While we rejoice for Mariam to return home to be with her family in Malaysia, we mourn her loss to the team. I look forward to hearing of her continued growth and I await what contributions she can bring as an alum.
The mantel has been passed to Francis, now the fifth GM in Frontier’s history. As previously mentioned, his role will be primarily managing people and processes while others take on production and external leadership.
With Megan’s move both to the northern outpost of Edmonton and as Ads and Awareness Coordinator, the “rhombus” of senior leadership now falls onto Francis, Nick, and Sophie. These three are icons of our culture.
The changes outlined in June’s letter have begun. We’ve welcomed Royal Alex Hospital as Frontier’s newest client and added nearly $10 thousand per month to payroll in the form of August raises.
We’re aiming to meet or exceed 20 clients managed by a team of 20 this fiscal year. Can they raise $20 million in 2020?
As I said in my last letter, the year ahead is about optimizing a winning strategy, not expansion into uncharted territory.
Frontier is a perennial winner.
GLASS REGISTER / QUARTERMASTER
When I first drafted the vision for Benifactor in May of 2016, I structured a department known temporarily as “Product Enterprise”. The idea, of course, being that this would be a Benifactor organization focused on building the products we need as marketers; like our donation system, Glass Register.
Well, the funds kept going towards the growth and maintenance of Glass Register and the client growth of GR was slow, so the vision faded away.
But now it’s back. I don’t have aspirations of Glass Register seeing explosive growth, but we have a small list of further products that our team of programmers can build to make their work for Frontier more efficient and effective.
Structurally, to ensure that Quartermaster serves at the pleasure of Frontier, Heath has been renamed Assistant General Manager and reports directly to Frontier’s general manager.
Glass Register revenue is up 26% year over year with now 20 clients.
One aspect of Charity Electric, hosting services, have been moved to Quartermaster. Hosting revenue grew 20% year over year with 18 clients.
In the days ahead there will be some branding work done by Frontier alum Luke, continual growth and development, and additional team resources as the client roster grows.
Steady as she goes for Quartermaster this year.
In the same way as with Quartermaster, Charity Electric has been restructured to serve as a division of Frontier, with Innes as Assistant General Manager reporting to Frontier’s general manager.
But that’s only the beginning of a very complicated year for CE. While there are many highlights in the annual report, it was a down year for Charity Electric.
Revenue, excluding hosting services, was down nearly $100 thousand. Meanwhile, expenses were up $35 thousand. What was once an organization with modest profit turned into a $79 thousand loser.
Worst of all, we weren’t delivering excellence with our clients. I wrote in December about these issues, to which Innes and Francis have made great strides to the point that I have a skip in my step when I think of Charity Electric.
We began the year with Francis, Jon, Johnny, Innes and super contractor Erikka. Shortly after our year started, Johnny left to join the tech industry and Ryan arrived to take his place. We also saw the departure of CE’s co-founder and first general manager Jon, as he set about on his own. We then grew with the addition of Alisha and welcomed Sam from elsewhere in Benifactor.
As mentioned in June, and above, we’ve whittled Charity Electric down to two employees. We’re planning on refining further and maintaining focus on the above core activities.
Charity Electric is here for charities during their watershed moments. Currently those are Capacity For Growth plans, website builds, and brand refreshes.
While we may still be hearing a few sour remarks from former clients, I’m proud to say that our decision in the new year to focus on three core projects has been fruitful. We’ve recently completed plans for Bissell Centre and Cause Canada, and are about to embark with plans for Mission Possible and Welcome Hall Mission, with several more prospects in the pipeline.
Back to black for Charity Electric as it once was, so it shall be again.
GOOD MARKETERS GROUP & SOCIETY
There’s not as much to say for Good Marketers Group & Society, and at this point you’re skimming anyways, but there were some key moments.
Good Marketers saw the spring departure of co-founder and first general manager Steph to work at “the man” shortly after hiring April as part-time Recruitment Coordinator.
While I miss having Steph around, I’m glad she’s still in our world both as a key contributor to my softball team, and through the success of every one of the new hires we have.
As our year was beginning, the first cohort of apprentices, Kelby, Taylor, Zach A., Tori, and Jeremy were finishing their summer with us. I hope their time with us with valuable and memorable.
