Tennies for Tots Logo

This blog is the first in a series of monthly reports on Full Circle’s efforts to double the donations and operating budget of Teenies for Tots (T4T) in 2022. T4T is a all-volunteer nonprofit that provides new shoes, socks, and book bags for over 3000 children ages 0 to 5 at nearly 40 different Head Start Programs in Northern and Central Arizona.

All nonprofits are in the personal relationship business. Whether it’s the people you serve or the volunteer and donors who support you. The stronger you can make those relationships the closer your nonprofit will get towards completing its mission. And two of the key ingredients to a successful relationship are learning how to ask “please” and say “thank you”. Most of us started working on those tasks as soon as we could communicate. And we learned pretty quick that please didn’t always work the first time. But if we were persistent and thought of new ways to ask or different people to ask, more often than not we prevailed. Telling your story is how a nonprofit says “please”. And not only is your chance for success based on how well we tell that story, but to how many different people we tell it to.

Like most nonprofits Paula and Tennies for Tots, T4T, have a compelling story and they are able to do lot of good with very little. But too often we tire of saying please and telling the same story over and over, so we fall back on using the same of the tried and true methods we used in the past to raise the funds needed to keep the doors open. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself and wonder why with all the good you do it so hard to raise money. But the truth is telling your story is your number one job, and if you aren’t finding new ways to engage new people you may keep your doors open, but you’ll never really complete your mission.

So our first order of business as we lent a hand at T4T was to think of new ways and new audiences to tell the T4T story to. And although it often seems that the only people who visit your website are from India and want to fix all that’s wrong with it, websites are essential. We hope to have ours fully functional by March 1. T4T services nearly 40 different Head Start Programs in three different counties, and several towns. To open a few doors in those counties and towns we decided to reach out to both the state wide and local Community Foundations. Having them in your corner certainly makes talking to other community groups easier. Paula, as we said, has a compelling story and made a very positive impression at those meetings. You know you are on the right track when your spokesperson, Paula, volunteers “I love telling this story”.

We followed that up with letters to all the civic groups in all the communities we serve asking for an opportunity to speak to the groups about our story. We are not expecting a huge response, but along with other efforts we are pursuing, we believe the combined effect will be positive. We will also follow up again in three to four months with another letter. We believe the U.S mail is very effective because so few people are using it. It is not junk mail it’s a first class letter, hand addressed, and signed. When was the last one you received? In addition Paula appeared on the Podcast Arzonashines .org and we hope to have a story in Prescott Living Magazine in the near future.

This is a cumulative process, and most often the first time someone hears about your nonprofit it has little effect. ( I know your saying to yourself “but why? It’s such a wonderful thing we are doing”). But the third or fourth time they hear you mentioned its starts to make an impression. That’s why you can’t let up, or get discouraged when your first efforts bear little or no new fruit. As the months ahead unfold I hope we can demonstrate what we are talking about with real examples.

Much to my embarrassment I needed Paula to remind me of the second element, the “thank you”. Right after the first of the year we received a hand written note from Paula for the help we had provided in 2021 to T4T. During a conversation later in the month she told me she had spent most of the month and was just finishing up those thank yous to all her donors. The note was heartfelt, it simply in a very personal way thanked us for our help, and it didn’t ask for any more money. We have been blessed to have been able give quite a bit of money to lots of different nonprofits over the last several years and could never recall receiving anything like it. We may have received a Christmas card or a text, but not a personal thank you. It’s a very important lesson, we were all taught as kids, but somehow in our busy world we have forgotten how to say “Thank you”.

If you stop to imagine what the notes like that have meant to you over the years, how you treasured them and wished there were more. That’s the kind of effect a truly heart felt thank you will mean to your donors. It is priceless. And when you think about doing the same to your, what always seems to be under-paid, staff it not hard to imagine the relationships being better and the results will follow. And it’s even easier to picture the smile on your volunteer’s faces when they open that same kind of card. And don’t worry of your first efforts don’t knock your socks off, you’ve got a lot of notes to write and you’ll get better over time.

To paraphrase a poplar book of the 90’s, most of what we need to know about relationships we learned by the time we finish kindergarten. It’s just that we allow the hustle and bustle of everyday life gets in the way of what really is important.

After a month we already feel more comfortable helping grow Tennies for Tots and look forward to our early efforts paying off as the year unfolds. Stay tuned.

TFT Kids in new shoes