Why "Transparency" Is A Scary Word

Posted more than a year ago.

In developing Thrive, many words have guided our new campaign philosophy (and have been spinning around in my head as a result):

  • Fast
  • Strategic
  • Agile
  • Impact
  • Momentum
  • Results
  • Students
  • Family
  • Home
  • Kingdom
  • Communication
  • Clear
  • Honest
  • Transparent

That last one, the idea of “transparency,” is intimidating. Why? Well, the reality is that accepted higher education best practices don’t leave room for it. In a typical campaign, the wisest course of action is to tout your successes, mitigate your failures, and to stay conservative with all the information you share. Keep your dollar goal hidden for a few years, best practice says, until success is assured. And keep communication generic—stay hidden behind larger pools of gifts and general project mixes.

“But communication is healthy,” you’re thinking. “People want to know what’s happening!” I agree 100%. So why is this best practice, you’re wondering?

Here’s my best answer to that (and it’s probably not a shocker): universities make mistakes. I’ll take it one step further: Oklahoma Christian makes mistakes. It’s a fact. OC is driven by prayerful, servant-hearted, God-fearing, passionate, hardworking, conscientious people… But we’re people. We don’t have all the answers. We can’t see into the future with 20/20 clarity. Life surprises us all sometimes, and there are moments when we have to course-correct to keep the Eagles flying high.

With our goals and process laid bare for you in Thrive, you’re going to see the human element come through. You’re going to see the unexpected realities of life, of business, of economic forces on display. Costs may go up or down based on new realities. Goals may be expanded or new projects added based on community input or newly discovered needs. Sometimes we’ll exceed all of your expectations. Sometimes we won’t.

As a case in point, you’re about to see the $100,000 target for our Hi-Def Digital Projection System in Hardeman drop to $64,000. Our teams have done great work in considering the critical needs for the system and have engaged vendors to garner the best deal for the equipment and install. Best practice says to quietly and privately make this change—we risk having “egg on our face” for the significant drop in the projected cost. But, if I can be really honest, I’m thrilled at the news! We save money and can put more of your investments toward other momentum-driving projects. Kudos to our facilities crew and IT team for their diligence in bringing this project in way under budget!

Our president has told me many times that “we won’t over-promise and under-deliver.” One of our core promises to you in Thrive is transparency. It’s a promise I take very seriously—one that, ironically, calls for overwhelming and underwhelming news to carry an equal weight for responsible communication. Of course, I’m human too, so please forgive me on the front-end if I get lost in details or campaign-centric jargon that puts you at a distance.

Don’t be satisfied “in the dark” on Thrive. Ask me your hard questions. Challenge my thinking. Engage this Campaign in ways that transcend the financial. We covet your constructive criticisms, your thoughtful ideas, and your gracious prayers. OC stands on the shoulders of 64-years of heroes, who weren’t afraid to raise the challenging realities and weren’t afraid to commit to the challenging solutions.

Here’s to staring down this scary transparent Campaign of ours and to many more years of collaboration in and through the whole OC family!