Rebekah Preteau is an American working in Canada; Toby Weir-Jones is a Canadian working in the United States. Together, they co-chaired their class gift campaign for Johnson and Queen's University. Competition between countries and among "boardrooms" (location-based teams) was a key strategy for their campaign, and the irony of the leaders rooting for each other's countries added to a spirited and fun-loving process.
Competition and thoughtful messaging also helped to address subtle differences between the cultures. "It's more popular in the U.S.A. to have a class give back to the university," says Preteau.
Making the case for giving had to be tailored to both countries. "In our class updates, we hearkened back to experiences we'd had in the program and the importance of continuing those as well as looking for new opportunities," says Weir-Jones. "That carries an ongoing cost."
In another email, Preteau wrote, "Ultimately, as alumni, it is our responsibility to ensure the university we graduate from continues to thrive and maintain a good reputation." She went on to argue the impact of the schools' reputation on each individual's own prestige and earning potential.
But it wasn't all such serious stuff. As the campaign heated up, the leaders posted participation levels for each boardroom and made their messages more entertaining and personal. One of Preteau's: "For those that need more incentive—can you please help a girl out? Toby and I have a case of beer on the line . . . and I want to be receiving it from Toby, not buying him one!"
In the end, they nearly doubled the previous year's total gift, achieved 161 percent of their campaign goal—and shared a beer at graduation!
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