Das Millicanhaus is coming together, our new A/V systems are up in Hardeman and Judd, Ethos media is out across campus, and more. I’ll share details with you on those projects later in the week. 

Right now, though, I’m coming to you with some other news. Big news. Seven figure big.

For the second time in just two weeks, some very generous someones have committed $1,000,000 to a project in Thrive. This time the project is our Campus Café Reboot (!!). And the someones are none other than our own food service partners, U-Dining.

The cafeteria redesign is a mouth-watering prospect for most of our students and prospective students (and me). And it’s wonderfully fitting that the team that gets our taste buds tingling at dinnertime is the same team to set the proverbial table for our new and improved Café.

Kenny, Kurt, Lauren, Mike – the dinner table is a special place for so many families; thanks for making ours a special one, too. I’m not even sure how you do it, but you always give us much more than just good food. You make us feel at home.

When your new digs open, my first order of business will be to raise a glass (of juice) to you!

More on this delicious reboot soon.


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Mon, 18 Aug 2014 17:00:00 CDT 3464c441-9a86-4740-add4-0d856dcd7b61
Tech Team Takes HD Overhaul to Dizzying Heights One of OC's tech specialists and all-around awesome guy, Steven Christy, snapped these photos of the in-progress Garvey HD project. Looks like a fun and productive day for our IT and University Services teams. Proud of the dizzying heights they go to for our campus family!

If you want to see these new HD screens and projectors in action, be sure to drop in for chapel sometime this fall. We'd love to have you!


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Fri, 08 Aug 2014 11:45:00 CDT c688757b-8495-4b89-b9a0-8451b7829766
Baughs Engineer A Million New Reasons to Get Excited Last month I gave you some insight into what happens when the Thrive progress bars stop moving. The long and short of it being this: even though the bars may slow for a week or two, our team and our donors never stop moving.

In fact, since Thrive started just two months ago, President deSteiguer and Vice President Kent Allen have proposed more than $10M in collaborative projects to generous OC families and businesses. And these awesome men and women have already committed more than $3M to Thrive!

But I’ve still been itchy. Not since June 16, when we announced the funding of Garvey HD and Ethos, have I been able to give you a big, fulfilling bite of the Thrive pie.

Today that changes.

I’m blessed to be the bearer of incredible good news: Benton and Paula Baugh, who just one year ago gave $1.7 million to establish the Baugh Preaching Chair, have committed to giving an additional $1 million to fully fund the College of Engineering and Computer Science Launch!

This means that Dean Byron Newberry and his team can begin work immediately on expanding and enhancing our programs in that College. (Expect more details on that front very soon.)

You might not know the Baughs. They’re relative newcomers to the OC family. But, as you can tell, they’re something special and they’re already making a big impact on our community.

Benton and Paula are active members at Memorial Church of Christ in Houston, Texas, where Benton serves as a deacon. Their connection to OC is owed in large part to their great relationship with OC trustee David Duncan (’89) and his wife, Barbara (’89). David is the pulpit minister at Memorial Church.

Benton is a wildly creative engineer, with more 50 years of experience in oilfield and subsea systems and more than 100 U.S. patents to his name. Founder and former president of Radoil, Inc., Benton is currently living life as an avid inventor, investor, evangelist, and professor.

Paula, meanwhile, works closely with Impact Houston Church of Christ, serving hungry, hurting and homeless people throughout the inner city. The Baughs have also helped develop the Spring Branch Iglesia de Cristo and lead in the Day of Good Works, an initiative of Houston-area churches of Christ. 

They’re also just a kind and genuine couple, with God on their hearts and students on their minds. We love them!

The game-changing gifts the Baughs are making today are a testament not only to their great faith in the OC mission and our students, but also to the power of telling the OC story. Benton and Paula did not attend OC. They’ve never worked for OC. They’d never spent much time on campus, in fact, prior to 2012. But they’re Eagles now because they caught David and Barbara’s passion for OC.

If you’re like me, it’s probably hard for your family to scrape together a million dollars. And, when your financial impact feels “small” in the grand scheme, it’s hard to commit to a campaign like Thrive at all.

Now I’ll argue for the power of gifts of all sizes in a later post. (Believe me, if you’re giving to Thrive, you’re making a Kingdom-difference.) But for right now let me just say that, beyond the financial, you can do astounding things for Oklahoma Christian by simply telling your OC story.

There are thousands of families around you with giving spirits and an ache for being part of a unique, mission-minded, Christ-centered community like OC. You never know when your story, like the Duncans', might find the ears of a Benton or Paula Baugh. 

