Office of Advancement
Office of Advancement

ALTogether Now

Vol. 19 - Oct. 7, 2019

Advancement Leadership Team
Advancement Leadership Team: Steve Hornsby, Leigh Kalin, Scott Anderson, Tom Hewitt, Karen Bertrand and Deanna Bennett.

What Customer Service Means To Me

By Karen Bertrand, Vice-Principal (Advancement)

Karen Bertrand

Several individuals have heard about the priority I place on customer service in recent days. I sincerely hope it is a value we share, but perhaps I should take a moment to tell you what customer service means to me.

Customer service is fundamentally about responding to the interests of others. It is about putting the people we support at the front of the line, and I hope it is the driving force behind all that we do.

Customer service is about really listening, thinking critically, and responding appropriately to matters we face each and every day — even when the responses are beyond the scope of or perhaps contrary to existing processes and procedures. The difference between good and great customer service is the difference between pleasantly giving someone directions to where they want to go, and personally escorting that individual to their destination. It is about personally responding to inquiries in a timely manner — even if only to advise someone that there is no new information to share at this time. And follow-up from meetings is not just an item on our to-do lists, it is a personal commitment to follow through. The objective of customer service is to demonstrate to customers that their interests have been considered, that they are a personal advocate, and that you will always deliver at least as much as was committed, and hopefully more than was expected.

My first paid employment experiences were in the hospitality and retail industries. We were taught that the customer is always right. While that may not be factually accurate in all cases, the spirit of the statement remains true to this day. Customers need to feel validated. They need to feel that they have been heard, and that we will try to address their concerns.

In times of stress, great customer service can diffuse negative feelings, build confidence that the situation can be resolved, and prompt us to share the experience with others — but now from a completely different vantage point. In ordinary times, great customer service makes you feel valued and puts a smile on your face that you are only too willing to explain. Great service is the foundation upon which we earn the trust of our customers.

Sometimes I hear criticisms that advancement professionals provide good customer service to alumni/donors, but are perhaps not as strong on customer service for internal stakeholders. I have heard people say that we/I already do value or provide good customer service. These statements may be true in many cases, but they run the risk of making customer service improvements the responsibility of someone else. A customer service culture requires the unwavering commitment of everyone.

A customer service culture can only be built when everyone works hard each and every day to provide even better customer service then they did the day before, and eventually the best customer service possible. 

I know this team can provide great customer service because I have seen examples of it in the past 15 months. There is simply still room to grow.

So I challenge everyone to reflect on the service we currently provide to our customers — internal and external — and to think critically about what we could all do to provide even better service. Ultimately, a true customer service culture will result in a great working environment for the Office of Advancement, and the development of deep, trusting relationships to help achieve our mission of advancing Queen’s and contributing to a better world.

Five things you can do in support of Queen's Day

Plans for our Queen's Day revival are well underway and now we need Advancement's help to bring it all together. Here's how you can help:

  1. Wear your tricolour and Queen's gear, twice. Join us at Summerhill at 9 am on Tuesday, Oct. 15 to take a group photo that we can share on our social media channels on Queen's Day.
  2. Wear it all again on Queen's Day on Wednesday, Oct. 16!
  3. Share the Queen's Day promotional video with your networks.
  4. Add the Facebook frame to your profile picture - get the frame.
  5. Mark yourself as 'Going' to Queen's Day on Facebook.

Presentation by Nicholas Offord

It has been just over a week since the Sept. 26 presentation by Nicholas Offord. Everyone has had an opportunity since then to review the presentation on QUIRC and hopefully reflect on the information provided. So now we are curious. Was there anything in the presentation that surprised you?

Information provided on the 26th included broad sector trends, and feedback from our staff survey. Queen’s Advancement is not insulated from the world we work within, so trends inevitably influence the success of our efforts. And survey questions intentionally focused on assessing advancement functions (rather than distinct units within the Office of Advancement) to reflect the fact that many different units within the Office of Advancement contribute to the important work that we do. For example, development and alumni relations staff, and teams in communications, events, finance, and research all contribute to our ability to have good donor relations programming. Gift processing definitely involves the finance and information services teams, but frontline fundraising staff also have an important role to play in gift processing. Bottom line, the information presented on the 26th applies to the entire team, but did it reflect your expectations or were you surprised?

We want to start a dialogue.

If there was something in the Sept. 26 presentation that surprised you, please let us know.

Alumni Travel Program Update

As you are aware, several months ago we made the difficult decision to phase out the Alumni Educational Travel Program. We have developed a set of FAQs to help guide conversations with alumni and other stakeholders.

