Thrive RSS Feed RSS Feed 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
It's Okay to Get Emotional...Really [Warning: this opening’s on the edgy side, but if you’ll stick with me to the punch line, I promise you’ll be encouraged.]

Sometimes I get really frustrated with my alma mater. There are days that I grumpily stew on notions of slow, overthought, noisy decision-making. There are other days that I nervously wonder if some ideas are happening in a vacuum…if dominoes are tipping too soon, too impulsively, and without enough community forethought.

I don’t agree with every decision, either. Some moves have left me cold, others have lit an angry fire in me, some have challenged my convictions, and others have broken my heart.

In the course of any given year, if you were to dig deep into my psyche, you’d find my moments of anger, depression, grief, apprehension, exasperation, and more. You’d also find me frequently asking “why?”

I’m a questioner, I guess. I question strategic plans. I question priorities. I question timing and people. I question the future. I question my investment. And I question my patience.

There are days that Oklahoma Christian just wears me ragged.

By now you’re probably thinking, “Wow. This is terrible marketing… Aren’t you supposed to be selling us on the great vision at OC and in Thrive?”

Yes, I am. And do you know what? I wholeheartedly believe in and support the vision at OC and in Thrive. And, if you haven’t been able to tell from previous posts, I adore this place and all the people in it. (I wouldn’t be anywhere else!)

So why open this post with such angst?

1) As much as I want you to see the process behind Thrive, I also want you to see the human element at Oklahoma Christian. And since I know no human better than I know myself, I figure I’m as good a place to start as any. First off, I don’t want to give the false impression that I’m an automated enthusiast for all things OC. That’s just not true. And I think it’s an assumption that could erode your trust in me and in Thrive if I’m not intentionally open with you about it.

I’m a committed ambassador for OC and, when a decision is prayerfully made, I get behind it even when it’s hard. But I’m not always 100% happy or carefree in my perspective. In fact, I think it’s a very healthy and wonderful irony that OC trained me to be a critical, creative, innovative thinker, because it’s that mode of thinking that drives my passionate concern for this place regularly.

I also don’t want to imply that I’m perfectly noble, humble, or collaborative in my thinking. I’m not. I wrestle with ego, jealousy, selfishness, and impatience almost daily. And I struggle to order the priorities in my life in the appropriate way—with God at the top, me at the bottom, and the kingdom-work of OC somewhere in between. I’d argue that all of us at OC are fighting similar emotions and challenges. That may sound like a given, but it’s something we don’t own up to often; and, as a result, I think sometimes we forego a lot of grace toward one another, under the misguided assumption that in our roles as Eagles we represent the OC mission and the kingdom-work it supports to the letter. We don’t.

However, I can tell you from firsthand experience that the people at Oklahoma Christian are truly something special. They’re a sacrificial, caring, deeply motivated, spiritual, servant-hearted, fun-loving, family-oriented bunch. They love our students, they love our alumni, they love our community, they love each other, and they love Jesus. I’m biased, of course, but I’d even go so far as to say they’re the best coworkers in the world. But they are people (I’m people; you’re people), and I think it’s healthy to remember that sometimes.

2) Nothing bubbles up emotion quite like the people, places, and ideals you hold most dear. Unless I miss my guess, many of the feelings I shared at the opening of this post rang true for you, too. In fact, I hope they did. Passion breeds powerful positive energy…but it also drives intense focus, deep concern, and allows the spiritual/emotional side of us to bleed into the “rational” course of business. 

Just think about the sea of emotion lapping about in your closest relationships (spouse, family member, best friend), and you’ll know what I mean.

If you care about the future of Oklahoma Christian, if you put a premium on the lives and work of the OC family, and if you feel a great sense of belonging and loyalty to this campus…then you’ve almost certainly gotten emotional with OC before (and you will again). I want you to know, at least from my perspective, that I believe that emotion is a very good thing. Don’t feel bad about it.

Your intensity of caring will drive the next chapters at Oklahoma Christian.

And you don’t have to keep those OC emotions bottled up, if you don’t want to.* Let me or someone else at OC know what’s on your mind. We might not share your opinion, but we’ll certainly get your passion, and we’ll do everything that’s appropriate and within our power to address the situation. And we will always (ALWAYS) pray with you, for you, and for our campus together, if that’s what you need.

 *Do me one favor, though, when your emotional waters are choppy, feel out the situation with the appropriate folks at OC first, before sharing your frustration with the world. You never know when the reality you don’t see could alleviate your frustration entirely. And your due diligence could be a great gift to you, to OC and to our students. It works for me all the time…could be why I’m such a questioner.