Many, many thanks to the Baughs for this wonderful gift. And a round of applause and prayer for our College of Engineering and Computer Science!

More as it develops.


Update: Check out the full media release on the OC News page!

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Wed, 06 Aug 2014 12:15:00 CDT c9ac5528-da1b-45ce-82e4-a22dcb774d88
Teasing Out Our Touting Targets (Pt 3): Why We're Doing It Differently It’s been a busy week, friends. So far we’ve talked about the value of touting campaign progress and why many non-profits overlook their internal audience in campaign marketing.

Today we get to the heart of the matter: why we’re doing things differently this time.

Why telling the Thrive story on campus is worth every penny.

Allow me to change up my pronoun usage for this one. Instead of “they” and “them,” I’d like to address our students and employees with a direct and heartfelt “you.”

You, my on-campus family, are the heart and soul of this amazing place. Our physical campus is special—it has a rich history and many memories are etched in its halls and scattered across its grounds—but without you, there would be no classes to attend, no choruses to join, no kaw-kawing from the bleachers, no laughter in the halls, and no buzz in the air. There would be no culture. No special sauce. No lights. No life. No University.

God makes it all happen, of course. But He’s using you to get it all done. Thanks for making this place home.

Your deep impact on this campus (and on me personally) speaks to one big reason we’re telling the Thrive story right here…

Reason 1 - Our students and employees work too hard and have too many good ideas to be left in the dark.

You know who has really great ideas on how to teach physics? Physics professors. How to nurse? Nurses. How to make a movie? Communication professors. How to manage technology? IT. How to embrace and enhance student life? Students. 

When you’ve got 3,000 informed (and often expert) opinions at your fingertips, it makes sense to use them.

There will be disagreement, certainly, but you can’t make the best decisions without involving your closest collaborators. That’s why in Thrive, we’ve opened the priority floor up to any student, faculty, or staff member who wants to submit an idea. (No joke.)

To my on-campus friends, it’s as simple as taking your idea to your Vice President. They’ve committed to working with you and floating your best ideas for consideration in Thrive. (Alumni and friends, please feel free to call or email me in the same vein.)

This kind of community-wide access and influence in a campaign is unheard of. But, you know what? The caliber of our Eagles is pretty unheard of, too. You deserve a listening ear and we’ve got ours on.

Reason 2 - Three thousand voices echo louder than fifteen.

We can invest months and thousands of dollars building a positive campaign image and a compelling University story beyond this campus. But, at the end of the day, our Advancement Team is only fifteen strong and our voices carry only so far.

And I won’t overlook the elephant in the room: my teammates and I are paid to raise money and tell the OC story. I’m not so naïve as to think that fact isn’t in the back of many minds. If you know me, I hope you know that I will stretch ‘til it hurts to be genuine, loving, and human in all my friendships—and certainly in those that result in giving relationships with Oklahoma Christian. But I know your perspective on my perspective will always be flavored with that little nugget: “he’s a fundraiser.”

How would the world respond, though, if 2,000 unpaid students from 50 different states and 48 countries told that same story? If 400 faculty and staff members, with no fundraising in their blood, were ambassadors for the cause? Not only would our story instantly gain legitimacy, but also our reach would explode…

…by, oh, 16,000%.

Eyebrows up? Mine too.

Reason 3 - Thrive 2025 will depend on the students of 2014.

This may be the biggest reason we’re pushing the on-campus communication envelope. This is also the biggest factor overlooked by most universities.

That free-thinking, question-asking, norm-busting 18-year-old that’s sitting in the back row of Communication I today just might become a free-thinking, question-asking, norm-busting 39-year-old sitting at the head of the boardroom tomorrow. And if she or he steps off this campus in four years with a misconception of how OC uses tuition, or a sense of being shut out of all major decisions, or a perspective that the OC experience costs more than it’s worth, or with little to no experience with our large and wonderful donor family…then we’ve lost a lifelong and influential partner.

And, boardroom or not, we’ve lost a great OC ambassador.

Call me optimistic, but I’d wager few if any of our incoming freshmen have an opinion (good or bad) on how OC makes campaign decisions, invests resources, or seeks donations. Why would they? Right now their heads and hearts are aimed squarely at that starting line. It’s all rush. Little fuss. 

I remember that feeling. And while the start is fleeting, the passion and the energy need not be. That’s why I want to invest in our students now, in the thick of things, when they’ve never been more in love with Eagledom.

Students – I want you to see the big picture of what your University is doing and how we do it. I want you to meet the special families who are giving so you can be here and so we can Thrive. I want you to understand why your University chose to invest in X and not in Y, how much tuition we used in that investment, and that you are free and empowered to question every choice.

