Catawba Valley Medical Center

August 5th, 2011

My First Case Study at Robin E. Williams Incorporated

For more information on this project please download the case study following the link.

“Robin E. Williams’ development tools have been essential to the early success of our first ever building campaign. The renderings of available commemorative opportunities that they provided helped to close $500,000 in lead gifts — gifts that provided much needed momentum to the campaign”- Guy Guarino

Recently, I had the privilege of working with Guy Guarino, Chief Development Officer at Catawba Valley Medical Center in helping them create a donor recognition master plan for their campus initiated by their new Medical Pavilion, scheduled to open in early 2012. Having been with Robin E Williams Incorporated less than a year, I was asked to lead my first comprehensive recognition program master plan for them. Educated as an architect, to that moment my experience in putting the early benefits of recognition program planning into play for a medical center was limited. Yet as the project unfolded the lessons became clear and I want to share some of them here.


Beginning in May of this year, just as the new Pavilion was breaking ground, our work provided program elements helpful in their subsequent announcements to the public, as their final concentrated fundraising push was underway.

Our first meeting included representatives from philanthropy, marketing and facilities. All are critical stakeholders in implementing and later supporting a fully functional recognition program.  At that time their collaboration did not seem unusual to me. However, having since attended conferences and examined other organizations, I realize now that often fundraisers are left to develop a program with little, or no, budget, influence, and help to best integrate their decisions in regard to graphic design and message content. Understanding the resulting challenges of this isolated effort: redesign, rethinking and general duplication of efforts on many fronts.   I am pleased that the work we undertook in this early programming with Catawba helped ensure that all stakeholders emerged from the process  championing the outcome: savings in time and money from here on.

The Pavilion under construction consists of five levels of various medical suites and single-function rooms. As someone who has studied destination planning, traffic flow and the usage of space with companies like Disney and Hallmark, I suggested that individual room recognition at the entrance to each room be reconsidered as a probable waste of money and effort. Most of their public did not go any further than the lobbies. So as a more useful tool for community fund raising like this, we put together a plan for grouping sets of donors into grouped displays, which are to be located in key elevator lobbies and waiting rooms. This effort will allow people, in one glance, to see the bigger story of their neighbors coming together to make the Medical Pavilion happen. Not only does grouping save Catawba product monies but doing this ensures a much greater impact on communicating the impact that philanthropy has had in supporting the organization’s mission.

As a designer /storyteller I have always enjoyed illustrating the story and creating it in it’s full three dimensions. My life’s work now combined with this company’s long history of tying brand story to the local community giving is inspiring to me.  My research for Catawba uncovered a community with a rich history in furniture making; it had once been named All American City and it is currently promoting their local technological advances. So my design for them became a combination of craftsmen style furniture mixing in modern, high tech materials. I also intended that this would tie in nicely with their fundraising campaign slogan – “Building on Tradition – Caring for your Future.”

I want to share this story here to show how much I enjoy the work and to highlight the impact of beginning early in the ARCHITECTURAL process. Half way through the efforts by Facilities and Construction, we had schematic design solutions and obtained pricing on fabrication. By providing solutions so soon in their build-out process, the client knew what their program would cost (all well within the industry standard of 1-3% of their projected donation dollars), and could plan an amount to set-aside with each naming.  They were able to be secure in the knowledge that their program was on target.

Lastly, one of the helpful items we develop as part of any master plan of namings inventory is standardized order forms. Having them certainly insures accuracy of the end product, yet they are even more useful in helping staff assemble all the required data for each product needed.  Having these in hand before a campaign, I’ve learned, allows staff to acquire accurate and detailed donor information and document stories and motivations as the gifts are accepted.   This entire process when in place from the beginning, allows the recognition data gathering and reporting work to be complete at the end of a campaign, as opposed to just beginning it, which I am told is most often the case.

Overall, my first experience at master planning for donor recognition was smooth, and I enjoyed the thoughtful process and experience between both the client and my new company. It is clear that Catawba Valley Medical Center is in full control of maximize their efforts in soliciting and recognizing donors. As testament, at least in part, to their success of getting recognition planning completed early, they have secured 20% of their campaign goals and the support of  key medical groups in their community. In this case “good-timing” does equal “money”.

Written By Troy Winterrowd


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