Show Notes

With the season of giving right around the corner, we’re discussing our community relations program, Project JOY. Our guests are our Founder and Owner, Dan Nilsen, who created our program, and our Business Manager, Megan Barton, who has relaunched the program. Topics include:

  • Why Dan started our community relations program
  • Why we rebranded the program as Project JOY
  • How Project JOY works
  • Favorite memories from giving back

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Group of volunteers at Harvesters


Hi, and welcome to The Events Experience, where we take a deep dive into everything event planning. I work for Bishop-McCann, an agency devoted to creating JOY through meetings, incentives, and events for big name brands. On this podcast, myself and our company's experts will discuss all things events, so keep listening to hear all about the latest tips and trends for virtual, live, and hybrid events.

Hi, everyone! With the season of giving right around the corner, we're going to discuss our community relations program, Project JOY. I'll be talking with our founder and owner, Dan Nilsen, who created our program as the Just Right Projects, and our business manager, Megan Barton, who has relaunched the program as Project JOY. Thank you both so much for talking with me today!

Megan: Happy to be here!

Dan: Definitely.

So I know that previously Project JOY was called Just Right. So, Dan, when did we originally create our community relations program, and why did we decide to start it?

Dan: Well, it all started, actually, with a conversation between me and my three daughters as we were on our way to Phenix to celebrate the life of my mom who had just passed away. That was 15 years ago. So for those of you who have lost a parent or grandparent, you can appreciate what we were going through at the time, and we were literally in the plane, on the shuttle going to get our car. My mom was my first parent to pass and their first grandparent of their four grandparents. So we were in this mode of, "How would my mom want us to commemorate her life?" And that's when we started talking about creating a foundation at Bishop-McCann to serve the community in different ways. The idea was that my girls would be involved, and they were at the beginning with a few projects. But we wanted to be able to serve the community that way.

So we actually came up with the name then, I remember in the Hertz shuttle bus, and we came up with Just Right then because we wanted to serve the needs that were "just right" at the time. We felt like those needs could change maybe on a yearly basis, so instead of serving one need like some foundations or projects do, we thought at the time we would serve three areas. So that's kind of what we did at the beginning. We thought we'd start by doing what we could to serve the health of the community, and at the time I had already done a lot of work in the AIDS fight. So that was kind of a focus at the beginning. Then youth was our second focus. That was because at the time, the girls' school district that they were in (Blue Valley) had recently a few suicides. They knew or had friends that knew some of the ones that were actually affected by it, so it was near and dear to their hearts to help, especially Bliss. And then finally, the arts. We had been pretty involved with Arts KC at the time, so we continued our efforts with that.

Volunteers cleaning up for Earth Day

Right, and I love knowing the back story behind why you decided to start that, and the fact that it all started to commemorate your mom. That's such a special thing that we did that. So I know that we also recently rebranded as Project JOY. Why did we decide to revamp this program?

Dan: Well, the program just needed a breath of fresh air, I guess. One that we'd all support. So what a better name? Because ultimately the community service projects we've been doing (and will be doing) bring JOY to those in need.

Right. I love that about the entire company. But this program, I think, does bring so much JOY. Now that we've talked about why we started this program, Megan, could you explain how Project JOY works? What does the program mean for us as a company and for our associates?

Megan: Yeah, I can cover that. This new program builds upon the great foundation you put together, Dan, and hopefully it's continuing to bring JOY to your mom. This revamp is really all about Bishop-McCann giving where our associates give, and it has a couple of different options for them to get involved. First, we don't just encourage them to volunteer their time. We actually give them time off work to do it. Each associate gets four full days per year, and they can use this time to give back to any organization they are passionate about. 

We have also allocated a dollar threshold for each associate, which can be designated to nonprofit organizations through either a dollar-for-dollar donation, match or volunteer time sponsorship. If associates make a donation to a 501(c)(3) organization and submit it to us, we will match those dollars to that organization on the associates behalf, or we will sponsor their volunteer hours. So for instance, if an associate uses their volunteer time off, they can submit those hours that they volunteered for their BMC dollars to go to that organization. And this is actually my favorite component of the new program because sometimes people are not in a place to donate funds. So this gives us an opportunity for Bishop-McCann to honor the associate's impact at that organization. 

The best part is that these two approaches can be mixed and matched if they'd like. If they want to use a portion of their community relation benefit toward a donation and also want to have a couple of their volunteer hours sponsored, they are able to do both! This allows them to support multiple organizations near and far if they'd like. So it's a pretty cool program with a lot of flexibility.

Group of volunteers at The Humane Society

I love that we can not only volunteer, but we can then sponsor that and we can have dollars matched. It's just, I think this program is great. So since starting Project JOY, what are some of your goals with the relaunch?

Megan: My main goal for the relaunch was to give associates opportunities to make an impact on organizations that mean the most to them. Not everyone has the same passions, and where one person gives may not be the same as where another person wants to give. Not to mention, our associates live all over the country, so they can volunteer at any organizations that are close in proximity to them. Lastly, my goal was for our communities to know just how much Bishop-McCann cares about them. Like Dan mentioned, we create JOY through our programs, but we also want to create JOY for our communities and organizations who really need our helping hands and our donations to carry out their missions.

Dan: And personally, I just wanted to say that I'm happy that it has a new home with you, Megan. I remember before Megan even started with us during her interview process, she talked about her interest in organizing our company's program, so I was really excited to hear that. So just the goal of getting this refreshed and off the ground and running was definitely a goal of mine, and I feel like we've done that.

Megan: Aw, thank you!

So through trying to meet these goals, are there any initiatives we've completed that stand out in your mind? Any favorite memories?

Megan: Yes, lots of memories. We've actually had a few different things this year after launching the new program. First, on a more sad note, unfortunately, devastating events always make it clear how many organizations rely on donations to be able to bring immediate relief to those who are affected. We have been matching donations real time for the events that have happened and continue to happen in Ukraine, as well as donations for relief efforts from hurricanes Fiona and Ian and large devastating events like that. Many associates were able to give dollars to help those who are in desperate need for survival, and Bishop-McCann was able to double their impact with the matches. 

Additionally, we've had some fun group service activities. We got together to clean up a park here in Kansas City for Earth Day. We sorted and packed food items for Harvesters to feed our underprivileged communities. And most recently we volunteered as a group at the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, where we helped to move some heavy-duty kennel equipment, organize their storage, and sort through pet food donations. The best part of that was we got to end the activity with playing with pups and kitties, which was such a blast to do that all together, and we hope those little ones find their forever homes very soon. But all that to say, we love being able to make an impact for nonprofits while also bonding interdepartmentally with our coworkers through giving back and making a difference.

Two women playing with shelter kittens

Yeah, I always love whenever we have those opportunities as a company to get together and volunteer, but I think one of my favorites was going to the Humane Society and getting to play with all the puppies and kittens. It definitely created JOY for us and the animals!

Megan: Oh, for sure - it was so much fun! I could have sworn we were all going to walk out of there that afternoon with kitties and puppies with us to adopt.

I think we were all tempted!

Megan: Yes, I wanted to take one home, but hopefully, we get to give back to them on a frequent basis and give them some love.

Yes, for sure. Well, thank you both so much for joining the podcast and for talking about how we give back at Bishop-McCann!

Megan: Thank you for having us!

Dan: Thank you, Brenna!

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Events Experience. Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast, and create JOY wherever you go!

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