And I want to give you answers.

Because I believe when the curtain is peeled back...and all truths, hard and soft, come’s then your love for Eagledom and your calling to home will know no bounds…and no expiration date.


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Fri, 01 Aug 2014 17:45:00 CDT 46973748-8cfe-4c62-b069-165b00dbb974
Teasing Out Our Touting Targets (Pt 2): Why We Often Overlook Eagles On Campus Earlier this week I posted about the importance of touting our campaign efforts publicly. And I suggested that, while we’ve previously done a good job of telling the OC story in the “right places” (civic community, donors, alumni, etc.), we often overlook one massively important constituency: our on-campus family

Students. Faculty. Staff. Volunteers. Students. (Yeah, I’m listing them twice.) Why aren’t we telling them the campaign story with the same frequency and intentionality we’re using with our major donors?

Before I answer, let me just say two things:

(1) OC isn’t alone in this potential faux pas. Most universities and non-profits focus little time or resource in reporting to their own internal communities.

(2) We’re doing it differently this time. I’ll tell you exactly how in an upcoming post, but hold us accountable to the information and explanations you deserve!

Okay, on to my answer. Why would we overlook the campus family, especially our students, in telling the campaign story? A few thoughts for you...

Campaign communication is time-consuming and expensive.

As a team, we spend hundreds of hours tweaking the campaign message (not the mission, mind you, the message) for different donor, alumni, and community audiences. Our marketing team gets involved in packaging this information together and tailoring it for maximum impact. We then invest time, talent, and dollars pushing this information through various strategic channels—email, hard mail, web, social media, news outlets, etc.

That’s just Round One. If we’re doing our jobs really well, then we follow these initial messages with strategically timed reminders, work updates, and more. We thank everyone who needs a “thank you” and celebrate our donors in public and private receptions, ribbon cuttings, and more. 

We love doing all of these things (seriously), but with a small team like ours, these efforts leave us spread pretty thin sometimes. Before we’ve even attempted to give updates to the on-campus family, we’re short on time to get other important jobs done: data management, alumni engagement efforts, relationship management, grant writing, reporting, budgeting, face-to-face fundraising, and more. 

Now when time is short, and you’re very conscious of the money you’ve already spent, your first instinct is to limit communication internally. You assume your employees and students already know what’s going on by virtue of proximity. Surely internal audiences will see things happening, put two and two together, make all the right assumptions, and internalize the positive campaign spirit and sense of progress through osmosis.

That perspective doesn’t really hold water (some pun intended after that “osmosis” bit), but you can see how we might get there. Right or wrong, the point is: when time and resources are limited, you focus your attention on informing those you see as furthest outside the loop.

No one asks more questions than the on-campus family.

When push comes to shove, few people have more of a vested interest in the University and its projects than our students and employees. We live and work here every day. It stands to reason, then, that we have strong opinions about OC. We also have strong biases for or against certain investments. Couple that with the fact that we’re more comfortable than your average Eagles raising those issues with Campaign decision-makers and you get a perfect storm of inquiring minds.

I covered this some in my post on transparency, but our past philosophy has often been “less is more” when it comes to sharing campaign decisions with the on-campus family. Why raise questions before projects have even started? And why debate decisions that are already in motion? Our campus leaders are making strategic choices based on prayerful, holistic thinking, after all. Let’s save ourselves the pain of the conversation and instead encourage the campus to give our leadership the benefit of the doubt.

Should students and employees give our leaders the benefit of the doubt? Absolutely. (I can tell you from first-hand experience that our leadership team is made up of kind, servant-hearted, God-fearing, student-and-employee-loving men and women.) Should our internal communication philosophy hinge on the benefit of the doubt? Probably not.

We’ve assumed the on-campus family is too busy or uninterested.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” you’re thinking now. “I’m on campus now (or I was in _______ ) and I care a lot about what happens.” I don’t doubt it. Our students and employees invest so much of themselves here—of course they care. Unquestionably.

So why the assumption? Well, in my mind, it comes down to the difference between caring what happens and having an interest in the Campaign. Students, for example, are very aware and concerned about how we invest in their programs (and, by extension, how we use their tuition). But our students have their gears turning a mile-a-minute academically, spiritually, relationally, philosophically, and more. It’s difficult to find a more sidetracked group of people.

If we’re not very intentional about keeping our campaign messaging digestible and relevant, it can be challenging to reach the students. (Students – please correct me if I’m wrong.) One could make a similar statement about our faculty and staff, who, as I’ve mentioned, are burning the candle from both ends and the middle to care for and build out this wonderful University of ours.

