By Cindy Curtis
At the WCA Banner Brunch on April 20, Kathy Estes and Ann Friou, WCA Co-Vice Presidents for Development, will be honored with the Anne Durrum Robinson Creative Initiative Award. This award recognizes communicators in Austin who have the foresight and determination to tackle unique challenges and solve problems.
For many years, energetic WCA development officers have raised money successfully for WCA events. But, as WCA President Dara Quackenbush noted early in her presidency, the organization needed a way to simplify fundraising so that it took less volunteer time. The solution, Kathy and Ann realized, was to create a sponsorship program in which the money raised early in the year would sustain the organization’s many events throughout the remainder of the year. As the Senior Vice President of Corporate Banking at Frost Bank, Kathy was in the unique position to see how other organizations tackle fundraising, as well as how large companies select recipients for budgeted corporate donations. This unique perspective provided the motivation needed to reevaluate the organization’s fundraising strategy. Ann immediately recognized the benefits of a streamlined annual sponsorship program, not only for WCA, but also “for those companies enticed by the opportunity to see their brand in front of 250 powerful women in communications.”
Last week, Kathy and Ann sat down with us to discuss motivations, challenges, thoughts on “creativity,” and the culture of giving.
WCA: Kathy, describe your role at Frost Bank. How does a high-pressure position such as the Senior Vice President of Corporate Banking continue to fuel and nurture your passion for marketing and communications?
KE: It goes back to meeting with people and hearing their stories. My role at the bank is to work with business owners and individuals and talk about how they got into their particular business, so I can decide how Frost can help with loans and financing. For me, it’s all about the stories.
WCA: Where else do you find inspiration and motivation for your career in communications?
KE: I’ve been around [the communications scene in Austin] long enough to see new generations come up, and to see their take on business and success is… it’s very inspiring.
WCA: Ann, what has been the biggest challenge of running your own consulting firm [Ann Friou Communications: Writing, Editing and Public Relations for Higher Education Organizations]?
AF: The biggest challenge is knowing how much I can take on as one person.
AF: [Through my public relations work for colleges and universities around the country], I’ve written stories about nearly every subject that universities offer. When I’m interviewing professors and staff, it’s like being in a class of one. I have my own private audiences with professionals who tell me about their fascinating research projects and their efforts to improve access to higher education. What could be better than that?
WCA: “Creative” tends to be a word used to describe right-brained people—artists, dancers, graphic designers, musicians, etcetera. As the reigning Creative Initiative Award winners, how do you view creativity?
KE: I don’t consider myself a creative person, yet I love to be around creative people. I like being around people that are idea people: creativity is almost contagious.
AF: When I think of creativity, I think of problem solving. Kathy is a terrific problem-solver who brought WCA a creative solution for streamlining fundraising.
WCA: What are some goals you are trying to accomplish in your respective careers?
AF: One of my goals this year has been to further develop WCA’s marvelous culture of giving. For some reason, it has really blossomed this year and I’m thrilled.
KE: And it’s not just money, but time. Other WCA members have been so generous with their time and talent and that is priceless.
AF: Yes, for example Julie Lara and Cristen James, the organizers of WCA’s professional development conference Get Smart, took the conference to another level this year, and that doesn’t happen with just money.
WCA: What has been the most challenging aspect of restructuring the sponsorship program?
AF: Almost everybody I meet, when I tell them what I do for the WCA, says “Ooooh I couldn’t ask people for money.” [Asking for donations] seems to be an “Ooo” job. But it’s really not. Many people and organizations are looking for sponsorship opportunities because they want to find a way to give back. And people are flattered when you ask them for money because it means that you think they are capable of giving.
KE: And many companies have money budgeted for sponsorships and charitable giving.
In addition to streamlining the way WCA raises funds, Kathy and Ann implemented a letter-writing campaign to raise money for the Jo Caldwell Meyer Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to outstanding communication students every year. The campaign involved three WCA past presidents—Marika Flatt, Julie Tereshchuk, and Ann Friou—asking other WCA past presidents to join them in giving to the scholarship fund. Ann says, “The letter-writing campaign was so successful that it raised enough money to support at least one of the three scholarships WCA will give this year. (The two additional scholarships will be funded by proceeds from the Banner Brunch Online Auction). We are very grateful to our generous past presidents and other donors to the scholarship fund,” Ann said.
So as we gather at Banner Brunch on April 20 to recognize outstanding students, we also honor the creative initiative of Kathy Estes and Ann Friou, who have raised more than $9,000 in annual sponsorships and scholarship funds in 2012-2013.
Thank you, Kathy and Ann, for your commitment to WCA and creative initiative.