Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Notes from a Woolly Sabbatical

Tim Plant, Woolly Mammoth's Development Director, blogs his sabbatical experience:

My Aha! sabbatical experience thus far has been nothing short of fantastic. Thanks to the help of a Woolly Mammoth Board member to make the introduction, and the wonderful willingness of their staff, I’ve started my sabbatical at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. My desire to learn from Sidwell Friends was simple – it’s recognized as one of the preeminent private schools in the country and the reputation of their Development team is well-known in the city.

Any nervousness I felt the first day (I hope it didn’t show) did not last for long. Mainly because we headed into meetings and didn’t look back from there. I’ve been shadowing Assistant Head of School for Institutional Advancement Patty Carocci and she’s allowed me to sit in on meetings ranging from how to use the database to track events, to planning for the next alumni magazine issue, to reviewing fiscal year-end plans. Her willingness to let me see how she manages every aspect of her job has been tremendous. Her responsibilities are obviously broader in scope than my position at Woolly (her staff is much larger than Woolly’s development team of three) so watching her manage the different parts has been instructive in how to handle my various responsibilities.

The rest of the Development team has also been incredibly generous with their time, whether it’s Leslie showing me all the reports used to track Annual Fund progress, or Lauren spending an hour sharing her experiences running the Sidwell Friends events. I truly feel like a sponge trying to soak up as much information, advice, and knowledge as I can.

The best part of the experience so far – and the hardest to convey – is the excitement that builds during my time there. I want to recreate Leslie’s “Yield” report, and look into adding an online portion of our auction similar to what Lauren described. And I want to do it today. On Monday, I posed a challenge I face in my job to Patty and she said, “Ok, we’re going to figure this out.” That willingness to dive into my work and share her experience is exactly what I hoped to gain from my time at Sidwell Friends. I’m going to be very sad indeed when my time visiting there is done. Thankfully, that’s not yet!

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