Once again, this isn’t a good excuse, but with resources and time tight…you get the idea.

It’s just not done.

That could be a little strong, but I don’t think so. When it comes to campaign best practice, hardly anyone out there is focusing on informing and involving their internal community. Given the three reasons above (and probably more), why would telling the story internally be worth the effort?

That’s another very good question. I’ll tell you why tomorrow.


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Thu, 31 Jul 2014 16:45:00 CDT 98e5bb08-d317-4fff-8338-ea09f09e4f92
Teasing Out Our Touting Targets (Pt 1) Beyond strategic focusing and financial impact, one of the major goals of any campaign is positive press. You want the community to see what great, legitimate work you’re doing. You also want the community to see respected and recognizable families and businesses getting on board—investing their time, talent, and treasure in your cause.

As a result, campaign marketing often comes down to touting. Tout your past. Tout your future. Tout your progress. And tout the donors who make it all happen.

Now I don’t love bragging or braggers (who does?), but I do see the value in this touting process. We’re busy people and the world around us is crowded and noisy. If we’re not telling the OC story openly and often, how will people know to invest here, to send their students here, to apply to work here, to bring their camps or volunteer programs here, and more?

I’ve heard it said that OC is one of the “best kept secrets in Oklahoma.” And, while I love the sentiment, I hate the reality of that statement. We have a world-changing story to tell here. Let’s tell it!

But let’s also consider how we target our touting. In campaigns past we’ve done a good job of telling the OC story in all the “right places”: the civic community, the higher education community, our trustees and major donors, and our alumni. However, in embracing many marketing best practices, we’ve often overlooked one incredibly important group of OC movers and opinion-leaders: our on-campus family.

In my posts later this week I’d like to tell you why I think that’s happened and why we’re doing things differently this time.

In the meantime, I’d like to leave you with some exciting physical evidence of our new internal storytelling process. The witty banners below have gone up outside various campus locations impacted in Thrive Year One. The banners will showcase projects “IN PROGRESS” until we physically mark them “COMPLETE”—giving our campus family quick, fun insight into campaign progress and priorities.

Just seeing these banners around OC makes my heart happy. If you’re on campus soon, check them out!


Thrive Banner - Benson Hall

Benson Hall - Showcasing the Strategic Planning Fund ($250,000)

Thrive Banner - International Programs

Heritage Plaza - Showcasing the Das Millicanhaus Renovation ($350,000)

Thrive Banner - Garvey

Garvey Center - Showcasing Hardeman HD ($64,000) and Ethos ($1M)

Thrive Banner - Spiritual Life

Spiritual Life Office - Showcasing Ethos ($1M)

Thrive Banner - Judd

Garvey Center - Showcasing Judd HD Upgrade ($64,000)

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Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:15:00 CDT 7bde072f-6f11-4400-afcd-d24875f2fbe3
Unraveling the Tuition Mystery On Tuesday I opened the gates on a challenging two-part question with “Why did OC invest so much (or at all) in ________?” Today, I want to address one possible Part 2 of said question:

“…when tuition is high and could be used on other things?”

And let me rip the most painful Band-Aid off right away: yes, I agree, Oklahoma Christian University is expensive. You read that right. I’m not saying the financial cost of the OC experience is priced unfairly or luxury taxed. I’m not saying that it’s too high for the existing academic marketplace. I’m not saying it’s unachievable for the families who want to be a part of this community. And I’m not saying my time at OC wasn’t worth every penny. But pursuing an education at Oklahoma Christian is, most definitely, expensive.

If you’re enrolled at OC now, if you’re considering OC for the future, or if you’re paying loans for your past experiences at OC, you’ve almost certainly encountered the challenge that comes with financing your Eaglehood. I want you to know that I’m not naïve to that challenge (my family wrestles with an OC student loan every month) and neither is our administration. It takes commitment and sacrifice to be here, and I’m personally overjoyed and incredibly grateful that you are, will, or have made the great effort to make OC your home.

And I absolutely want that home to be “worth it” to you.

We don’t typically couch our conversations about the University in terms of how “expensive” it is. There are obvious reasons why. However, I’d like to peel back the curtain on one of my personal reasons—give you a taste of my emotion on the matter. Stay with me here (and remember my opinions are very much alive in these posts):

You see, we have a 64-year history of bending over backwards to keep costs down and scholarships up. We don’t talk about this a lot. OC has been and probably always will be run by humble, servant-hearted people. We don’t want you to know we’re killing ourselves, that we’re pinching every penny we can and calling in every favor we know to give students a truly top-tier education, and a remarkable spiritual community, at an attainable price.

