Blog soundtrack+ some cultural education: “Long Gone to Saskatchewan” – Corb Lund Band
USask. Beautiful campus with beautiful people.
The first time I visited the chapter, I automatically sought out the nicest building on campus, assuming it would be the engineering faculty. Wrong-o. Agriculture. Engineering is the slightly dark and dated brick building to the right. Seems we aren’t in Alberta anymore…
After a summer with many of the core team members out of the city/country, I arrived just as the team re-grouping began. It was the first time I’ve done such an early chapter visit, but I think it was well worth it especially since the team was still in the planning phase and given that the exec turnover was quite high.
3 cool things you should know about USask (of many!)
1. Incredible fundraising – highest amongst the EWB student chapters (many of whom are larger and have more members)
a) Once upon a BBQ. BBQs at USask are a science. John, the current BBQ director has a full-on year plan with a new M&E system and several pilot innovations to increase revenue. Everything is considered, from line-up positioning, to cooking times, down to the second. It’s John’s goal to make the BBQs even more revenue-generating than before – and before is not too shabby with average sales of around $400/week leading to a total sum of $15,000: enough to cover both JF payments.
b) Gala night. Last year, the team managed to secure enough corporate sponsorship to make pure profit on their event. On top of that, they sold tables to companies, making over $10,000 (please correct if I’m off!) through the event.
And what’s amazing in this is that until this year, the chapter hasn’t operated with a VP Fundraising! Typically the BBQ director is a set position, but the team has traditionally rallied to put together big events like the Gala. Now with Raquel as a full-time VP fundraising extraordinaire - who organized a fundraiser for this weekend WHILE in Zambia as a JF – who knows what’s possible!?!?
2. Learning is all around. The chapter holds weekly meetings, same time same place, where they dive into complexities around development, EWB’s approach, and social change, consistently getting over 20-25 people out. This year, they might consider running bi-weekly but higher quality MLs in order to have more planning-focused meetings in the off-weeks in order to provide a better space for engaging members at an action level.
3. MP Engagement. Until last year, the chapter had never really done much advocacy/MP outreach. But within several months, they had established positive relationships with all of the area MPs, and are keen to deepen those ties this year.
So what did we do during the visit?
Because the team was still gelling and getting their planning hats on, I decided to run a workshop with the exec team to do some bigger-picture visioning and exploration of the chapter. We started with an activity where everyone had to come up with at least three things they wanted the USask EWB Chapter to be known for – whether it was on campus, within EWB, or beyond.
Next we moved onto a SWOT [strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats] analysis of the whole chapter.
From here, we tried to narrow on a few key priorities for the team, with a 1-3 year lens. The idea was that this would provide a unifiying rallying point for the team, and common goals and direction as a chapter that could then inform specific program strategies of the team members.
At the end of the exercise, three key themes emerged: People, $$/Revenue Generation, and Visibility. The team is now defining these in more depth, with concrete targets, but here is the general gist:
- People: building more layers of engagement and leadership in the chapter (moving beyond exec team as the primary means of engagement, while everyone else just shows up to ML), so that our base is stronger year-to-year; and to focus more on leadership development as a core element of the chapter’s growth strategy.
- Revenue Generation: Pushing to the next level of fundraising power; becoming famous for their ability to generate funds for EWB.
- Visibility: Building the EWB Brand on campus so it becomes recognizable and attracts others; all chapter activities seen as a recruitment/brand-building opportunity and are leveraged
- Oh and Chapter of the Year, of course.
Phew! Time to head for a well-deserved meal together. On top of this big meeting and a series of thoughtful 1on1s, we had some great discussions about the direction of the chapter and the JF experience during a potluck. This is where I learned that Roughriders fans are really hard core, upon eating some Al-Dressler chips. Check out this video. The Co-Op stocks a whole gamut of Roughrider player punned products.
Thanks for the great visit! And special thanks to Erin and her family for hosting me, and to Tamara for being my suitcase valet