Ticket To Dream Foundation President & Executive Director- Helping Foster Kids Just Be Kids
Eastern Washington University Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Marketing
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How did you get to where you are today? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path? What inspires you to work on this nonprofit idea?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
started in college having an interest in marketing specifically for non profits and kind of went down the marketing half without the nonprofit Peace For a while, as I kind of started my career, went into retail and learned kind of the basics of marketing and communications and business in general, with the future goal of bringing those same skill sets to a nonprofit. Once I really kind of honed in on those skills and thought I could make a difference with, um, Andi. While in retail. I was working on the wreath, the community nonprofit partnerships and the program and the customer interaction with those pieces so kind of really getting my feet wet in that area. And those programs grew up figure than the retail partnership in became its own foundation that I took over and left the retail space for about five years ago. Um, so really, what inspired me to work on this nonprofit idea is that there's 420,000 foster kids in the United States, and there wasn't very many retail partners or corporations that were bringing awareness to their need or really getting involved with it like they are around cancers. Your childhood diseases and things like that. So what the problem was is that it was really fragment that it was hard to help foster kids across the country because it was a regionalized problems. So kids needed and it was done. City wise county wise all over, but no big overarching reach. So we thought we needed to make it easier for corporations to help these kids. And you knew how to do that? Um, coming from the retail side. So we put our brain power to work to create a nation night that work and just make it easy for large scale donations and large scale efforts to help foster kids across country.

Can you walk us through your first few weeks when you started working on this project? How did things change over the next few months?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
well, When we first started working on this project on the retail side, before it was a nonprofit, it was figuring how, What is the need? What is the biggest needs? How what one of those needs can we fill realistically, efficiently and get across the country? Cause it's not always about filling every need, but instead what kind of message? What can you communicate? What can you physically bring in bull with? How much, man, How are you having also have much arm muscles you have of whitened can actually handle in order to get out? So we kind of talks to nonprofit partners all over the place. Small ones, large ones, ones we've been working with deep with years and what we haven't worked with yet to figure out where is the gaps because we didn't want to reinvent the wheel. We wanted to fill the gaps so that we could improve care. So it really started with listening, learning, researching and then from there, taking those business skills to be like watching people understand. And what can the average person help with? And then how can we do that across the country? And it started with the central items of like school supplies and shoes and backpacks and gifts, um around the holidays and then has grown as we grew those programs and had more bandwidth and also learned had it have to help Austrians.

What were the challenges in building the initial team and how did you overcome them? How did the team's composition, dynamics, time, and resource commitment evolve?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
So when we actually became our own foundation and then step outside of the retail, the retail space to run independently, it was really kind of building the team from scratch on eight years in, because before we were utilizing the team of the retail partner who helped create it, and we were using their entire I T deferment and their entire Daniel sweet, everyone is playing a role. But when we needed to step aside, uh, it was time to grow independently. Um, we needed to feel really critical roles as that we went. We actually went and looked for people that we had specifically worked with before in those skill sets or when revoked for different experiences so that we each had a different niche. Like I had the marketing experience down. So we have that piece in the executive director role. But we also needed strategic planning, and we needed someone who had worked with lots of charity partners before, so they had a kind of a lot like herding cats in a lot of ways of working with 200 partners. So how to communicate email and kind of strategically will be really organized and then have the right. Everybody has to be pretty. I see proficient when you're coming in, it risks You might have to google it. No, I didn t o to step in. And when you you know we need to find technology to make it work for us and how we do mass communications that automatically filled with the information we need. So really going out of our way of everyone needed to be able to fill a niche. But everybody also needs to be able Teoh, be a big team player and be able to jump from program to program and skills got to still set and active learners because we're constantly having to figure out new ways to do things specifically with Kobe right now. We had to completely revamp how we work, how we goto work, how we reach kids, how he distributes tens of thousands of donations that were physically touching them or physically providing them to someone. And so one of the biggest characteristics we have to look for is someone that's not going to be stuff Looking at these are my drop responsibilities and instead looks that let's get it done and what can I learn to do this piece or how do I figure that out? So someone that that can go and learn, um, matter how old you are or how long you've been out of school is a very, very critical skills that I would say it. Any nonprofit, I don't know, a single nonprofit employees that has one lane and sticks to it. You almost always have to go. You're something out.

