Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 

It's Growing

A couple of weeks ago, Ohio Wesleyan sent out the first mass e-Solicitation in the school's history. Within 6 minutes, there were seven unsubscribes, one sarcastically mean e-mail (don't worry about me- I can take it), and one gift. Since then, there have only been 10 more unsubscribes, but 25 more gifts. I knew you guys would love technology.

Back to the sarcastically mean e-mail: because e-mail is an instant and free form of communication, people are more likely to respond. I wonder how many people would write sarcastically mean letters to me about my Direct Art Series® if it wasn't such a pain to write, address, and stamp a letter?

Who am I kidding? Probably no one, since the mailings are always so awesome and stimulating.

Get Ready
Many readers (all three of you) have asked how I come up with blog material. It baffles you that I can be this entertaining every week. "How do you do it, Jason?" you may ask. "You're like the Bob Newhart of Annual Fund blogs."

Well, the answer to your question is right here. Click and see.

Don't Look Back (or Life Lessons with Jason)
It was early spring during my junior year of college; the earth still soft from digesting the melted snow from the winter. It was late, probably 2 a.m., and my fraternity brothers and I were having a get together with about 100 of our closest friends. The gathering was dying down, but there were still a good number of people in the house.

I was in my room, speaking with a couple of friends about the state of the economy and the weather when one of the younger members entered into the conversation to let me know that a Westerville police officer was at the door. I was confused, not because there was an officer at the door (this was somewhat of a weekly ritual for myself and the Westerville PD; I knew a majority of the officers by name), but because, for once, the noise emanating from the house was actually low.

I excused myself from the conversation and made my way to the front to meet the officers. After an exchange of pleasantries (as I had never met this particular officer), he asked if I was the president of this social fraternity. I answered "yes," and then he made a statement that I will never forget:

"Your yard is full of $#*!."

I assumed he was talking about trash and empty cans, so I apologized and assured him that we would clean them up.

"No," he replied. "Your yard is full of $#*!. Apparently, a sewer line broke in front of your house and is flooding your yard and the street. We’re just letting you that a crew will be out to fix it in the morning."

I looked past the officer the see a small geyser of sewage spewing up from the ground. The yard, just as he had said, was indeed covered in sewage. The party ended because of the smell- the first and only time that has happened.

I learned a valuable lesson: sometimes, you can jump to conclusions and think that you are right just because you think you've seen everything when really what you need to realize is that your yard is full of $#*!.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

 

Air Supply has a New Record and...

The Annual Fund is headed into the new millennium next year- and we're not even worried about Y2K (that's what happens when you come to places late: all of the problems are already taken care of). Yes, we here in Delaware are going to launch an e-mail campaign to (gasp) raise money! No paper! No stamps! You, the donor, won't even have that awkward time after you give. You know, the time after you have written and sent in your check and then you don't know what to do with the mailing. "Should I throw it away or hang it on my refrigerator (because it looks like my fourth grade neighbor made this mailing)?" You don't want to be rude. It's rough, I know.*

Now we're movin' on up.

This is not say that we are cancelling the mailing program- don't fear, you will be able to collect the 2006-07 set of Jason Thompson Direct Art (I hear the collective sighs of relief). What it does mean is that both mail and e-mail will be more directed toward you and not you and everybody else. Annual Fund mail won't be like your siblings- always hogging all of the attention all of the time, especially when you do something great and then they steal your thunder because they are glory-mongers. No, it will be all about you... and who doesn't love that? Break out the Air Supply, disco, and guys in shorty-shorts with crew socks! It was the American way in the '70s, and now it's back in a mail format.

Just As I Am
To show even more evidence that we are racing into technology like it was 2001, you'll notice that last Friday Donna Burtch, the esteemed Director of Annual Giving, made a grand entrance back into the blogging world. I laughed and I cried; I even recommended it to my 91-year-old grandmother who doesn't even own a computer. We may need to have a little pow-wow with Ms. Burtch about paragraphs and white space, but all-in-all, it was a good effort. In fact, it was probably more sensible than my own.

News From Nowhere
I am the head coach of the UALC Fightin' Luthers, a community basketball team made up of high school boys from the Upper Arlington and Hilliard area. In the two years I have been coaching, I have guided the team to two victories- stunning games in which the other team failed to show. It was a thrilling feeling; I was extremely proud of my boys to be there.

There is not a single player above the height of 5'10" on the team and none of the boys had previously played organized basketball. The league consists largely of inner-city teams, thus making the Luthers the smallest, most Caucasian team in the Lifeline Basketball League. Couple this with a complete lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of basketball and you have a formula for the recently defeated seasons of the Luthers. But if we were an Academic Challenge team or a drumline, we'd be unbeatable.

I often question the reasoning for coaching as I am extremely competitive and played basketball in high school. Why do I continue to coach when my boys rarely listen and never run a play? That question is answered every time we get in the van to drive to the games: they play hard every game, no matter the score and always believe in themselves. I see hints of improvement that make me proud.

