FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Wayne Steer
March 25, 2014
His job is simple – he needs to raise $2 million. Every year. As his organization grows, so will that number. As the organization succeeds (50% is funded by fee-for-service, the balance comes through fundraising), so must its fundraiser-in-chief succeed.
This is more than just his story. Or, rather, this is all about a fresh start . . .
I admit that I started out wanting to write about the organization a bit more than I did about the interviewee – but I wasn’t disappointed, because as much as I asked probing questions to learn more about him, his answers were far more focused on revealing information about the place, organization and program than on revealing as much personal information as I normally try to extract. The result, I think, is a happy balance that gave me what I wanted and giving readers what he wanted – publicity for and information about a very worthy program and cause.
As a recovered alcoholic myself, I have great admiration for those who struggle, for those who fail and fail and fail – because I know how difficult it is to define and to achieve success. The struggle is enormous - not just about quality of life, but life vs. the alternative ....
Yes, they are in the life saving business. Lives, families, community - everyone benefits. How do they do it? They have 25 superb committed staff, with more than 250 years of recovery experience among them.
Interviewing someone who I’ve had no previous contact with is always an interesting adventure for me – a bit like walking into the forest without a compass, hoping my skills will get me through to the other side. I’d heard of Wayne Steer but never met him. I am familiar with Fresh Start Recovery Centre. I was there as a guest for the grand opening of their new facility - a day when City and Provincial officials, social workers and police, residents and alumni came together in celebration there, in that big gymnasium to talk about recovery from addictions but more importantly – recovery of lives. On my recent visit to interview Wayne, one of the most striking sights, in the rafters of the gymnasium hang ‘retired jerseys’ of program graduates. They hang with pride the way pro-sport heroes names and numbers hang in arenas, stadia and field houses across our sport-tainment landscape.
More than 300 people get a fresh start there each year. 85% of them complete the program. Of those 48% remain free of drugs and alcohol a year later. Very impressive stats – even more impressive when you consider those who come into the program are not the easiest to serve and many have come via ultimatums/alternatives from the justice system – the alternatives being grim, dark and unattractive in every way. But, who says addiction to alcohol and drugs is pretty?
The Fresh Start Recovery story is one that needs and deserves to be celebrated. Their cause, their need for resources (it ain’t just money they need) is compelling – and the good they do there is worthy of attention being drawn to it. The connect point, the guy whose handshake lingers just long enough for him to tug on your wallet, and your heart, is a very well connected, influential and committed Calgarian – and you can help. Start by contacting Wayne to ask how you can help. He’ll have an answer.
And now, about Wayne . . .
We have something rare in common – we were both born in Estevan, Saskatchewan. Wayne’s dad worked in the oil patch, had businesses and some moving was involved. At 6 months of age Wayne came to Calgary. Schooling .. graduated Western Canada High, attended U of A where partying was his major, Mount Royal College, then Gonzaga University where he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. A career in banking (RBC, Fort McMurray), family businesses in Calgary, jobs in oil & gas took him to Edmonton (met his wife Toni Samaha – she worked for the landlord and they met in the hallway).
He spent some time at Fantasyland Hotel – but he assured me it involved marketing the hotel …and then back to Calgary to aid his ailing father’s business interests. Then at Western Canada Steel Buildings … writing, promotion – and then a series of events took him from volunteer work in fundraising (Canadian Progress Club) in both Calgary and Edmonton - sent his career sailing in a new direction.
He recalls 2003-04 was a crossroads in his life – and since then his involvement with AFP (Association of Fund Raising Professionals .. I believe he is Chair of an International Development Committee) – and a resume that is a list of great causes: ALS Society, Red Cross, Volunteer Calgary and … since Feb. 2010, his current role as Director of Fund Development at Fresh Start Recovery.
The Association of Fund Raising Professionals have a president-elect - he’s Wayne Steer!
There is much more to this man, his job and Fresh Start Recovery than this story tells – so I encourage readers who care to help, to reach out to Wayne with an open hand and possibly an open wallet. His strategy not one of hustling money - but rather, as he puts it, "building relationships based on trust and respect, and creating a richer understanding of the power that recovery has in our community ... that leads to donations in many forms". Most of us don’t have to look very far in our family or our workplaces to see people impacted by drug and alcohol addiction. There is no doubt this cause is worthy and their need critical to so many lives. So help him, please.
I asked Wayne how he sees Fresh Start Recovery’s business and influence, ‘how’s business?’ over the next quarter?
… we are still affected by post-flood issues. Those who support causes/donate have been justifiably distracted by other demands for funds. Need for our services is increasing. Demand is up 30%. We have a waiting list of over 90, up from 70 in June
And over the next 5 years?
… growth, expansion. Continued collaboration with Calgary Police Services, Calgary Drug Treatment Court NeighbourLink Calgary, Calgary Homeless Foundation, YWCA, The Alex, Aventa, Inn From The Cold and other community organizations. We’ve gone from 28 beds 2 years ago to 50 now. I see us taking our process, story and strategies to other cities (could be our operations, or helping others), collaboration on better health (continued collaboration with Pure North and Allan Markin).
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… relationships are the key to everything. Consistency. Being human. Vulnerability …
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Wayne Steer, why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… delivering what we say we will deliver. Open. Transparent. Sticking to the mission. Focused on recovery for life for every individual we serve.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… about having enough funds to serve the people who need us. The need for 2nd-stage housing.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… that ‘crossroads’ in my life, becoming convinced I could make a career out of helping people. My childhood friend – we met when we were both 12 – Gary Nissen. He introduced me to philanthropy, to giving back. Sam Switzer and Allan Markin – both among many strong supporters of Fresh Start Recovery. Stacey Peterson, our executive director.
…Dale Carnegie for his foresight.
Work life balance?
…badminton (league) on Monday nights, two daughters (1 in high school, 1 at U of C), my wife (social worker background, works in mental health services), volunteer work (fund raising organizations).
What do you read?
… inspirational books, books on fundraising, human interest stories.
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