What's Really Happening?

Posted more than a year ago.

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.

-Will