I’ll tell you this story in more detail in a later post, but this sacrificial mode has always been the case on this campus. Throughout OC’s history, even though tuition is our main financial driver, the financial investments our students and their families make have never met the total financial need for the University to stay open. Not ever.* (Today, student investments cover 71% of the pie.)

That’s probably difficult to wrap your mind around. I know it was for me the first time I heard it. “How on earth can I be paying this much (and so can 2,000 of my friends) and the University still not have enough?” My good friend and acting CFO, Jeff Bingham, will explain this in detail for you a little later, I think. Keep in mind for now, though, that we provide a living wage for 400+ professionals and their families; we maintain 200 acres and 30+ facilities; we feed, house, and care for nearly 2,000 students; and we provide the equipment, resources, and infrastructure necessary to make life possible, convenient, enriching, and fun throughout campus and across more than 60 different majors. (And there’s more.)

Attending a university like OC is expensive business. Running a university like OC is even more so.

Why do I say all of this? It’s not to diminish the investment you have or will make at Oklahoma Christian. Not at all. You have my respect and admiration for giving and going here. Rather, it’s to show you that behind the scenes we really struggle with respecting and addressing your commitment and your needs at the same time that we try to make all ends meet.

This is the main reason I struggle to be bluntly honest about OC’s cost. When you’re constantly burning the candle and trimming the fat, the unavoidable truth of the private education price tag just hurts. (Kills me, in fact.) If it were possible to give every student the best OC experience and zero debt, we’d all do it in a heartbeat.**

Okay. With that context and a taste of my emotion out there, let’s get to the meat of your question: “Why would OC use (my) tuition on XYZ Campaign Project?”

This is surprisingly easy to answer. We wouldn’t.

Students pay for expert professors, a phenomenal staff, spiritual mentors, safe and comfortable places to live, healthy food, quality academic resources, financial advice, admissions assistance, personal and professional development, and the infrastructure that makes all those things possible. And that’s exactly what tuition provides.

If a project appears on any OC Campaign, it does so precisely because tuition will not fund it. Instead, we depend on generous families, businesses, and foundations to make these important efforts happen. Voluntarily.

We haven’t always done a good job of articulating this reality to the OC family, particularly our students. When I was in school, I was convinced my tuition funded everything. (And why shouldn’t I have been? I was paying a lot, after all.) So as a matter of righting some of that misinformation and closing this post out with some semblance of brevity, allow me to give it to you straight on a smattering of projects:

1965 – Mabee Learning Center: $0 tuition

1966 – Hardeman Auditorium: $0 tuition

1971 – Davisson American Heritage Building: $0 tuition

1971 – Herold Science Hall: $0 tuition

1980 – Harvey Business Center: $0 tuition

1982 – Enterprise Square: $0 tuition

1998 – McIntosh Conservatory: $0 tuition

2004 – McBride Center for Public Humanities: $0 tuition

2007 – Jackson Family Intramural Fields: $0 tuition

2007 – Lawson Commons, McGraw Pavilion & Freede Clock Tower: $0 tuition

2006 – Herold Science Hall Renovation: $0 tuition

2008 – Mabee Labs at Vose Hall: $0 tuition

2010 – Noble Science Wing: $0 tuition

2011 – Intergenerational Faith Center: $0 tuition

2012 – Benson Hall Renovation: $0 tuition

2012 – Das Millicanhaus (Vienna Facility) Purchase: $0 tuition

2012 – Eagle Trail: $0 tuition

2013 – Tom Heath Softball Field: $0 tuition

2013 – Baugh Chair of Gospel Preaching: $0 tuition

2014 – Thrive: $0 tuition

With that, I’ll leave you to digest and be blessed. Thanks for loving and investing in Oklahoma Christian. We know it takes work. We know it takes faith. We know it takes sacrifice. And we love you for all you do.


*PS – Don’t read this and think OC’s in danger of shutting her doors. We have a healthy endowment (invested resources that produce yearly interest for University activities), some business interests, and a strategic fundraising plan that keeps OC in good financial shape. You might even say we're Thriving.

**PPS – I don’t believe a debt-free OC experience for all is an absolute impossibility. I believe in miracles and I hate being put in boxes. Maybe you have the breakthrough idea or resources that could make that happen. Dream big and give big with us and we just might find out.

