A little over a year ago when we decided to apply some of the principles we outlined in our books to see if we could double Tennies for Tots budget and donations we knew the first thing we had to do is refine the story of what Tennies for Tots did into a concise and compelling story. We were sure if enough folks heard that story getting more help would be easy. We prepared a news release and sent it to every paper in every town we helped kids with free shoes. We worked hard to make the release as real as the smiles our new shoes created on the children we helped. It took a while but combined with a few photos and a lot of follow up just about every paper we reached out to ran our story. The best part about all that follow-up was we now have names and contact info with a lot of the people who make the decision of what makes the paper.

At the same time we searched for as many grant opportunities as we could qualify for and stared filling out applications. This wasn’t very tough because we already had refined our story for the news release and that would be the heart of every application. Not a lot of those grants came through; there are a lot of applicants and limited funding and these grants although deeply appreciated are not what will sustain a nonprofit over the long haul. To sustain a nonprofit you need the community you serve to believe and support you. But we won’t be discouraged we will try again this year, our story is getting better. One of the applications was to Bombas, they are a sock and clothing company that donates one item of clothing for every item they sell. That’s a pretty remarkable business plan. Their immediate response was there was a long list of applicants but we would hear from them when our turn came up, maybe in a year or so. Much to our delight we got an email a few days ago telling us 3000 pairs of new socks were on their way to us. That simple email made all the work we had done seem so rewarding.

What’s the next step? How can we turn this bit of good luck into something even better? Pretty simple you just start telling that story to everyone who will listen? Why? Because, Bombas has selected us from a ton of applicants and we are going to make a real impact with their donation. But most importantly it gives us another opportunity to tell our story to the communities we help and whose support we need. Here is the Press Release and photos we are sending to all those contacts we made early last year:

Paula Sedillo Wise and the 100% volunteer nonprofit she started, Tennies for Tots, were more than thrilled when they learned they would be partnering with Bombas and their One Purchased=One Donated program. They are sending her 3,000 pairs of children’s socks to add to the new shoes, books and book bags she provides to children 5 years old and younger who are part of families who live in poverty throughout Northern and Central Arizona.  As she put it with a smile “it knocked my Socks off”!

Bombas donates one item of clothing for every item they sell. And currently have over 3500 partners distributing those gifts throughout the United States. To date, they have donated 75 million pieces of clothing to programs that serve those in need. Of the clothing they donate, socks, underwear and t-shirts are the top 3 most requested items at shelters.  Visit their website at bombas.com for more information. “We are honored to be a part of this amazing and one of a kind program” Paula beamed.

Paula started her nonprofit in 2018 when after attending a back-to-school event in Prescott,
where she learned that there where programs in place to help school age children with school clothes and supplies but there were not available for younger children. Although she works full time, she decided she was going to fill that need. She started with a couple of the Head Start Programs in Flagstaff. Slowly she expanded and now serves nearly forty Head Start programs in four different counties in Arizona and over three thousand children every year.( Space here to provide local Head starts for individual papers) For many of these children it is the first new shoes they have ever had.

2022 was a difficult year for Tennies for Tots. Paula and her volunteers had always shopped discount bins and store closing to buy the shoes and socks they gave away. This held the cost per child to under $10.00 a child, a pretty remarkable number. But the inflation and supply chain problems we all suffered through all but dried up those markets. The cost per child rose by almost 50%. “But thanks to some new ideas and  help from Bill and Barbara Packard and their” Going Full Circle” books we found a way to get  everyone outfitted” explained Paula.

“Those same problems, with inflation and the supply chain, seem to be persisting, and as the word gets out about our program requests for help increase! We are always looking for more help.” explains Paula.  “So if you or a group you belong to would like to help financially or to volunteer; buying, sorting, and distributing, we sure could use the help.” You can go to their website tenniesfortots.org for more information. It should also be noted that the State of Arizona has recognized Tennies for Tots as a qualified Tax Credit Organization, which means a single person can donate $400 or $800 for couples and deduct the full amount from their state tax bill.

Too often we forget that the best way to thank a business that helps us is to send a few customers their way. If it’s a local business that means sending our supporters to them with instructions to mention how much they appreciate the help they provided to a cause they believe in. This kind of thankyou is infinitely better than a handwritten note or even a plaque. Praising them in your press releases is another obvious effort to send them customers and greatly appreciated. It’s pretty simple; they helped you why not help them in return. It sure will make the return trip to ask for more help a lot easier.

Like most things in the nonprofit world how you handle good fortune, whether you use it to build more good fortune or just say thanks and move on is the difference between really attacking your mission and treading water. It’s the difference between somebody writing you a check because they get a tax credit for it, and writing it because they believe in what you do. It may be the same amount of money, but in the long run its not even close to being of the same value.

These principles and most of the others outlined in our books are not rocket science. And anyone who has run a small business would tell you that they are not even that original. But it seems to us having worked with a lot of nonprofits, they are overlooked by the large majority of them. It seems the leadership is focused almost exclusively on the service or help they provide, not the business they are also running. They forget that you can’t do one effectively without the other.

As for Paula and Tennies for Tots after working with her over the last year we are sure she understands what it takes to make a nonprofit maximize its mission. And as the attached photo clearly indicates, Paula has her “head in the game.”