Making an Impact with Office Culture

Tori Ahrendt, Graphic Designer for Frontier

Tori Ahrendt, Graphic Designer for Frontier

The Problem.

When you’re a student looking for internship options in design, you never know exactly what  you’ll find. Are you going to do throwaway projects with zero impact on your portfolio? Will you be overworked, or worse, working for free? Perhaps, you’ll be a glorified errand runner, instead of a designer. Or, will you hit the jackpot and be given an opportunity to create work that has an impact on the trajectory of your career? I wasn’t alone in hoping I’d find the latter.

While opportunities for impactful internships are growing in the design field, they tend to be harder to find, as industry isn’t always quick to realize that students’ time is valuable and your big fancy firm does not provide an experience valuable enough to justify zero pay. 

The Hunt.

So, when I was looking for an internship, I spent plenty of time trying to find a paid position that would give me both tangible experience as well as the ability to pay for my food and rent. 

Eventually, my search led me to Good Marketers Group, which touted a learning experience in my field as well as the opportunity to create portfolio pieces that would help carry me into a design position. 

Also, it was a paid gig, and was my favorite choice from day one. Plus, the position was based in Victoria, BC, which was an exciting opportunity for me to discover what it would be like to live in a new city for the summer.

Staff at Frontier worked with us interns as we learned.
They guided us in the right direction as we developed, giving us more and more responsibility, and as a result, we started to develop confidence in our abilities.
— Tori Ahrendt

The Internship.

I applied with my portfolio of passion projects and student media work, and was lucky enough to get a position as a Design and Art Direction intern. 

When I moved to Victoria, I was not quite sure what to expect. Would the internship live up to everything it claimed to be in its advertisement, allowing me to create meaningful work, and challenge me to grow and become a better designer? The answer was yes.

My fellow interns and I were introduced to weekly team lunches, 32 hour work weeks, bad (and sometimes good) puns, fundraisers, and projects that had a real impact on real people. 

From the start, I knew the culture of Frontier was different. 

I was intrigued by the hardworking and knowledgeable people who allowed me, a newly minted intern, to collaborate on projects that were important for client success and create assets that would be published—where they’d be seen!

The Outcome.

Staff at Frontier worked with us interns as we learned. They guided us in the right direction as we developed, giving us more and more responsibility, and as a result, we started to develop confidence in our abilities. 

I’m happy to say that I’ve learned that Frontier’s interest in you as a person does not change from intern to employee. 

Whether making decisions as a team or as an individual, Frontier is all about offering people the support they need to grab hold of opportunities, make changes and grow. It goes to show that caring about the people you employ can really motivate professional as well as personal growth. It did for me!

The Insight.

By investing in its people, Frontier is continuously evolving, made more versatile by the skills and competencies acquired by staff who are encouraged to become experts in their areas of interest.

Frontier’s acceptance and support of the intern and the employee is what makes its culture so interesting and enticing. I’m grateful for the opportunity this summer, and for everything I learned during my internship. When your abilities are recognized, you can truly create impactful work—and Frontier is in the business of impactful work!

The Case for Cliffhangers

Fundraising appeals rely on story to pull readers in, create emotional connections and inspire donors to make a difference through giving. Knowing how essential stories are to success, the Frontier team is constantly trying to improve our techniques, so we can maximize results for our clients. Today we’d like to share the findings from one of our recent copy tests. 

How many fundraising stories are told 

Most appeals follow a similar pattern, introducing donors to someone whose life has been changed through accessing a charity’s services. Donors are immersed in the struggles someone has endured. Then the donor is told how their donation helped to turn a life around, and the story ends with the person housed or fed or reunited with family, all thanks to the donor’s support. The call to action is to give again to help the countless others still in need. 

Telling finished stories has an unfortunate consequence: it diminishes the need in the mind of the donor.
— Jeff Brooks

The idea behind this strategy is to show donors exactly where their last donation went, express gratitude, and create an emotional connection. The goal is for donors to see the real impact they’ve made. Such stories can inspire donors and they certainly have their place, but…

Is there a better way? 

According to some experts, sending appeals with “finished” stories that end with happy people who have already been helped may make donors feel good about their last donation. BUT this type of appeal may also decrease the motivation to give again because everything’s looking so rosy. 

As Jeff Brooks explains in his blog post titled Why (and how) you should not finish fundraising stories, he reminds us that actions have consequences! “Telling finished stories has an unfortunate consequence,” he says. “It diminishes the need in the mind of the donor. All donors hear about are people who have been helped, so they never emotionally feel the need your organization exists to serve, so they become less likely to give.”

On the other hand, by leaving stories unfinished - aka by writing “cliffhanger” stories, you create an URGENT call to action. You create space for the donor to step in and become the story’s hero. Without them, the story will not have a happy ending.

Sounds pretty good. But of course, the Frontier team can’t simply accept fundraising literature at face value. We need to test it!

The Test

An A/B test was conducted with Bissell Centre’s 2018 Easter appeal. The donor list was split in half randomly and two different versions of copy were written. 

Donor group A received an appeal that shared the story of a single mother of two who, with the support of donors, had escaped homelessness and was now housed, happily accessing Bissell Centre services and working hard to create a prosperous life for her children.

Donor group B received a story about that same single mother, except that in this version she had only recently connected with Bissell Centre and needed continued support to access services like free diapers, child care, parenting classes, housing services and support groups. 

Our hypothesis was that the unfinished version would bring in more revenue than the finished version. 

The Results

Although 14 fewer people from the “unfinished” story group gave, their average gift was $95 compared to $73 in the “finished” story group - that’s 30% higher and resulted in 15% more revenue! 