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Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:00:00 CDT 5d54c46f-f73e-417f-a27f-40f4233595d1
A Little Thing Called Donor Intent In an earlier post, I attempted to answer one of your top questions in the big, messy realm of funding priorities: “Where’s my passion project?”

Today—spurred on by the very good thoughts of my friend and Director of Alumni Communications, Chris Adair (who was previously spurred on by the very good thoughts of fellow alums and some current students)—I’d like to tackle another toughie. And this one’s a two-parter.

But before we dive too deep into the questions at hand, let me be really clear on one thing. When it comes to identifying and discussing expenditures of any kind at Oklahoma Christian, there is one constant: subjectivity.

“Too expensive,” “too cheap,” “very important,” “unimportant,” “well-funded,” “under-funded,” “shrewd,” and “wasteful” are terms and phrases laced with opinion. Even the terms “mission-centric” and “mission-peripheral” carry a small dose of subjectivity.

Now if you’re like me, you’re mounting a counterpoint to this opinion decree in your head already. “But certainly we can all agree that $$ is too much to spend or that XYZ department is under-funded or that ABC is mission critical,” you’re starting to think. However, even as you think it, that “all agree” phrase catches in your cerebrum. 

Let’s face it, when it comes to navigating a sea of 20,000 some odd voices, the notions above are all relative. (Yes, even that one you’re thinking isn’t. It’s not relative to you, but it is to someone.) Every one of us will see Thrive and our OC home a little differently. We’ll never get 100% of us to agree on the priorities, expenditures, and strategies in every area on and off campus.

And that’s a very good thing, too, because diverse opinions foster greater creativity and innovation anyway. I don’t want you to think I consider “opinion” to be a dirty word. It’s a great word, actually.* We just need to be ever aware of its presence.

So, with all that out there, let’s get on with part one of the question…

Part 1 – “Why did you invest so much (or at all) in Project A?”

This is the flipside of the “Where’s my passion project?” idea. However, more so than its curious and straightforward cousin, this question harbors and functions on underlying opinion. In fact, it’s often much more personal critique than inquiry.

I call this question Part 1 because it implies a Part 2, and my hunch is that you’ve already filled in that second bit with a thought of your own. “Why did you invest so much in Project A…when Project B is more important to OC’s mission?” or “…when Project B is in greater need of funding?” or “…when Project A already has enough?” or “…when OC should be going lean, not living large?!” and so on.

I could spend weeks posing thoughts on all these fronts (and maybe I will), but today I want to address what I see as one root instigator of questions like these. And that’s a little thing called “donor intent.”

In fundraising circles, donor intent is sacred terminology—and it means just what you think it means. If you donate to Oklahoma Christian, with the communicated intent of supporting a specific project, then the decision-makers and check-cutters at Oklahoma Christian commit to using your dollars for that project alone. We call this “restricted giving” because your dollars are restricted to a single purpose or sphere at the University.

Not only does it make good sense on a public relations front to abide by your giving desires, and not only is it morally right to do so, but we are also legally obligated to submit to donor intent. The IRS monitors and regulates its fair interpretation and application across all non-profits.

All that probably makes perfect sense to you. In fact, you’re probably nodding right now and thinking, “of course you would use my money for what I said…that’s what I expect, after all, and to do anything else would be dishonest.” And I agree. So how does this very sensible idea cause a wrinkle on the funding priority front?

Well, there are priorities and expenditures that the University identifies (the Thrive Year One menu for example) and then there are the priorities and passions of our major donors. These often align—and we work hard to connect our donors with existing, strategically relevant projects—but sometimes donor-driven efforts are a little bit “off menu.” (And that’s okay.) I’ll use a hypothetical example to illustrate:

Let’s say you decide to get involved in a big way during the current campaign, but none of our current projects really speak to you. You were an underwater basket-weaver major in college and you’d like to see a new academic center established for the weavers following in your footsteps.

Sitting down to lunch with the President, he asks if you’d be willing to commit $1 million to the campaign. You’re already excited about the possibilities, so you enthusiastically say “yes!” but with one caveat: you want your money to go to an underwater basket-weaving center. That is where your passion lives and you don’t want your money going for anything else.

Now underwater basket weaving is a solid program at the University. It hasn’t been identified as a strategic priority simply because limited resources require OC to refine investment targets rather sharply, but underwater weaving is still a positive place to invest. A new $1 million center in the field would certainly help our current students, it would support part of OC’s mission, and it wouldn’t create any new liability for the University. In a take-it-or-leave-it scenario, this center is a definite “take it.”

The President agrees and the story unfolds from there. Your center makes a great positive impact for the campus and you feel delighted connecting with your passion in such a concrete and substantial way.