Then, in the second half of the year we incorporated Good Marketers Group Society to be the home of our apprenticeship program. The bad news was that the foundation of the program, the Canada Summer Jobs grant, never came.
While we never hired GMG apprentices officially, Steph managed to find homes for Mark, Maddy, and Tori. Keep a lookout for these three.
Next month I’ll expand on my now deeply ingrained draft and develop philosophy. It’s because of the way these folks live out our core values that I’m so keen for us to build up leaders from within.
Good Marketers Group, the recruitment organization, aided Benifactor with an unbelievable 14 completed placements.
This year we’re aiming to stay as small as possible and break even while serving the search needs of Frontier and Charity Electric as needed.
The future is bright for GMG once we can get back into the black.
While Capstone Fundraising was able to engage with four clients and $21 thousand in consulting revenue, it cost nearly $100 thousand to do that.
Needless to say, Capstone had to be shut down.
I write these letters for pleasure and to provide transparency. Thinking about this painful loss and the experiences around it isn’t fun at all, but if you have questions feel free to email me.
Throughout the year I had been pondering what’s next for Benifactor.
Combine a review of where Benifactor spends its money, a conversation with a would-be client, and Dave’s desire to move on from bookkeeping services, and bam!
A bookkeeping service dedicated to charities and like-minded organizations is born.
Sarah began her tenure working part-time from home overseeing our organizations as well as Acts for Water.
In the year ahead we plan to partner with another accounting agency as Dave moves on to pursue another career, and add a couple more organizations to the roster.
The hive is just being built. In the years ahead I can foresee Bkeeper being a million dollar business overseeing tens of millions in transactions.
Good thing our office lease expires in 2022. To steal a quote from actor Roy Scheider, we’re gonna need a bigger boat.
BENIFACTOR & BEYOND
We’re rounding third and heading home now.
This time last year, those of us “running” Benifactor included myself, Emily C., Zach, Heath, Dave, and Chris. Emily’s departure made way for GMG graduate Tina, but that experience was short-lived. In November, after a sabbatical in the fall, Zach departed for a cool job with Domain7.
Briefly I was dubbed “Zina”, assuming the roles of Benifactor’s assistant and chief of staff. During that time Heath was seconded to work exclusively on Glass Register, and Chris was asked to focus exclusively on Capstone.
Further, Dave began focusing on other pressing issues in life and was less consistently present.
While we hired Sam to help, her gifts were ultimately best as a junior writer, where she finds herself at Frontier.
Admittedly spring 2019 was a difficult time of life for me. I didn’t express it at the time but the stress was crushing me, and I found myself without any support.
Capstone and Charity Electric were bleeding money. Consequently, I felt I needed to work through the weekend to try to keep up with the day to day administration and cleaning of Benifactor, at least for a season.
This difficult period allowed me to recentre on my purpose, and ultimately Benifactor’s, and build an epic comeback.
Here’s a few highlights of this spring and summer:
We increased our engagement with John Caplin to ensure leaders have access to a coach.
We increased our engagement with Amala and hired Ryan S. to be our “Spaceman”.
I received my Birkman certification to be able to provide all of our staff with the Birkman’s invaluable insights.
BKeeper was launched and Sarah relieved me of bookkeeping duties.
A meeting with John Pellowe, CEO of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, convinced me I needed an EA.
Melissa was hired and has exceeded my every hope.
Life started to take off thanks to Melissa allowing me to travel often and fully embrace the role of “Ben the connector”. I’ve never travelled so much in my life nor had so many meetings, and I can’t believe how much I’m loving it.
As mentioned, this time has allowed me the opportunity to focus the vision of the company and my vocation. Check out updated copy on the website.
Our strategy is clear - it’s to serve charities by increasing their revenue, overseeing their expenses, hiring their talent, and growing their leadership.
Finally, I love to use quotes in my letters so I thought I’d conclude with an excerpt from Sapiens that helps to explain why I speak of our corporate history.
“Unlike physics or economics, History is not a means for making accurate predictions. We study not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither nature or inevitable and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we can imagine”
I look forward to experiencing the year ahead with you folks. I’m excited for the challenges ahead as well as the rewards of our efforts.
Benjamin Johnson, CEO
PS - Next month I will be talking about our culture, revisiting the draft and develop philosophy, and announcing a new award, Rookie of the Year.