Hello. I’m Jane Pfeiffer, founder and president of Fieldtrip. At Fieldtrip, we’re a marketing and branding firm that helps nonprofits close the gap between the people they help and those that have the resources to help them. When we close that gap, we create a mission multiplier. In a recent conversation, we were working through the three A’s, the levels of relationships that we have with nonprofit audiences, be they beneficiaries or benefactors. Those three levels are awareness, alignment and advocacy. And the response I got was that, well, advocacy is easy. We send thank you notes. We’ve got a process for that. They’re handwritten and we’ve fulfilled our commitment. That sounds reasonable! Definitely send the thank you note- handwritten? Even better. It’s not a bad practice. What I’m suggesting today is there’s a way to take it a step deeper that will pay multiples in terms of rewards, of building a stronger connection.
I’m going to use an example that happened with my oldest son. In the fourth grade, he was diagnosed with ALL leukemia, and he spent 18 months out of school going through intensive treatment. When he was able to return to school and be out in the public, because we had been in a a mini pandemic, I guess, and isolated, he couldn’t go to church to games. We had to check everybody before family gatherings. And so we’ve given up our vacation traditions. And life had definitely changed. At the end of that, he was awarded a nice trip and he requested that we take a Disney cruise. It was a fabulous experience, a great reward for him and a great celebration for all of us to just have a sense of normalcy. So incredible benefit was provided to all. When we got back, which was close to the holidays and for a holiday party, my coworkers decided to do a fundraiser to pay a sizable donation. We raised about $3,000 back to that nonprofit that had gifted us this wonderful experience. And yet, as I think about advocacy, I believe that if I handed Riley a check for $3,000 today and said, “You know what, this can go to any organization you feel you would like to recognize a reward.” I don’t know that that organization that gave us the trip would even come to the top of his mind. Honestly, I think it would be an organization that gave a lesser value gift but provided a more meaningful experience because of the way that they continued the relationship after he’d had that experience. This is a camp for medically fragile children. And they have weekends. And over the summer they have full week camps and the children that attend are categorized. So there’s cancer week and and other themes or purposes throughout the summer and the weekends. Riley got introduced to this around the same time and just had a wonderful experience because he was able to be independent and make friends and truly be himself and not under my paranoid, watchful eye. He was invited back year after year. In fact, he aged out of the program and he was invited back because he was also invited back to Diabetes Week, not because he had diabetes, but because he connected so well with the other kids that they knew that his energy would help new campers. His specialty was fishing, and he loved taking new campers who had never fished, never held a rod and teach them how to fish and watch them celebrate. And that was the greatest reward.
If I gave Riley that check and I asked him what he wanted to do with it, I think it would go to that camping experience because of the meaningful relationship that they invited. In fact, they asked him back to serve as a counselor. Now, COVID killed that opportunity. That was his dream but that’s that’s nobody’s fault. And when he makes that donation to them, I think that they have a few options. So, one, he makes the donation, they send a very personable thank you note that’s genuine – check. Right. It gets that advocacy box. Two, he donates and they recall his love of fishing and teaching and they say you know what, this is great. We really need new fishing equipment and that’s what we’re going to do with the investment. He would be thrilled. Not only that they recognized his gift, but they recognized what was important to him. There’s another option. What if they said, You know what, this is great. We need fishing equipment. In fact, we’ve been wanting to buy that paddle kayak that you wanted. Well, you know, you were a camper here. They might even offer to put it in his name, which he would not like. But they could say, you know, that’s an idea we have. How would you like us to use the money? Is it towards fishing? Is it something else? And, you know, involve him in that decision. And of course, you can play this game out, or the story out, showing pictures of other kids that are benefiting from that gift. And they would have him for life. They already do.
When I think of showing up with Riley at this organization that gave us the Disney cruise with check in hand, they welcomed him, accepted the gift graciously. We had a lovely conversation. If they would have taken it one step further and just asked, hey, show us some photos. Tell us about your favorite experience. You know, what did you do? Just really having that one on one conversation with him because it was about him and that he was able to have a fun experience without all the careful measures that he had been subject to for months. And that would have taken just a little dig deeper and that is what I would say would really qualify as check – we did something strong for the advocacy box. Now I know as nonprofits we have to be really sensitive, especially around children, that we aren’t using those who benefit from the gifts and the support that we offer that we’re putting them in a light that isn’t fair. They didn’t ask to be our hero. They asked for our support. And we want to give that without strings attached. But strings are not attached when you have a conversation, when you ask for stories, when you lean in and ask to hear about their experience. And that takes you a step closer to advocacy, which takes you a step closer to a lifelong relationship. In this case, for somebody who’s in their early twenties and has decades left to give and support you. That’s my message for this week. Feel free to visit wearefieldtrip.com/nonprofits for more weekly videos and our newsletters. Thanks for watching.