Friday Focus: Telling our story

Headshot photo of Samara Taber, executive director of university advancement
UAF photo by Eric Engman
Samara Taber, executive director of university advancement

Sept. 23, 2022

— By Samara Taber, executive director of university advancement

Telling stories is one of the most powerful means we have to inspire and connect people. At University Advancement (alumni, development and university relations), storytelling is 90 percent of what we do. In the simplest of terms, our job is to help others engage with UAF in ways that are meaningful to them. 

The power of storytelling can be tracked by metrics. At UAF this past fiscal year, donors generously gave 50 percent more than they did the previous year, resulting in $14.8 million in philanthropic gifts. Why did this happen? I believe part of the reason we saw increases in philanthropic giving was because we made a targeted effort to better share stories about the impact of giving to the university. Each donor received a postcard, thanking them for their investment in UAF, with a QR code that directed them to this newly created Gifts at Work website. Our donors are incredible. I am so grateful for this community of generous hearts who care so much about our university. If you are a donor, thank you. If you know a donor, please thank them. 

Another way that we tell stories at UAF is by connecting donors and alums directly with students and giving them an opportunity to share their stories, which in turn enhances their connection to UAF. For example, while writing this, I recalled a video I worked on many years ago that illustrated how meaningful student and donor interactions can be. I remember when Tiana and Libby met and the special connection they had. That is a story we want to tell. 

Over the last two years, the UAF development office has hosted hundreds of zoom calls connecting donors with their scholarship recipients. This last spring, we hosted Scholarship Impact Days, which also included faculty and staff whose programs received philanthropic support. Last February, we held the inaugural year of the Show Your Love Campaign. It was meaningful to me to read these stories and I am regularly approached by folks who didn’t officially submit their story, but have fascinating, compelling (and hilarious) stories to tell. Keep an eye out for this campaign in the coming year. In the meantime, I invite you to submit a story now.

Next week, Chancellor White will be hosting Convocation in the Davis Concert Hall at 1:15 p.m. Following the program, we will host an ice cream social where you can pick up your newly branded UAF t-shirt and see the many, many kudos and shoutouts we received from employees acknowledging and thanking each other. Thank you for acknowledging your teams and colleagues. There are many stories to tell right there about how we work and help each other and lift each other up. I look forward to seeing you at Convocation next week. In the meantime, I hope you’ve had a chance to participate in the Scavenger Hunt. I can’t wait to see your recruitment videos!