By Thomas Gallet, University of Regina chapter
At the EWB Regina chapter we have always prided ourselves on actively contributing to our community. However, while we have strong participation and a motivated group, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have failures as well. As a university chapter, a large portion of our work revolves around fundraising for events, programs, and initiatives. One of our main fundraising events is called Pint for Poverty and involves us getting as many local bars as possible to donate one dollar for each pint of beer sold on a given night. In exchange, we promote the bar and the event on social media and throughout campus. Last year, the event yielded much poorer results than we had hoped for – while we got many bars involved, we failed to raise a large amount of money.
The event failed due to two major reasons. First, the event was not spearheaded by a single person. Instead, we had five people working individually to get bars involved. While this divided the work equally, “we had too many cooks in the kitchen so to speak” and this resulted in a lack of organization. Second, we failed to collect most of the money we raised. Our members were unaware that they had to follow up with their bars and this was never cleared up until people eventually left for the summer at which point it was too late. Similarly, this was due to the fact we had no set person responsible for overseeing the event and because no initiative was taken.
However, these problems were only surface level failures. In actuality, the root of the failure runs deeper than a simple lack of communication. As a chapter, not only did we fail to keep a clear and dedicated leader of the event, but we also we failed to implement appropriate support systems for that person. Being a volunteer based university chapter we sometimes have difficulty getting members to lead projects. This challenge is particularly difficult to deal with because at the end of the day, we can’t nor want to force students into leadership positions that they wouldn’t be able to handle or would be uncomfortable taking. This is where we struggled in planning Pint for Poverty last year. We initially appointed a lead who was not fully ready and able to commit to the position, and as a result, the event wasn’t able to get off the ground. In an attempt to help the situation, another senior member of the club took over part-way through and kick started the event planning, but after the first major steps were taken the member disengaged from the process since he was not officially the lead. Consequently, there was no real lead present to tackle the issues that came up later down the line. In hindsight, by taking charge of the situation the senior member missed the opportunity to mentor and guide the original leader of the event. Overall, we failed to recognize the need for a strong and committed lead for the position, and on top of that, we failed to mentor the person who took lead of the event.
Our chapter has seen two major opportunities to learn from this failure and grow in the coming years. First off, there is an apparent need for an executive position to be exclusively in charge of fundraising events such as these. Not only that, but there is also a need to ensure we choose the right person for the job and provide them with support where necessary. The second change we’ve made to prevent this failure from happening again is to implement a mentorship program within our chapter. The mentorship program would create a space for one on one conversations between new members and experienced execs. These conversations would revolve around Q&A, best practices and overall relationship building and focus on supporting and growing our new members.
If the original Pint for Poverty lead last year had had someone guiding the process of organizing the event, it might have been much more successful. Having mentorship would make it easier for newer members to take on leadership roles and give them more buy-in to remain with our chapter. We believe that these two actions make our Regina chapter closer as a group and more organized when planning fundraising events.
Thomas Gallet was inspired to work in development while studying in Morocco, where he was exposed to a variety of different cultures while working in the field. Upon his return home, he joined the EWB Chapter at the University of Regina and instantly knew that EWB the place for him. A 2016 Junior Fellow and co-President of the Regina Chapter, Thomas has fully committed himself to EWB and feels privileged to be a part of the organization.