Development Archives – Varsity Branding

Tag: Development


LeadingAge PA’s Fellows in Leadership program is a one-year, four-session program that focuses on effective leadership practices. Participants will gain the skills and confidence to enact true change to impact their real-life challenges.

At Varsity, we’ll be following coaches and participants as they make their way through the program. I kicked things off by talking to Diane Burfeindt, Vice President of Population Health and Housing at Presbyterian Senior Living, who is starting her third year as a Fellows in Leadership coach.

Derek: Thank you for talking to us. What motivated you to become a coach?
Diane: I was a 2012 graduate of the Larry Minnix Leadership Academy at LeadingAge and that was a life-changing experience — both personally and professionally. As LeadingAge PA started to evolve its program, I wanted to bring that experience to more people.

Derek: What kinds of experiences will the group share?
Diane: Sessions are each two or three days in different parts of the state. The participants will interact with experienced leaders from the aging services community and develop a network of colleagues. During each session, we tour a host community that’s part of LeadingAge PA. It’s really nice to get out and do that because a lot of people have not seen communities other than their own.

Derek: How is this program different from traditional leadership training?
Diane: It makes the experience personal to you. You’re not just sitting in a classroom and learning; you’re talking with others. A lot of us don’t get a chance to sit back and reflect on our challenges, to talk with people about how we might apply lessons to leadership issues we’re experiencing. It’s an incredibly valuable experience.

Derek: Who will facilitate the program:
Diane: MHS Consulting in conjunction with LeadingAge PA staff, are facilitating the program, and have included learning from leaders within our field that can offer very hands-on, personal insights.

Derek: What role do coaches like yourself play?
Diane: We will each have a small team of five or six, and we will stay with that team the whole year — helping connect what the Fellows are learning in the program with their actual work and leadership

Derek: Are participants from all areas and levels of leadership?
Diane: Absolutely: new leaders, seasoned leaders, middle-level leaders. Just in our last class, there were people from accounting, dietary, administration, activities, housing, nursing, home care — you name it.

Derek: How has the program strengthened your own leadership skills?
Diane: There’s so much I learned during the program and afterwards. I turned the corner on my leadership skills. Utilizing the alumni network since I graduated has been a total game-changer. The position I’m in now is a direct result of going through the program.

Derek: Why did it make such a difference?
Diane: Before the program, I thought that I needed to have everything figured out, that my job was to have a plan and implement it through leadership. I have since learned how many opportunities come my way when I know what I want to accomplish but leave the path open as to how I accomplish it. I allow more people in and follow up on opportunities that come to me. That is exponentially better than having it all figured out beforehand.

Derek: Does this program actually teach people to lead?
Diane: It doesn’t teach you how to lead step by step; it is more about learning what it means to be a leader. You might have had blinders on in the past as to what you thought was leadership and how you were leading. You realize that everyone is going through the struggle of finding the best way to lead — it’s a very personal time.

Derek: Does Fellows in Leadership confirm peoples’ desire to work in the senior living field?
Diane: Without a doubt! I’ve had so many people say that this program really reaffirmed their commitment to senior living — a lot of that is because they got the opportunity to meet with other people in the field and feel connected to them.

The first session of Fellows in Leadership will kick off on March 26. We’ll be following the program’s progress on the Varsity blog.





This past week, I had the pleasure of attending the third of four regional conferences being held this year by the United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries. Held in Boulder, Colorado, the event centered on development and engagement. For those who were unable to attend, you missed a great event with some excellent speakers. As I reflect on the session, I found that I came away with three key points from which I think that every person working in the aging services field can benefit.

Development must be part of the branding process.

When we undertake a branding process at Varsity, we look at the organization holistically. From the frontline staff all the way up to the C-suite, it’s important that everyone in the organization can articulate the brand and feel empowered by it. During the conference, many development professionals shared that they sometimes feel overlooked in the branding process. At Varsity, we work to include all departments in our Brand Odyssey, especially development, as we understand how important they are to any nonprofit organization.

Arguably, development is one of the most public faces of your brand. They are the ones going out into the community and working to articulate your mission and values to potential donors. If they don’t feel like the brand matches their goals, or they are forced to adapt a brand to their needs, it becomes harder for them to do their jobs. Marketers ― especially in faith-based, mission-focused senior living organizations ― desire brands that speak to vitality, energy and continued life. Meanwhile, studies have proven that donors are more likely to make contributions to organizations that they feel are helping those experiencing hardship. These two messages can easily be at odds! During our branding process, we strive to keep this in mind and balance the needs of both sides of the organization.

Digital marketing isn’t just limited to filling apartments; it’s great for donors, too!

We all know that it takes money to make money. The same is true for development. You have to invest time and resources into reaching the right potential donors ― at the right time, with the right message. Digital marketing, both through search engines and social media, provide this exact capability. But, because of the time and effort it takes to execute such tactics and then analyze the results, many development professionals shy away from them. Why wouldn’t they? In-person discussion sessions are far more likely to end up with a gift than a single digital ad. But, as Millennials begin to further explore charities, meeting them in the areas in which they congregate ― namely, on the web ― is going to be an important part of any development tool kit.

Think of it this way: If you could run targeted ads about your current capital campaign directly to people in a specific age range within your community, with additional data that says they are more likely to donate than the average person, would you do it? What if you could reach 5,000 of those people for less than $50? One or two donations would likely cover the cost of the campaign, so the rest is pure gifts for your organization!

Are you engaging, not only with current residents, but also with their friends and extended family as donors?

One statement that we seemed to hear over and over again was that the largest and best gifts usually come from those who directly benefit from the services offered by the organization. Sure, most development professionals know the value of establishing relationships with the current service users. However, expanding that reach to the children and family is a great way to work the same angle (those who have benefitted from the service) but also expand your potential donor base into adjacent areas.

I tip my hat to the United Methodist Association team for their hard work in putting together an excellent conference. At Varsity, we love seeing their member organizations succeed and grow, and we look forward to many more events together in the future!

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