Four finalists for our $50,000 Step Up grant were notified late last week in a difficult selection process which included the help of our community board of advisers. We were thrilled that 16 United Way and Allied Arts agencies applied in this inaugural year.

Now the hard part begins as we narrow the field from four to one and make a choice which will result in a year-long commitment from Saxum to Sunbeam Family Services, Variety Health Centers, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art or Lyric Theater. All are solid organizations who are already doing great things in the community.

At the end of the month, our team and advisers will meet with each finalist for 30 minutes and explore how our “Saxum Experience” will benefit their organization. Usually, we are on the presenting side of the equation, but in this case we will be the team interviewing.

Not unlike a lot of our current clients, a true partnership is the process of selecting each other. We understand that the best client relationships show a commitment level that runs deep both ways. Once we select a partner, we will begin on July 1 with our collaborative session. The contract is for 12 months and will include research, bi-weekly in-person meetings, pre-distributed agendas, recaps, monthly (and quarterly) reports as well as daily interaction. Our partnership is proactive.

One of the exciting developments of this initiative has been the promotion of the program. Social media has driven public knowledge of Step Up. Without a traditional press release and outreach effort, we relied on word of mouth (WOM), deadline notices to print outlets and a strong Twitter campaign from the entire firm. The results? We heard feedback and awareness on the program from many people, including many CEOs who we are certain are not on social media (yet).

In this changing new media world, our team understands that we all must be experts in social media. Ignoring the obvious benefits of joining online conversations is akin to professional irrelevance and we plan on sharing this knowledge with our selected partner. We cannot wait to get started.