Thrive is going to be an emotional journey sometimes. We won’t all agree on every priority or every decision. There will be conflict and sparks and even hurt feelings.

But there will also be incredible highs. Earlier I listed some of the emotional lows I face yearly. Well, I also regularly encounter motivation, excitement, dreaminess, eagerness, hopefulness, fulfillment, enrichment (spiritual, intellectual and otherwise), belonging, purpose, and love. In fact, my positive emotion list could go on for miles beyond the negative one. And if you’ve found yourself emotionally vested in OC like I have, then I’d guess your positive/negative feelings equation has a similar slant.

It’s probably healthy for you and me to remember that, too.

These three years are going to be quite the rush. They’re going to work our hearts and our heads. Hopefully the highs will far outweigh the lows, but the days won’t always feel good, they won’t always meet expectations, and you’re going to want to tell somebody…

And that’s okay.


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Thu, 03 Jul 2014 9:15:00 CDT 9e689d79-3b19-4569-882b-82ba4be65f37
Thrive Worldwide: In Progress Pics of Das Millicanhaus Grünentorgasse 30, 1090 Wien, Austria

If you’ve ever heard me tell the OC story, you’ve probably heard me say something like “OC is so much bigger than these 200 acres and the 2,500 some odd people who walk them each day.” I’ve said this phrase so many times now that I think the students closest to me are about to rise up and shout, “WE GET IT!” (At least I hope they are.)

But it’s a phrase that needs to be said. Our vision of Oklahoma Christian can be far too small—relegated to a finite geographic space, a couple hundred recognizable faces, and a brief four-to-five-to-seven-year window. We put OC in a box. And, for some of us, this season-specific, location-specific thinking makes the OC experience little more than a delightful memory that we can no longer grasp…so we leave that box behind, gathering dust in life’s proverbial closet.

I don’t like boxes.

Which is why the address above makes me so happy. The site of our easternmost OC facility, Das Millicanhaus, is a concrete reminder that our university family—and the amazing work they (you) do—is worldwide.

Hundreds of OC students explore the culture and history of Europe from the heart of Vienna’s ninth district, just minutes away from the French Embassy, the Freud Museum, the Lichtenstein Museum and Park, the Museum of Modern Art, the Franz Joseph Train Station, the Danube Canal, and more. And this permanent base of operations is their launch point for adventures and mission efforts throughout Europe. It’s just a beautifully uncommon kind of place.

And thanks to you and to Thrive, Das Millicanhaus is becoming even more special, as needed upgrades and renovations are in full swing this summer under the direction of OC’s interior design guru, Amy Beauchamp. You can see some of her construction pics below.

Watch for more as renovations continue. And, in the meantime, get that box out of your closet. Let this big, 64-year, twenty-thousand-person-plus, worldwide-adventure-having-people-serving OC family stretch and breathe in your life. (I think you’ll like it.)


PS – Did you know you can stay in Das Millicanhaus? And it’s only about $60 a night. No, I’m not joking. Check it out.

Das Millicanhaus Construction 2

Das Millicanhaus Construction 3

Das Millicanhaus Construction 4

Das Millicanhaus Construction 5

Das Millicanhaus Construction 6

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Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:30:00 CDT acb8f9cd-6852-4621-9a73-c80b60f29fa4
Thrive Blog: Open for Comments As we go about this Thrive adventure together, I really want to take you behind the scenes on our campaign process—from our fundraising plan, to project progress, to marketing and communication decisions, and more. I want you to get a sense of our victories (large and small), our frustrations (also large and small), the fast and the frantic moments, the slow and mundane moments, the hard decisions and the easy ones, and just our sincere and prayerful journey toward an agile student-and-Kingdom-centric approach toward life at Oklahoma Christian.

I don’t want to go so far as to say the content on this blog will be “raw” (sometimes maybe it will), but I do want it to be real. We’ve talked a lot about transparency, but I also want to stretch until it hurts to give you authenticity.

Today we’re making another big stride in that department, as we answer one of the most frequent questions I’ve received so far: “Why can’t we leave comments on the Thrive Blog?”

We debated this concept in building the Thrive website, especially the Blog. One of our goals with Thrive was to make the Campaign very approachable and interactive. See a need? Get involved. Have a question? Ask away. Need to vent some passionate, idealistic frustration? Talk to me.

So why no comment option?