Alumni Travel Program Cancellation FAQs


  • The Alumni Travel program was launched in 1987 to provide our alumni and friends with fully escorted educational travel experiences around the world.
  • The travel program attracted a small but devoted community who faithfully supported the program and whose lives were enriched by these unique travel opportunities.
  • The feedback we received on the program — and on the staff and faculty who made it possible — has been universally positive. 

Why was the program cancelled?

  • Phasing out the Alumni Travel Program was a difficult decision, and one that was made only after considerable deliberation. This decision was not a reflection on the quality of the travel experiences.
  • The program has run at a deficit for the last five years.
  • There has been a steady decline in program participation despite a consistent offering of available tours. The number of tours supported has remained consistent in the last five years, however, registrations have dropped 30%.
  • Queen’s has supported 272 tours over the last five years. 
  • This was the right financial decision. In light of the budget implications of a tuition freeze and changing funding environment for post-secondary education, the Alumni Relations office has had to make difficult decisions.
  • We did explore options for cost reduction but we were concerned about compromising quality and service.
  • To be clear, the cancellation of the program has nothing to do with the way it has been managed. In fact, we have had nothing but ongoing positive feedback about the quality and dedication of staff involved in the program.  

Other schools are continuing with their travel programs, why isn’t Queen’s? 

  • We can only speak for Queen’s, and, for Queen’s, this was the right decision.
  • We weighed a number of options and, given the declining participation, we determined that cancellation was the most prudent option.  

What will Queen’s be doing instead of the travel program? 

  • We are committed to building a wide variety of engagement opportunities and activities for alumni. We invite you to explore our range of activities including events and volunteer activities.  
  • This year, on Oct. 16, we are introducing Queen’s Day — an annual day-long celebration of the founding of Queen’s by Queen Victoria in 1841. Read more about how you can get involved.  

How many people participated in the travel program? 

  • Since 1987, 2,830 people, including alumni, friends, and faculty have taken part in alumni travel opportunities.

For more information, contact: 

Leigh Kalin,
Interim Associate Vice-Principal, Alumni Relations and Annual Giving
613-533-6000 x78676

Jobs with Advancement

We need your recruitment help! Know great talent that would be a good addition to our team? If so, please promote the vacancies below with your networks and let’s find some amazing new team members.

Applications (including a cover letter and resume) must be submitted through CareerQ. For additional information on these postings, please reach out to either Katelyn, Carla, or the hiring manager for the position you are interested in.

Available Positions:

Prospect Research Analyst Prospect Research, Department of Advancement Services Tuesday, Oct. 8 7
Gift Services Assistant Gift Services, Department of Advancement Services Thursday, Oct. 10 5
Gift Administrator Gift Services, Department of Advancement Services Monday, Oct. 14 6
Development Coordinator Advancement Regional Strategy, Department of Alumni Relations & Annual Giving Monday, Oct. 14 7

Executive Director, Principal Gifts

Principal Gifts, Department of Development Monday, Nov. 4 12

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    Human Rights and Equity Office - Together We Are Equity e-newsletter – email EQUITY-L@LISTS.QUEENSU.CA to sign up.

    Learning Opportunities on Campus

    Each week this new section will highlight educational opportunities on campus and other events that may be of interest to Advancement staff. Please send any suggestions to your ALT member.

    Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019:

    4:30–5:30 pm: Dr. Malcolm Peat Lectureship: 
    This years speaker will be Rachel Thibeault who will be presenting on applying Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR), peer support and empowerment principals to facilitate refugee integration in Canada.

    6–8 pm: “Displaying Historical Ivory in Museums: Let’s Talk about the Elephant in the Room
    In this free public lecture, international scholar, educator and humanitarian Dr Johnnetta Cole will discuss historical African ivory art, wildlife conservation and museum responsibility, about which she is a passionate advocate. Dr Cole is past Director of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African Art, and has held formative positions at several colleges and universities across the United States, where she headed and established African-American and black women’s studies programs. A reception follows Dr Cole’s lecture.

    Supported by the Brockington Visitorship Fund and the Justin and Elisabeth Lang Fund.

    Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019

    7:30–10:30 pm October Observatory Open House
    Free and for all ages. Come out to learn about space from an astronomer, then see it for yourself through a 14" telescope. This is also a great opportunity to meet Kingston RASC members and check out the McDonald Institute Visitor Center.

    For more information and a listing of other great events, visit the Queen's Events Calendar.


    Fun Fact - Our Engaged Alumni

    We learned last week that the online survey sent to a random selection of 5,000 alumni, inviting input into the future for Queen’s as part of our strategic planning, had a response rate of 29.98 per cent. This is double the response rate Marts & Lundy typically expect for similar surveys with public universities.