As we get ready to launch our 3rd Annual Advent Calendar fundraiser for the FSJ Firefighter's Charitable Society, I wanted to build on my post last month about how our industry is really all about collaboration by talking about all of pieces, partners, teamwork and collaboration that go into a project like this.
Each year, we coordinate this project and involve more of our team, it just gets better and better. We hope you agree when the calendars hit the shelves at Home Hardware in November.
A Bit of the Backstory
In the PROMO industry, we work with many suppliers and most have Representatives that work directly with us to show us their new products and discuss potential uses for the products. We are fortunate to have some fabulous Supplier Reps who really assist us in keeping up to date on the latest PROMO trends and support us when we want to try interesting and unique projects.
In 2021, one of our fabulous Reps showed us the custom chocolate options from a Canadian supplier called Chocovana. Not only did they offer great custom options but when we sampled the chocolate, we were in love! Seeing the custom Advent Calendars got us thinking, wouldn't it be a great fundraising project?
And like all good ideas, we started chatting about how to make it work and the more we discussed it, the more the idea was built out. We knew that for maximum fundraising potential, we'd need to engage some other corporate sponsors and select an organization that not only had a very strong level of support in the community but would also inspire a great design that would appeal to children and adults.
Our Sales Manager and Marketing Coordinator developed a list of potential customers and charities to partner on the project and started reaching out to them. We were fortunate to have AFDE Group and Home Hardware step up to participate in helping to cover the cost of the production of the calendars and have been fortunate to have them continue to support the project, now in its third year! And with Home Hardware on board, it provided a great opportunity to make the calendars easily available in the community as they also agreed to sell them at the store.
We approached the FSJ Firefighters Charitable Society about the project as we knew that it was a cause that makes great contributions to our community and is near and dear to us and our partners in the community.
At the same time, we reached out to Chocovana about the project and asked if they could support in any way. They were excited about the project's potential and offered special pricing in 2021 and have continued to keep the pricing the same year over year.
Once we knew we had the support for the project, it came down to the design of the calendars. And like the other parts of the project, it involved another brainstorming session to identify the key elements we wanted in a design. We wanted to ensure that it was uniquely Fort St. John, meaning that it would have imagery that the community would recognize; showcase our sponsors in a creative way; showcase the selected recipient for the funding; and be something that was fun and engaging for children and adults.
From there we engaged a local graphic designer, Antonita Draws, to design the calendar.
Once we had an idea of when the calendars would be available for sale, we developed the press release and marketing graphics and invited our local media to attend the launch. We are grateful for the support of our local media who make such an effort to keep the community informed of these projects and consider them a partner in the success.
We are always grateful to live in such a generous and giving community who continue to purchase the calendars.
Fast Forward to 2023
After raising over $20,000 for the FSJ Firefighters Charitable Society and winning an International Industry Award for the project, we set out to begin the planning for this year's calendar in May. (Yes, collaboration on a project like this takes time but is so worth it!)
We engaged our partners to confirm their continued support with the project and they were eager to participate again.
Then it came down to the design. And let me tell you, creating a new design using the same theme and partners each year can be challenging. How do you keep coming up with new ideas?
It started with a discussion with our 2022 designer, our very own Quinn Clark, to see if she was up for the task again. She was in but really wanted some ideas to work with so we pulled in our entire Sales Team to discuss ideas and trust me, the input from this team has helped develop one of our favourite designs to date and not only did it help us think outside of the box, we literally switched the box!
As we all started throwing out ideas, Quinn questioned whether it had to be done in portrait (tall and thin) or if we could actually switch to landscape (wider and shorter) to help better work with the ideas coming forward. We'd only ever seen them in portrait so we reached out to the supplier and they were able to convert it to landscape for us.
Then as we talked about the design, we asked these questions:
This brought out quite a list of ideas and then Quinn sketched out a rough picture of the calendar and begun the design work.
Over the period of about a month, Quinn would work on the calendar and pull the sales team together to review the progress and continue to make suggestions and provide feedback. It was fun to listen to these conversations as the design took shape - "The beavers need to be ice fishing.", "The squirrels need Santa hats.", "It doesn't matter that Geese are migratory birds, it HAS to have a Canada goose!". Over the month, the design got better and better (and each animal and firefighter got named) until it was time to call it complete and place the order.
I have to tell you that once complete, the hardest part of the whole project is keeping it a secret until they're done and ready to sell. Admittedly, we give our partners a sneak peak and are always excited to see their reaction.
And now that we're on the eve of the calendars being available ($25 each at Home Hardware and all proceeds go to the FSJ Firefighter's Charitable Society), we can share the final cover design with you so that you can see how it goes from concept drawing to final artwork.
We hope that you will love this year's design as much as we do and are already starting to think about next year's design!
So, to recap...
When we talk about collaboration and teamwork, we really mean it! If you were following along, here's all the people and groups involved in bringing this fabulous product to fruition:
And if you made it all the way to the end...
Here's the diagram that has all of the names of the Firefighters and animals (because they did all get names!) -
Who was your favourite?