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myHR: March 20, 2019

Stewardship Communications: Serving as a Bridge in Donor Relations

Stewardship Communications Team

Cultivating bonds between Penn and its donors is an important task for University leadership. Models of Excellence Honorable Mention honoree, the DAR Stewardship Communications team, plays an integral role in making that possible. Penn’s reputation for superior donor relations is due in part to their exemplary work.

It all starts with a team of six writers and an administrative coordinator who work on the second floor of the FMC building: Mehki Johnson, Associate Director and Writer; Nichole Wilson, Associate Director and Writer; Stephen McElwee, Assistant Director and Writer; Melissa Nevadomski, Assistant Director and Writer; Andrew Wade, Staff Writer; and Tanisha Taylor, Administrative Coordinator.

Under the leadership of Valerie Harris, Senior Director, Stewardship Communications, they create personal, relevant, and persuasive correspondence that keeps new and existing donors coming back year after year.

“Stewardship Communications is the bridge from the giving to the next gift,” says Harris. “Our goal is to help the University keep relationships strong by communicating to donors the impact of their giving – how their contributions are being used, how they are helping people, and how they are strengthening the institution.”  

The team’s effectiveness and consistency is already having a positive impact on The Power of Penn Campaign, where to date, over 1,200 donors giving $25,000 or more have made contributions to multiple areas.

Preparing gift acknowledgments is a large part of the team’s daily work. In fact, in fiscal year 2018, Stewardship Communications created more than 3,500 donor-related pieces on behalf of the Office of the President, the Senior Vice President, Development and Alumni Relations, and Campaign leadership. But the team’s responsibilities include many other activities.

Stewardship Communications prepares congratulatory letters, letters of appreciation, condolences, and other messages that recognize major events in the lives of Penn’s people, such as the birth of a child, a marriage, or a high-profile promotion. Through the use of a robust tracking system and standardized procedures, the team closely monitors the flow of correspondence and makes adjustments to communications to meet leadership’s changing needs.

Additionally, Stewardship Communications produces Penn Parents and The Penn Priority – publications that speak to two of the University’s fastest growing donor segments: parents of current and past students, and undergraduate scholarship donors. Team members also prepare nearly 1,200 scholarship reports each year, sharing with existing donors profiles of the students they support.

Nichole Wilson, who manages the scholarship reporting process and coordinates production of The Penn Priority, says that the work can be challenging at times because of deadlines, but that having parameters and systems in place helps get everything done in a timely fashion without sacrificing quality.

“We try to keep information at our fingertips, but knowing that we can rely on our team members helps to keep us on task,” she says.

Melissa Nevadomski, who coordinates production of Penn Parents, will attend the Models ceremony on April 23 with Wilson and the rest of her team. She says she was “exhilarated” when she heard that they would receive the Models of Excellence honorable mention.

“There is so much happening across the University, and I think the Models of Excellence awards are a wonderful opportunity to step back for a moment and reflect on all that can be achieved when we work together. I think it also inspires us to continue doing our best work going forward,” she says.

For Mehki Johnson, who’s been at Penn for 15 years, receiving the honor is validation of the team’s hard work.

“It’s one thing to do your job. It’s another thing to do your job well. Having the Models of Excellence program to acknowledge people who do their jobs well and sometimes exceed expectations beyond what they’re asked to do every day means we are valued,” says Johnson, whose work includes managing correspondence production.

“I think that our team receiving this award speaks to our consistency, our accountability, and our reliability as a team, so this is a wonderful honor.”

The 20th Models of Excellence Ceremony will be held on April 23 at 4pm in Irvine Auditorium. A reception will immediately follow. You can register at For more information about the Models of Excellence ceremony and this year’s honorees, visit

Get Ready for the 20th Anniversary Models of Excellence Celebration

Models of Excellence 20th Anniversary Logo

On April 23, the University of Pennsylvania will celebrate two decades of its campus-wide staff recognition program with the 20th Anniversary Models of Excellence Celebration.

Models of Excellence celebrates the exceptional work of staff members throughout our schools and centers, and this year we honor 92 of our colleagues for playing key roles in the University’s successes every day.

The ceremony will begin at 4pm in Irvine Auditorium, with a reception to immediately follow. You can register at

President Amy Gutmann, Provost Wendell Pritchett, Executive Vice President Craig R. Carnaroli, and Vice President for Human Resources Jack Heuer will present the awards to staff members. The awards are in three categories: Models of Excellence, Pillars of Excellence, and Model Supervisors. Each winner, whether an individual or team member, will receive $500 and a symbolic award. Staff members who have earned Honorable Mentions will receive $250 and a symbolic award.