Okay. Back to the real projects past and present at OC. Hopefully you see the connection from this story to an effort you’ve wondered about on campus. It’s not always the case, but very often when a project materializes from “out of left field” or the investments in an effort seem “too high” (remember these are opinion-based sentiments), donor intent played a role.

And, just like my perspective on the word “opinion,” I also think “donor intent” is a very healthy, wonderful, non-dirty phrase. Don’t hear me saying that these highly intentional donors are pigeonholing us. That’s not the case at all. They’re making amazing things happen at OC that wouldn’t happen otherwise. The things they make happen are just unique enough, though, to sometimes inspire your Part 1 Question: “Why did you invest so much (or at all) in Project A?”

We’ll talk more about this, I’m sure. For now, though, keep this little nugget on donor intent in the back of your mind and remember three things for me:

1) Remember, first, that your perspective (and mine) on OC’s priorities and expenditures is unique and subjective.

2) Remember that astoundingly sacrificial people are making these projects happen on campus—and we have a duty to help see their mission-complementary passions through when we accept their generosity.

3) Remember, as you look around at our campus and programs, that everyone at OC is striving to make purposeful and prayerful investments. If a price or choice seems out of left field, that’s often because you’re missing some of the facts. (And shame on us for not giving you those!) Donor intent is very often one of those facts.

So when an investment seems weird (to you), seek the answers! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: never be satisfied in the dark.

And with that overwhelmingly long post, and ending on a very apropos point 3, I’ll leave you to reflect on these ideas and to look forward to a future post on one big second half of the question:

Part 2 – “…when tuition is high and could be used on other things?”

More very soon.


*All my favorite people are opinion-havers.

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Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:30:00 CDT 25f1cba1-1521-4e29-b98e-c01ef662addf
No Spit and Polish Necessary Today at lunch I had the pleasure of meeting Rob Hale. Rob and his wife, Karen (Killebrew ’82), are good friends of the University and current OC parents. I wasn’t expecting to meet Rob—I was just on a rush lunch to Jimmy Johns—but as I sat beside him, feverishly crunching my salt and vinegar chips, it became clear that our meeting was quite serendipitous.

To my surprise, Rob’s first words to me (which were no doubt more encouraging than he realized) were: “I believe I’ve read some of your work. I’ve been following the Thrive Blog.”


If you have experience in web marketing or blogging or any other area that calls you to cast your voice and your passion out into the infinite abyss of the internet, then you know how meaningful it is just to know someone heard…especially if that’s a someone other than your mom.

Two quick sentences and Rob made my day. But his next statement was even better: “I like how you don’t worry about polishing everything up. You tell it like it is...and that’s what people want to hear.”

I flinched at the “polished” line at first, thinking “wow…is my writing that haphazard?” But the more I’ve reflected, the more I like Rob’s assessment. Thrive is real. It’s personal. The dull, the edgy, the broken, the unrefined—it’s all here.

Thrive isn’t about making Oklahoma Christian seem shiny and perfect. Don’t get me wrong, we wouldn’t call this ‘Thrive’ if compelling and momentous things weren’t happening here. But the marketing philosophy (if you want to call it that) behind this Campaign is much less about us looking polished and much more about giving our students what they need and giving it all to you “like it is.”

And I think you’ll find over the next few years that the way it is, even with all its rough edges, is still really something.

To all of you (especially Rob): thanks for reading, for spreading the word, for trusting our sincerity, and for introducing us to new ways to think and talk about Thrive. Keep bringing it. We value your insights, your prayers, and your voices so much.

Thrive: Fast-Impact, Momentum-Building, Student-Focused, Unpolished.

I love it already.


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Thu, 10 Jul 2014 17:15:00 CDT a4187ebc-42ef-47e3-a022-24bb1e026b9c
A Taste of the In-Between on Garvey HD When it comes to campaign communication, most universities are pretty good at sharing how much is needed to complete a project (“the goal for this important effort is $XYZ”)…and not quite as good but still decent at sharing the finished product (“see the impact of your $XYZ!”).

Where our communication falls apart is in the in-between.

What do you say after the target’s been targeted but before the ribbon’s been cut? Our word is usually “mum,” and I’ll give you two big reasons why:

1) The in-between lacks excitement. Beginnings and endings are major events. One introduces new possibilities, bringing a rush of hope, fresh energy, and anticipation. The other places the final period in this chapter, filling us with a sense of accomplishment and celebration, and allowing us to embrace that uniquely wonderful depressurization that accompanies the phrase “we did it.”