While these results are exciting, a single test conducted with 5,000 donors can’t prove that unfinished stories are the way to go, across the board. That’s why we retested with the Bissell Centre 2019 Summer Child Care appeal. We also sent Welcome Hall Mission’s entire list of 30,000 an unfinished story in their first Easter appeal, with the conclusion revealed in the follow-up, in order to make a year over year comparison. 

While we eagerly await the results of these appeals, we’re keeping story endings top of mind while we write, and planning even more tests for 2019.

Why Group Meals are Part of Frontier & Benifactor Culture

Is it possible to abandon the idle chit-chat that seems to be a fixture of traditional office life? To be honest, it’s not. However, you can redirect it into something purposeful.
— Samantha

Frontier is a fundraising agency that is part of a larger umbrella organization called Benifactor. Today we want to share a bit about the Benifactor-wide culture that bonds our agency with sister agencies like Charity Electric, and helps us learn from one another.

* * *

Everyone knows that life moves fast, but a 32 hour work week moves even faster. So, how do the Benifactor folk maintain a close-knit relationship? A family meal, of course. Every second week, each team gets together to break bread—or in this case—burritos. We alternate team lunches with bi-weekly Taco Tuesday Townhalls that include all agencies under the Benifactor umbrella.

This lunchtime routine may seem like a nicety provided by our fearless leader and CEO, but underneath the friendly gesture lies something more meaningful: efficiency. Most office cultures include the obligatory “water-cooler talk” that slows down the start of each morning. While catching up with co-workers may be essential to workplace socialization, the startup world can be unforgiving, making time a precious commodity.

Our culture is particularly unique due to its dedication to work/life balance. However, by choosing to work here, you accept the challenge to get the same amount of work done in 32 hours that most get done in 40. It may sound cliché, but at Benifactor we truly work harder in order to play longer. A week at Benifactor isn’t a marathon; it’s a sprint. We earn our three-day weekends.

Is it possible to abandon the idle chit-chat that seems to be a fixture of traditional office life? To be honest, it’s not. However, you can redirect it into something purposeful.

This is where “Taco Tuesdays” come in. Not only do they provide a break from the shorter, fast-paced work week, but they also give everyone a chance to share a delicious meal and some good conversation before discussing any upcoming events or work-related news. The discussions are guided, practical, and an efficient use of time. It has become an invaluable opportunity to come together to simultaneously strengthen our relationships and close any knowledge gaps across agencies.

And let’s just say it, who doesn’t enjoy a good taco!

— Guest Post Courtesy of Samantha Boiani, Charity Electric

FC_Taco Tuesday Blog_Blog Image.jpg

Birkmania: Giving You an Edge in Fundraising!

How important is finding the right people for your organization?

That’s a no-brainer, right? In fact, it’s common for business leaders to think this is the only necessary prerequisite to building a cohesive and effective team.

We’re inclined to agree—at least in part.

When you’ve engaged Frontier as your fundraising specialist, you’re getting a whole team that’s entirely focused on achieving the best results for you.
— Mariam Ghani

Equipping your organization with people who are competent and a great fit for your team is essential for the health of any business or non-profit.

At Frontier, we genuinely believe people are our most important asset.

Most organizations put daily operations above thoroughly understanding their employees.

Making sure your organization is getting to the task-at-hand, meeting deadlines, assisting clients, and getting everything done is paramount to being successful in your field.

But could you be missing out?

While these activities are absolutely essential for the health of any business or organization, if you haven’t invested in getting to know the nuances of each person on your team, you might actually be overlooking an opportunity to increase your team’s overall efficiency and productivity.

For any team to operate seamlessly, it’s crucial that everyone has an awareness of their own strengths, skills and areas of opportunities for growth, but it’s also key for each person to understand their teammates in the same way.

That’s where Birkmania comes in at Frontier.

What the heck is Birkmania, you might be asking yourself.

Let me fill you in. It’s an in-office event the whole team participates in together, based on The Birkman Method, which assesses your personality and perceptions. It reveals your interests, actual behaviour, stress behaviour, as well as your assumptions pertaining to the social needs of others versus your social needs in a variety of categories.

The Birkman Method illuminates contrasting perceptions, and focuses on strengths and productive applications, so individuals can learn to make use of their unique skills and perform with heightened efficiency.

The Birkman Method is a tool that facilitates growth for yourself and your team. It also helps your organization to better understand the strengths and interests of your employees and colleagues, so you are better prepared to meet challenges and opportunities in the future.

Birkmanity Insanity at Benifactor

Each time Frontier welcomes a new person into our weird and wacky world, we invest in them by discovering their Birkman type. Then, we throw an event, led by an official Birkman trainer, to delve deeper into the meaning of each person’s results.

With help from a Birkman trainer, we are guided through all of the different sections of personality analysis, with a special focus on appreciating how our team is similar and dissimilar.

One of the most valuable outcomes from this event is gaining reliable insight into one another’s strengths, competencies and weaknesses.

All About YOU!

This knowledge allows us to focus on our strengths and utilize the diverse skills found within our team, enabling us to optimize our abilities, so we can operate efficiently, effectively AND seamlessly for you.

Because we’ve invested in understanding the strengths of each team member, we’re more cohesive, productive and successful in what we do. Ultimately, this is good news for you! That’s because what we do is help YOU do good in the world.

When you’ve engaged Frontier as your fundraising specialist, you’re getting a whole team that’s entirely focused on achieving the best results for you.

Thanks to Birkmania, we’re able to offer you a team that’s effective, productive and ready to respond to just about any challenge. We ensure our team is flourishing, so we can help your team flourish, too.