Who are the target beneficiaries of your nonprofit? Can you share a few stories about how your nonprofit has made a difference for them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
will cost Ercan specifically, so that might be they live with a foster family. And might it be that they're in kinship care, meeting their aunt or cousin or their grand parent is taking care of them? And then also they may have aged out of care whether they're 18 1920 are now trying to live independently, straight out of care. Um, so we provide tens of thousands of items of like Blake. Right now, we're focusing on back to school. How to get back to school looks different this year. How did you get us many laptops as we can into the hands of lost youth? And then they still need paper and pens and all of those kind of things to be able to learn at home of of getting those items out. Also, shoes on their feet. A lot of foster kids come into care without then they may have been given two minutes to pack a grocery bag or garbage bag with their belongings, and so they don't necessarily have just an eight year old doesn't think of packing underwear and socks or there you know, random things, toothbrush, things that they would need So we provide a lot of those essentials and then also funding for extracurriculars when we're not in a Kobe one know to be able to participate in PM sports and then particularly use aging out of care in spending on housing at emergency assistance, anything that's avoiding. Preventing homelessness, job skills, rapid reemployment employment skills in general laptops so that they couldn't go to college, get jobs that Piper social services. So those were kind of our feet beneficiaries. They might be one day old and they might be 20. I'm just Baghlan where they are kind of in that that stream, but every single one of them means assistance and lifetime. Today we've helped over 1.8 million kids, whether that's a new pair of shoes or covering rents.

What are the profiles of people who volunteer for your organization? How do you recruit, engage, and retain them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
because we're nationwide, we really rely on non profits, but also volunteers to in their area kind of rally their friends, their employees. You've got a lot of companies that do it as a volunteer event where they get together and they build backpacks full of school supplies. Or now Kobe, they've raised money online, doing games or zoom calls or things like that where we convoked by those donations and trap ship to families. I mean, we'll be doing that for a while. A lot of it is about spreading information like spreading awareness, sharing social posts, creating campaigns to really rally your friends and family members. If if everybody shares a campaign online, its reach could be really, really, really impactful. And we have provided hundreds of bikes, thousands of backpacks, tens, actually hundreds of thousands of holiday gifts. I'm just from everybody in different areas, just really kind of rallying around. And then when we're not in a Coben time, we use volunteers locally on the West Coast to help us sort donations. Um, we receive, uh, probably 30,000 pieces of athletic wear for teenage girls that we have to size, store and shift back out are you cast that? I really love this mask. Right now we're doing masts. Um, we have, you know, Christie Don donated 25,000 masks from their retail chain. But when those things and it's not like you can just be like 25,000 masks you have tow, package them up and bundle the mountains, send them across the country. So we use volunteers to help sort materials, but also fundraise to bring awareness. Andi, some people come to a specificity, excess skills. That's like, um, I, you know, I really educated in Web design, and I want to help you do this to your website or I'm really experienced lawyers that donate their time to be like I'll donate six hours of legal work with you wouldn't think a nonprofit needs, but we have to sign a lot of countries a lot of contracts for every partnership. So people bringing their counting skills in their individual skills lets us use those much. Those resource is that we would typically pay for and put them back in the program with them back into duty.