The in-between is not an event. It’s an ever-changing and sometimes uninteresting process that’s difficult to nail down. It’s meetings and budgets and phone calls and plans. It’s gutted buildings, shopping lists, open interviews, contract proposals, and pending investments.

Generally accepted wisdom says don’t tell people about the in-between too often. It’s too messy, too mundane, and too repetitive. If you market everything that goes on with a project from start to finish, you’ll bore your audience out of their minds long before you’re done.

2) The in-between raises too many questions. It’s a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Give twenty of your friends a hearty meal that tastes great for $7 apiece and they’ll probably love it. Invite their advice as you set the menu, select your ingredients, choose your shopping venue, make your purchasing decisions, assume your cooking style, etc. and you’re in for opinion overload…and, suddenly, some newfound discussion and perhaps even misgivings toward that $7 price tag.

This situation gets even harder when your “hearty meal” is a $64,000 auditorium conversion and your meal advisors number well more than twenty…they’re closer to twenty thousand. If you’ll pardon my mixed metaphor, it’s much less stressful on all of us if we just take our community directly from an ‘A’ they believe in to a ‘Z’ that satisfies, without messing with the subtleties and opinion-catalyzing-moments of ‘B’ through ‘Y.’

In Thrive, though, our goal of transparency challenges us to give you more than just the beginning and the end. And, while I recognize that you don’t want to know everything, we are committed to showing you much of the in-between. 

So today I have one of many in-between updates for you, this one focused particularly on our fully funded high-definition conversions of Hardeman Auditorium and Judd Theatre. Our teams have not finalized all purchases on these projects, but (back to our first metaphor) the menu is nearly set and shopping has begun! What follows is the $128,000 shopping list* for these two venues. Much of the language is technical, so I’ve included some menu commentary for you:

Hardeman HD Upgrade Menu

  • 3 New Wide Format DLP Projectors – “Wide Format” means we’re trading the square, 1990s television look we’ve had in Hardeman for a more theatrical widescreen effect. Meanwhile, “DLP” stands for “digital light processing,” but the most important thing to know is that these are high-quality projectors that are commonly used in movie theaters.
  • 3 New Wide Format Projection Screens – These new screens will better accommodate the widescreen aspect ratio mentioned above and will provide for a cleaner, more uniform image than existing screens.
  • 1 HDMI Matrix Video Switcher and Scaler – The short answer: this equipment will help make it possible for various media to display properly on the Hardeman video screens and for content in Hardeman to be shared with some other screens/equipment on campus.
  • 1 Panasonic 65” Display – In response to many requests, this HD television will be setup near the front stage area and display reference notes/slides for presenters in Hardeman.

Judd HD Upgrade Menu

  • 1 New DLP Projector – Like Hardeman, this projector will be cinema-grade.
  • 1 Video Switcher and Control System
  • 1 HD Streaming Camera with Picture-in-Picture Capability – Permanently mounted in Hardeman Auditorium, this camera will stream HD video to Judd for overflow chapels and for events. Picture-in-picture will allow the camera to stream slides and video of a presenter at the same time.
  • 3 Microphone Systems
  • 1 New Tension Screen – Replacing a traditional hanging screen, the tension screen will stretch flat for better, undistorted picture quality in Judd.
  • 1 Hearing Impaired Loop System – Currently lacking in Judd, this system will broadcast event audio directly to hearing aids and cochlear implants. No headsets required.
  • Upgraded Sound System – Specifics here are still in the works, but OC’s teams are planning to upgrade Judd’s sound capabilities to match its new HD visuals. More to come.

That information is almost certainly more exciting to some of you than others; and it almost certainly prompts more opinion in some of you than others. Wherever you are on either scale, I hope these menus help you feel even more informed about the work happening at Oklahoma Christian and in Thrive. And I hope they give you a sense of the great forward motion we already have on some of these Year One projects. Thanks to your support, we’re really cooking!

As always, don’t be shy with your excitement or your opinions. Feel free to sound off in the comments below or in a personal email to me at

Love you, friends, from beginning to end and all in-between.


*You may have read $128,000 and thought, "Huh? I thought Hardeman HD had a set goal of $64,000..." You’d be right! But we were blessed with another $64,000 to renovate Judd as part of our Ethos project. That’s also why I titled this entry “Garvey HD,” as both of these wonderful facilities live in our Garvey Center. Blessings to you for your astute observations and ongoing interest in Thrive!

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Mon, 07 Jul 2014 16:45:00 CDT 52e3be39-79d9-4d34-bf30-1e788981c9e2