UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH ONE OF EDMONTON’S DYNAMIC DUOS, JILL DIDOW & GREG CHRISTENSON.
What Do You Love Most About Each Other?
JILL: I love his kindness and generosity – how he cares about everything!
GREG: I love her passion and fiery personality.
We Often See You at Many Events – Any Favorites?
JILL: Due to COVID-19, there are no longer any events, so good question and one to reflect on differently. Greg and I enjoyed all events because we are both very outgoing and love meeting and chatting with people, and of course, supporting the Edmonton community. However, events where we could dance and have live music would be some of our favorites. But really, all are enjoyable as we love learning about the charitable organizations and the important work they do in our community.
Tell Us About Your Giving/Volunteer Journey – Where Did it Start?
GREG: My parents were always involved in the church and giving back in that way, so I learned about the importance of that from my parents at an early age.
JILL: I fell into ‘fundraising’ via a job opportunity. I didn’t even know what a tax receipt or an event was. School of hard knocks, and after 30 years in the business and working for different charities (animals, music, social services, etc.), it became my passion for making a difference.
What Inspires You to Give?
JILL: I will speak for Greg on this one! This man has the kindest, most generous heart of anyone I have ever known. He cares about everything, so it is just natural for him – he is naturally inspired to be generous and kind.
For me, it is just making a difference. After years of paid work in the industry, you get to see first-hand the difference a gift can make. And your donation does not always need to be a large gift. Sometimes for the smaller charities, if more people could become aware of them and donate -it would be so helpful. The smaller charities do not have big budgets like the major ones, so a smaller gift or more frequent gifts can help them so much.
Jill, From Your Perspective as an Experienced Fundraiser – What Message Would You Like to Share with the Next Generation of Fundraisers? And the Current Fundraisers?
Just keep the passion. I found my success came from my passion. People feel that…and then that inspires them to support.
From Your Perspective as a Philanthropist, Greg, what are Some of the Best Things Fundraisers can do for their Organizations When Seeking Financial Support from Philanthropists at Large?
A lot of times, people will ask you via email. Often, I don’t know the person is asking, nor am I familiar with the charity. Many times, their email would get lost in the many I receive. So, building a relationship or attempting to develop a relationship with the company/person you want help from is a good start. Also, don’t always go in for a big ask because you think they might be rich or have seen their previous gifts to another organization. Attempt to build the relationship – get to know each other first to find it the fit is mutual.
What are Some of the Mistakes Fundraisers Have Made? i.e., Not Spelling your Name Right?
JILL: In my last job, we would receive grant applications. We were known to give smaller amounts, and I could never understand when a grant application would request $20,000 (and even one time $100,000). That told me the person writing the grant had done zero research on the Foundation. I remember calling that charity and explaining how we support and spoke with them about a good fit to support the charity. We had a great conversation; I indicated she could re-submit etc. No new application was ever received. That one was a head-scratcher for me!
GREG: Sending an email asking for a considerable amount without a relationship with the business owner/company is a mistake as far as I am concerned.
Other than Financial Donations, What Different Ways Would You Suggest to Help Charities?
JILL: I remember an occasion where I would work with Greg’s executive assistant to offer a charity an in-kind gift. I think it was something Greg had bought at an event. That is a nice way to give. In-kind gifts always help charities.
Any Tips on How to Connect with Potential Donors?
JILL: The world is different now, but if you have a donor newsletter, offer to do a story about the company you want to build a relationship with. For example, if your charity was working with seniors and wanted to build a relationship with Christenson Developments – engage in the work Christenson does with their seniors.
What are you Most Passionate About When It Comes to Giving?
JILL: Since we haven’t been out doing things in a while, retrospectively speaking, it would just be the fun of events, the sitting/speaking/meeting with like-minded people, whether they were business people, friends, or NEW friends. The social aspect for us was especially important. We often had opportunities in our charitable giving and my work in the charitable sector to meet the actual people the charity supported – that was very special.
Is There Anything Else You Would Like to Share?
JILL: Now that I am retired, I wish everyone still in the business all the best. Charity has changed a lot over the years, but even more this past year. Keep up the great work – it is so rewarding. I think now, more than ever you need to think outside the box. What event did you do? – is there a way to do something similar still?
Greg Christenson is President of Christenson Developments Ltd. He is also past President of both Edmonton and the Canadian Home Builders Association and served as their Chair of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.
Jill Didow is an accomplished fundraising professional with 30 years of experience working in the charitable sector. Recently retired, Jill is often called upon by the many charities she served for guidance and support.
Greg and Jill love seniors, the Edmonton community, and their fur babies.
Greg with Megs, Jill with Maisy, and Dez, their Purrfect kitty!