What type of donors, foundations, and grant-making agencies do you target? What approaches have been successful in raising funds from them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
so we mostly make our donations from the sister, the mom, the eight year old child that wanted to help kids and social marketing does a lot of 100 saying for us, if people just very worried and creating companions, donating on Facebook or donating on our website, Our average donor is usually female anywhere between 25 55. That's not necessarily who all condone ate. It just happens to be, and they get full that that a mom who you know are string of providing for kids. But we also have a lot of Children that helped foster kids, which is our favorite cause. Kids helping kids is like one that I mean to get weight creative. You don't even know how kids give us money, but because it itself rough. Do you know lemonade stands? Normally they do their own online fundraiser. They do virtual pajama parties. Kids wins, understand that need and and they they want to help other kids. It was a really great opportunity for them to do that, and it's an easy one because $5 actually helps the trial. $10 actually helps get a pair of pajamas. Is that's going on a kiddo. So that's been really great. And then we also work with corporations, mostly retails. Oh, mattress firm Title nine float made Bear Paul shoes. We create campaigns with them where it's like Buy one, donate one or you donate at the register. So that brings in an influx of donations where we could make gold purchases or perfect name where kids can shop for themselves. So I think with all nonprofits, you can't look at one area to get donations. Particularly people are learning that with how times are right now. Um, because, as in C retails, been struggling a little bit more received but online donation of the art. And so you have to be able to pivot and know that the retail is gonna come back as well, but have a good basis of office the different ways that you fund raise but also, you know, doing grant applications and doing social and email campaigns. And it is a lot of marketing skills that go into raising money for I'm not profit

How do you hire and manage your marketing team including agencies and part-time workers to increase awareness about your efforts? What marketing tools do you use?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
way don't like, have a joy. Enormous marketing team. It helps that I was an executive running retail marketing for many, many years. I'm and then we have another team member who manages social and email campaigns and things like that. So we actually have a team of two that does marketing. But then we else I will have agencies that donates time, whether it's putting an ad together or putting managing our search engine optimization our Web design. So we utilize a lot of volunteers for that. But I will see, I would see as we grow, we'll eat will add more and more of those layers. But right now we're focused on being as efficient with every dollar is possible to be able to put it back in for committing while still reaching as many kids as began. So finding that balance, um, that balance of

How do you quantify the impact made by your programs? What kind of key performance indicators do you use to track your progress?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
look at could reach how many kids, every reached with each program and each quarter in year. Our overall goal stretches many kids as we can and to put these at funds and these items into the hands up kiddos. We look at how many partners we have on board on what they're reaches to make sure that we're able to reach in all the major areas now profits open and close. Or they changed the programming or they merged to be constantly kind of have to add partners as we go. And also we had partners as we'd see our programs grow. Our donations, for a specific thing grow to make sure that we can reach as many kids as we can. We currently reach 170 thousands of kids and like each year, but we look to grow that as we bring in more donations. We also obviously watch on marketing cider website traffic and our social donations are followers. I'm how much time they spend on our website all the normal indicators on. But we also look at just from an accounting perspective, incoming cash for what programs and then making sure that we're spending those donations in the buckets that they were designated, so when somebody wanted to support back to school to make sure that those funds are being used for after school.

What are the most pressing needs or issues faced by your organization? What are your organization's short-term and long-term plans?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
So the most pressing need, um, is very different with with probe it in the world it is right now at it varies honestly, week by week, month by month, based on because we're nationwide. What phases of social distancing different parts of the country in a different states or in our own team isn't, um, back to school universally is always a very big need. This is event need, no matter what the time is, because we've got over 220,000 kids that all go back to school, Um, and usually back to the physical classroom, which usually needs shoes and clothing and school supplies in that really long list of everything you need. And not only do they need that to keep up and Teoh do, you know, do the work for the day. But it's also about fitting in, have nothing self esteem and building that self confidence that comes from having new shoes and a new outfit that you feel great in, and they contribute on to borrow a pencil every single time. So now, as we look at the differences that cove it is having on the same population, 80% of foster kids don't have access to a laptop. Well, classrooms were online. Some school districts are able to provide laptops, and there's a lot to the arts. Or their seven school districts are willing to bread laptops and they can't get their hands on enough lock caps. Um, the biggest risk of students are our foster kids. They are 56% of them are youth of color, which they're already have a disadvantage in the school system of this way of graduation rates and homelessness rates and unemployment rates. But then, when you add the additional burden, foster care and the trauma that they have experienced get into foster care and they have so many hurdles to overcome, they cannot get further behind at school. So they cannot have a week gap where they didn't have a lot top or we saw months of gaps. There's a research study that, um, actually showed that 25% of Austria who have not asked us all night school period, So we need funds for laptops, um, and the A mess. And you know that USB drive for the older kid of specifically on Chromebooks, we need hot spots so that they can access Internet because no, it's not using is saying, Oh, there's free Internet. Not everywhere has the ability to get onto WiFi and even in states with really big industries that Seattle there you couldn't 20 minutes from us. There's a really spotting area of why I so we have to be able to get it on Internet, and then they still need to spice. There's any pencils. We're still gonna be a paper they're still gonna need Kranz ands deserves. They're gonna have projects that they have to do and when they physically go back to the classroom, which some states are in. Some school districts are just really varied across the country. They're not going to be sharing supplies. There's not gonna be joint classroom materials where you can borrow this person's markers or this. They are going to have to have their own lies on their desk that they bring back and forth in a backpack. Other bids were coming in after them, as it's we've never been able to do, even though all of our nonprofits also trying, we've never been able to reach all offshoot to that levels, so donations are critical, Castro nations physical donations to be able to reach many creditors as we can pretty rapidly here because some of the country starts school in about three BCE. Others are, you know more in September. But just because kids aren't physically going to school, which there's still a lot of them that are there's still a need and we have to we have to fill it rather quickly.