Most importantly, the kids value their time together and enjoy playing. They let me be a part of that. It's more than a game, it is a part of their lives. And, occasionally, we take a step as team that gets us one step closer to an actual victory: in a game this season, for the first time ever, we took the lead in a game in the second half. Sure, we lost the game by 7 points after completely forgetting how to run a press-break, but I would not trade those 15 seconds of hope and accomplishment for the world.

I didn't even know what to do with myself. I almost called a time-out to get a picture of me in front of the scoreboard.

I wonder if this is how Donna feels when I actually get something done...

footnotes
* Whenever I get any type of greeting card, I always have an enormous debate with myself as to what to do with said card. I know that I will eventually throw it away, but the person obviously spent money on the card and was thinking of me. Thus, I always keep the card, along with the other cards I received on my dresser for 3 weeks to 8 months until I clean my room and inevitably throw them away.

What a racket Hallmark has.

Friday, April 14, 2006

 

That's the thanks I get?!

Two things that happened before I was in my early twenties shaped my attitude toward gratitude. First, my mom and dad became the parents of me while dad was completing college (he first spent four years on a Navy destroyer--during the Korean War) Money was a challenging commodity for them and he finally had to go to one of my great-aunts for a loan (she was a fascinating lady who smoked Kent cigarettes, was a devout Catholic, went for Fish Frys at the Downbeat Restaurant in Bradford, Pa., every Friday where she would also tip back a drink--she knew everything that was going on everywhere and she always was dressed beautifully with perfect hair and makeup...she was 85 when she was pulling all of that off!). Aunt Ruth listened to the situation my father unfolded and when he asked for the loan she said, "How much?" He said the amount and she wrote out the check and said, "this is a gift to you...no strings attached." He was stunned, and grateful, and I heard that story many times. Later, when I was an OWU senior, I worked at a restaurant in Delaware. "Would you like that on white, wheat, rye, or pumpernickel...," was the phrase I repeated daily. The cook was very lean (scary skinny), kind of sweet but seemingly sad. He was a young dad at 18 and his wife and he were really struggling when the holidays came upon them. They had a baby girl and they talked about her so often that I felt compelled to go to the bank, take out a crisp $100 bill, and mail it to them anonymously in an envelope dropped in the post office with no return address. Days later I overheard him saying that he and Ivy had gotten a nice surprise and were planning something special for the holidays as a result. I felt really touched by this; eager to find out what they were planning. Later that day, the call went out to the restaurant staff that the cook and his wife were having a big holiday party that Friday. I was invited and went, hoping to see what they had planned...thinking maybe the baby was going to get something really special. The baby got something special, alright. The party was well underway when the unmistakable smell of pot permeated the air. The cook and his wife celebrated their small windfall with a purchase of a different kind! I felt crushed, at first, and pretty upset that they spent the gift I had given them on something clearly not intended for the baby. A few days passed and I came to the conclusion that whenever I give something (a gift, time, etc), it needs to be given without strings...just like my Aunt Ruth had done. I also made the decision to be a bit more discerning and less mysterious when I give a gift. And, what does all of this have to do with Ohio Wesleyan's Annual Fund? I am not sure. But I do find it interesting that I work in a giving field where I am always trying to anticipate what donors need to feel their gifts make a difference.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

 

Can't You Feel Like I Do?

There is a twinge of electricity in the air in Delaware. Maybe it is the earth coming out of its winter slumber, greeted by the warm spring breezes. Maybe it is the sound of cracking bats and sizzling grills of baseball games. Or, and probably the most likely reason, it is the knowledge that the new Team OWU and Annual mailings are going to out soon! Yes! That has to be it!

You can probably feel the anticipation wherever you are as well. In fact, I know many of you are watching your mailboxes like kids waiting for a package from Kellogg's. That is unless you have already made your gift to the Annual Fund, meaning you won't receive the mailings. I know this is the reason why many of you have not made your gifts yet to support Ohio Wesleyan and its students, faculty and mission- you want to complete the set. I understand.

If you have made your gift earlier this year and still want to complete your set of the 2005-06 Jason Thompson Direct Art series, just e-mail me at jrthomps@owu.edu and I will send you the mailings that you need.

Fraternity Challenge- Would You Look at That?
We have a good old fashioned barn-burner in the Fraternity Challenge. This is turning into a Mavericks-Suns or the UCLA-Northwestern bowl game (all scoring, no defense). As of last month, Phi Gamma Delta took the lead from Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Wouldn't you know that fired up the SAEs? They had a HUGE month, jumping up $17,000 dollars and 1.5% in participation and thereby moving into a tie with the Phi Gams, who did their part to keep pace with a 1.4% participation increase of their own.

Whoa Nellie, it's getting hot in here.