Audience members will receive a commemorative 20th Anniversary gift bag with items to help cheer on their colleagues and a keepsake gift.

Please save the date, April 23, and check out the Models of Excellence 2019 Honorees list.

For more information about the exciting Models of Excellence ceremony, visit

Take Our Children to Work Day on April 25

Two kids in an office

If the kids in your life want to know what it’s like to be a part of a world-renown research university, they’ll love Penn’s Take Our Children to Work Day on Thursday, April 25. This event provides young people ages 9-15 with an opportunity to explore different career paths while having fun. All faculty and staff parents, family members, and mentors are invited to sponsor a young guest to participate.

Take Our Children to Work Day is more than just a chance for kids to tag along with you on the job. It gives youth enriching hands-on experiences in Penn’s innovative, diverse work environments.

Each year Penn celebrates this national event by providing an array of activities and programs that inspire youngsters while introducing them to the workplace and higher education.

Participants can sample a variety of fields from athletics to robotics. Plus each child can get a souvenir PennCard with their photo!

Schools, departments, and groups across Penn are collaborating to offer dozens of developmental activities this year, including:

  • Be a Dentist for a Day. This interactive session allows participants to get out of the exam chair and see what it’s like on the other side. Children will learn about teeth and dental equipment, and even get a chance to place a dental sealant on a stone model using real dental materials.
  • GRASP Lab. Program real robots in Penn’s famous General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) laboratory. Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot kits let future engineers rise to the challenge of controlling these amazing machines.
  • Mind Your Brain. If you’ve ever wondered what’s inside your head and how it works, this session hosted by the Department of Neurosurgery will provide the answers. Participants will meet a real neuroscientist and learn ways to protect the brain from injury.
  • Penn Vet Working Dog Center. Thanks to the School of Veterinary Medicine, children will see firsthand what it takes to train our nation’s leading detection dogs. The Working Dog staff center will explain step-by-step the process for preparing a dog to serve in explosive detection, search and rescue, and more.
  • Try Your First Case. Give your budding Supreme Court justice experience in the legal world at Penn Law School. Would-be attorneys build their reasoning skills and exercise their sense of fair play.

During this entertaining day participants can also enjoy the 125th running of the Penn Relays, explore the Penn Museum, go backstage at the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, rock climb, create a delicious yogurt parfait, fly a kite, and much more.

You can see all of this year’s activities on the Take Our Children to Work Day website.

Registration opens on April 11 at 9am. Sessions include both limited and unlimited registration activities. You may attend one limited registration activity and as many unlimited registration activities as you like. Register as soon as possible because space is limited for certain events.

Supervisor approval is required for faculty and staff to participate. Participating parents and sponsors must accompany children to all activities, so be sure to work with your supervisor to ensure coverage for operational needs.

Spend 30 Minutes a Day in the Great Outdoors

Kaskey Park Biopond Trees reflected on buildingIf you’re participating in the Be in the Know this campaign year and would like to earn 20 Bonus Action points (plus do something positive for your well-being) sign up for this spring’s 30x30 Challenge! This program encourages you to spend 30 minutes outdoors each day in April.

Sidewalks, parking lots and turnpikes are literally outdoors, but spend your time outside in a more natural setting for maximum rejuvenation. Pleasant and green spaces are all around, especially on our campus. Whether you spend 30 minutes in a garden, park, or a backyard, take time to watch and listen to nature’s wonders.

To earn 20 Bonus Action points for the 30x30 Challenge, simply follow these steps:  

Register for the 30x30 Challenge online by Friday, March 29, 2019 to qualify.

Visit Penn Sustainability or contact for details.

Healthy Meals: Make-Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches


This freezer-friendly, grab-and-go recipe from Family Food calls for whole wheat English muffins instead of fast food buns. It’s a tasty way to save time and money while eating healthy.

Find the recipe here.

Click here to send us your healthy recipes and tips.


Did You Know: LUCY Shuttle and New Route 49 Bus

Looking for more transit choices? The LUCY (Loop through University City) shuttle service, operated by SEPTA, is free to PennCard holders. LUCY runs Monday through Friday, from 6:10 a.m. to 7 p.m., between Penn’s campus and 30th Street Station. SEPTA’s new Route 49 bus connects North Philadelphia and Grays Ferry to University City with stops near the Pennovation Center (regular fares apply).