No dancing around this one. I didn’t want a comment option. I’m looking right at you (digitally, that is). The prospect of public comments unnerved me. A major objective with any campaign is to increase goodwill in the community—to tell a very public story about how much momentum you have, how bright your future is, and how amazingly giving and awesome your donor base has become. Campaigns are as much about PR as they are about focusing strategy and raising vital support.

With the Thrive Blog functioning as our main avenue of information on the Campaign, opening posts for public comment could mean losing control of our messaging. As I’ve said before (and you know), not everyone will agree with every decision made in Thrive. If those frustrations are aired to me in private, then I can soften the public impact of those concerns by framing our messaging—regarding the issues and my response—in a positive context. And at the outset of Thrive, that’s what I wanted to do.

But that’s not very interactive, is it? And, while you have my word that I’ll be transparent, that system doesn’t really hold me accountable to respond to your questions, concerns, and ideas. That changes now.

You love this place. You deserve to be heard. We’re making it happen.

You’re now free, for the world to see, to post on each and every Thrive Blog entry. Celebrate, challenge, encourage, and question away! And no matter how challenging your comment might be, my commitment to you is that (barring content that’s deemed inappropriate) we won’t ever filter your thoughts.

And I’m going to shoot straight on every response. Count on it and hold me to it.

Am I going to be tactful in how I respond? You bet. I’m an ambassador of Oklahoma Christian, after all. And I owe it to this University I call “home” to be a positive voice and encourager of its mission (our mission) across all media. That doesn’t mean I can’t be honest about mistakes we’ve made or the difficult realities of certain circumstances or choices. Just expect those admissions to always be couched in an understanding of my alma mater’s sincere efforts to do good and make a difference.

With all of that being said, and my first personal admission of “transparency fear” laid bare before you, please feel free to give that comment button a click!

Love you, friends, and I’m excited to hear everything you have to say.


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Thu, 26 Jun 2014 12:45:00 CDT 47089bc1-c759-4b40-b225-eacf40420b50
Making Homeward History (All Over Again) It was February 2012, on an unassuming weekday afternoon, and I was sitting in a windowless conference room on the second floor of the Mabee Learning Center. (A space that will soon be transformed into part of our Common Grounds Coffee Shop, by the way, but that’s a story for another post.)

I was with two of my good friends and colleagues: Kent Allen, Vice President for Advancement, and Bob Lashley, Executive Director of Alumni Relations. Well-caffeinated and full from lunch, we settled in for an extended strategy meeting on alumni relations.

Our conversation revolved around two critical topics. The first topic centered on communication and marketing surrounding the upcoming inauguration of president John deSteiguer; and, piggybacking on inauguration, developing a communication plan for the president’s three vision points of “OC is Home,” “OC Grows,” and “OC is Mission.” This, in and of itself, was a full and complex topic. (And still is. How are we doing, by the way?)

The second topic was alumni participationa turn of phrase that elicits groans and shivers across academia even now. Why? Well, by now most of our grads should know the alumni participation story backwards and forwards, but since this blog is (hopefully) read by grads and non-grads alike, let me give some background:

“Alumni participation” is a national measurement that is used to gauge university health and relevance based on how engaged (or disengaged) graduates are with their alma mater. The measurement assumes that more graduates giving back at any amount to their alma mater means a broader appreciation for the educational quality and culture of their school, a greater support for the current mission and direction of their school, and a higher level of engagement in school activities.

The alumni participation rate, which is calculated by dividing graduate givers by all living graduates (grad givers/all grads = participation rate), is used regularly by US News and other ranking entities, as well as by the government and foundation funders, to determine not only the health of a university but its investment potential.

You can think of it like this, in a nutshell: if a university’s closest constituents (its graduates) are not on board with giving and getting back to their alma mater, then why should anyone else climb on?

Now back to 2012 and to the confines of that windowless conference room. Why the groans and shivers? There had been (and still is) a national downward trend in alumni participation. Fewer and fewer grads were giving to their alma maters each year. Twenty straight years of decline, in fact…and no one seemed to have the solution.

Oklahoma Christian was no exception. By the close of academic year 2010-2011, OC’s participation rate had dropped every year for five years and had hit a 13-year low of 860 graduate givers (a 9.3% rate). Based on some more targeted marketing efforts, we’d seen a slight improvement in 2011-2012 (940 grad givers; 9.4%), but we still didn’t seem to be making any significant ground.

We were losing our graduates’ interest. Fast.

This is the challenge Kent, Bob, and I faced that afternoon. After 62 years, how do we start to convince 11,000+ graduates that simply the act of giving, at any level, has profound meaning? That the number of people giving means just as much as the amount given? And how do we make that giving drive more than a one-time thing?

How do we change culture?