Tribe Update
Has anyone else been watching as my first place Indians have a 6-1 record and are hitting .324 as a team? It's like the mid-90s with pitching. I'm going to break out my Paul Sorrento jersey. I'm more excited than dog sniffing a fire hydrant.

Random Thought of the Day
If you feel the need to entertain yourself during the day at work, try this:

On a random Tuesday or Wednesday, call someone in your office that you don't know very well or talk to very often, but you need to be acquaintances. This isn't funny if you don't know the person at all. Identify yourself and state that you are calling to make sure that they got home all right last Friday.

Example

Cindy: "Hello, this is Cindy."

Me: "Hi Cindy, this is Jason in the Development Office. I was just calling to make sure that you made it home all right on Friday."

You have to certain to have a dry voice and do not laugh. The response that you receive is priceless. You will either receive a response of utter confusion or sarcasm (almost anger), like "I'm here now, aren't I?" Also, you have to be pretty certain that nothing actually bad DID happen on Friday. This is vital.

I'm serious, this is funny.

It's the little things that get me through the day.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

 

Tuition Free Forward and My Student Loans (A Memoir)

Last week, the Annual Fund staff celebrated the first Tuition Free Forward (TFF) day. The day's festivities were based around the symbolic day when tuition quits paying for a student's tuition and donations pick up the rest of the bill. We set up in the Hamiliton-Williams hallway during lunch and gave out prizes and whatnot to students who answered questions about the Annual Fund correctly. All in all, I was pretty jazzed, if nothing else from the three cups of coffee I drank prior that morning and all of the candy I ate while talking with students.

Last night, while I was driving home from Cincy in my 1988 Cougar (more on that later), I was thinking about TFF, about the Annual Fund goal (which is $3.8 million), and my school loans from Otterbein. Ah yes, my college loans. I remember well the day my senior year when I got a bright yellow envelope that held the number of dollars that I owed for my four years of bliss.

I think that was the time that my world came crashing down around me. Up until that point, I guess I thought everything was free. I assumed that Otterbein was just a bunch of nice people that wanted to see me succeed; which they were. Evidently they were also being paid on my behalf by the government and the bank for the previous four years. The number was so big that I laughed; to be honest, the number was so big that it wasn't even real to me. It might as well have said "Jason Thompson, you owe One Gajillion dollars."

I now have been paying my loans for about three years. The number, it would seem, is the same (or larger) that it was the fateful night years ago. It also still seems fake (maybe not fake, but unrealistic; like me getting a date with Keira Knightly). According to my finance professor at Fisher College of Business (he's Swedish; apparently Swedes are good at accounting and bobsledding), this is due to an interesting concept called "Compounding Interest." Apparently, when you apply this "Compounding Interest" to your savings account or a CD, it's good. When it is on something you have to pay, not so good. I don't even look at it anymore- I have it set to automatic payment via the internet. You know the saying "out of sight, out mind?" That is the state of my loans and me: if I ignore them, they'll go away (in about 10 to 30 years).

This brings me back to the TFF. As a student, I had no idea about the Annual Fund or what purpose it served. Had I known that it made my tuition cheaper by helping me out, I would have been very grateful and more aware of the alumni, parents, and friends that donated to the University. That is the point of Tuition Free Forward: students need to be aware of what has been done for them, and what they will need to do for future students when they are out of Ohio Wesleyan.

A Rant About My Commute
The commute from downtown Columbus to Delaware is precisely 33 minutes. I know this because I drive it five days a week. I walk out the door of my house at 7:47, settle into my car, turn on "The Bob and Tom Show," and begin the process of watching car after car drive down Neil Avenue. Each completely ignores my turn signal that signifies that I, too, need on the road. Perhaps these people had fought a similar battle at ther house earlier in the morning and, based upon principal, will be damned before losing their right to their commute.

Finally, around 7:57, I become fed up with waiting, close my eyes, and merge onto Neil Avenue as fast as I possibly can. I don't care who or what I pull out in front of: old woman, dump truck, cop, whatever. My anger and frustration of waiting overwhelms my cares for other people or my car. It's every man for himself in the world of morning commutes.

Currently, I own two cars: a 2003 Nissan Xterra that I bought after graduation from college (does everyone know how long a 5 year loan is, especially when you are paying on a 15 year loan for college? Long. They don't tell you that in undergrad) and a 1988 Mercury Cougar that was my sister's prior to her move to Los Angeles. I drive the latter to work.

The Coog (as I have aptly named it) is probably the origin of my complete lack of regard for the well-being of myself and of other people as I pull out onto the street. That car is a masterpiece of American metal and rust and probably could withstand a bus hitting ramming into its side. Do I find it ironic that I have a new car that I rarely drive and another car (which, by the way, I would not have been caught dead in high school) that I drive to work everyday? Maybe, but at 7:45 in the morning, I don't care; I deal with the self-deprecating judgment after my first cup of coffee.

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