I’m convinced that sometimes the best ideas are formed in the dark vacuum of empty space. When no one else has set a precedent, there’s no “best practice” to contain you, no box to obey. No university we could find had blazed a path on alumni participation in 2012. That freed us to blaze our own.

What came out of that meeting in 2012, and many subsequent strategy sessions with our creative teams, was a whole new (and ongoing) OC brand we call Homeward. In many ways, Homeward was the spiritual predecessor to Thrive. Launched in August of 2012, Homeward has many guiding ideas you’ll find familiar:

  • Transparency regarding the true need and budgeting processes of the University
  • Educating our alumni community about the impact of their gifts (in all sizes)
  • Telling the story of alumni participation—explaining its background, purpose, and impact
  • Offering alumni live, up-to-the-minute access to the current grad giving number (via the “Alumnometer”)
  • Fostering greater collaboration and building community among our alumni
  • Fanning the flames of our grads’ OC pride, passion for service, and competitive spirit

Sounds Thrive-like, doesn’t it? One of the reasons I’m so excited about Thrive is because it speaks to and builds on the relevance of Homeward. As the video above attests, Homeward has been a fantastic success—the guiding idea of “greater collaboration” being perhaps the brand’s greatest achievement. The list of names and groups is far too long to include here*, but the teamwork we’ve seen on and off this campus in support of Homeward has been both unprecedented and phenomenal.

940. That’s how many grads gave to Oklahoma Christian in 2011-2012. In just two years, the collective pride and enthusiasm of our grads, reignited by a timely and transparent campaign, has done more than just step up that number. Our Eagles have flat-out crushed two giving records in a row and more than DOUBLED the alumni participation count.

2278. That’s where we are today. 19.7%. We no longer trail the national average. We lead it by about eight points.

If you don’t know Homeward, I’d encourage you check it out at You’ll want to for two big reasons: (1) I think it will encourage you even more about the process and potential in Thrive, and (2) you’re about to see Homeward 2015 come online as a Thrive project.

As I’ve said before, we want to be very open with all our Eagles (alumni or otherwise) about the strategic focus of this campaign and our fundraising team. Homeward is one of those projects that doesn’t apply directly to everyone. But it remains incredibly important for this University, and its success signals a groundswell of pride and generosity that we need to steward and reinvest in regularly. We want everyone to know that grad giving is vital—so much so that we’re placing the grad giver count on equal footing with the $X million projects that occupy the Thrive menu.

If you’re an OC grad, I’d encourage you to give this year at whatever level feels right (and to whatever project you want!). It’s not about the money in Homeward. It’s about you. You count.

If you’re not an OC alum, I hope you’ll still watch the “Alumnometer” with great interest, knowing that the university you’re so invested in depends on and enjoys the support of thousands of gung ho grads. The Eagles are a passionate, amazing, status-quo-defying group. And our 2012 meeting to strategize about culture, and all subsequent efforts, didn’t make the Eagles that way, either. Because, ultimately, the question in Homeward and in Thrive isn’t so much about changing culture…

It’s about tapping into an incredible vein of energy that’s been here since 1950.



*Okay. I can’t help myself: Micah Domina, Jonathan Curtis, Nick Sayre, Stephen Bell, Judson Copeland, Wes McKinzie, Jana Miller, Kris Strobeck, Tessa Wright, Risa Forrester, Kent Allen, Bob Lashley, Chris Adair, John deSteiguer, Jamie Scott, Dana Holley, Sharon Lindsey, Bob Rowley, Jamie Haworth, Christine Merideth, Tonda Stafford, Todd Fraser, Aimee Furrie, Jessica Estrada, Susan Diaz, Darian Russell, Shelby Miscavage, Liz McElroy, Neil Arter, Stephen Eck, Jimie-Wray Mead, Kerianne Roper, Amanda Watson, Kayla Goodrich, Frank Davis, David Lankford, Linda Apple Young, Suzanne Vaughn, Kathleen Duncan, Ken Adams, Gene Shoemake, Phil Roberts, Harrison Barbarick, the Branch family, Lawson family, Compton family, the 60s “lunch bunch,” the National Alumni Council, all the OC clubs and their alumni, the OC Callout Crew, OC’s Team1, QuikPrint, Heritage Press, the OC Board of Trustees, my gracious and loving wife, anyone else I’ve forgotten, and some 2200 other awesome Eagles made Homeward happen. And we’re not stopping now.

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Mon, 23 Jun 2014 17:45:00 CDT d01ef548-2438-4f85-bc0b-25007e6ceb6b