What were the major exciting and memorable moments? Were there also any moments that almost got you to quit? How did you get past them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
exciting or memorable, but it's probably when we hit our 1st 1 million youth. Served was like quite a milestone, and you didn't even realize it a time. We had to go back and do math later to really realize we're past that. Asked that milestone. But to be able to see that from an idea of how we wanted Teoh Inter have are are singing teams and our retail teens help someone that wasn't getting help to actually creating this program that has benefited that many kids is kind of mind boggling. And, you know, in a way that as a 22 year old when I first started it, that we could say, like, What if we did this? And then today it's become such a, ah huge thing is is pretty amazing way also do have after school bashing, usually every back to school year, where we do a carnival or in Sacramento, California, for kiddo, Foster, kiddos and families. Were they gonna meet superheroes and they jump inbound the houses and have snow cones, and they're gonna pick out their backpacks and new shoes. That event is our all time favorite because the look on these kiddos faces to be able to pick out their own shoes or their own backpack. It just it settles in your heart, and you just are so happy that that created that much boy on and and then it also kind of hurts your heart because they're that excited over a backpack where a lot of kids you just take that granted. But those were kind of, I would say, our most memorable moments, Um, moments that almost got you to quit. Um, being in the donations basin in the non profit spaces you like, you have a lot of customers, your donors or your customers your, um, your nonprofit partners or your customers. Foster kids are your customers in one way that you're you know, you have a lot of different customers in that world on DNA. Not all donors air kind, not all. Um, now all corporate corporate donations are, um, altruistic. They may be doing it for a benefit that isn't. And I think the biggest thing is sometimes when you run across people that are doing it for the wrong reasons, or doing it for the publicity versus really, truly wanting to help kids and aren't wanting to help kids in a real way. It could be discouraging because you know people you need to listen to what the need is. You can't tell people who are experts in the field. What the need is Andi. Also, with these youth particular, there's a lot of companies and damage donors that want to see the kids. They want to see a picture of the kids receiving the items. Will these air victims they've experienced abuse? They may be their identities or concealed their locations or concealed. Showing their picture online could be unsafe for them. And also, it's stigmatizing. We don't need other kids in that community to see Oh, that's the foster child that had this happened to them. Um, so I've never gotten to the point where I almost quit, But I have gotten to the part where I was like, Come on, world when we got about the kids first and then we'll not get the credit for helping them. And I think the bigger thing is is that using that as an inspiration point help others care how you helped kids so you could inspire other people to help kids, but not at the detriment of kid

What responsibilities and decisions did you handle at work? What were the challenges? What strategies were effective in dealing with these challenges?

Based on experience at: VP of Branding & Creative | Building Strong Brands and Retail Sales, Mattress Firm
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
so that was in my retail space. So I handled the brand identity and basically anything you saw touch, smell even or felt in the store or on mostly in the store across five different retail chains that we have five different brands. So it was on creating, he adds, with the advertising agencies, social post social campaigns, a store communication, tow launch of collusion, coming up with pricing strategies, working with a good feeling in different departments to make sure we get the product and that what products should be highlight on, what does it look like? How do we message it and really kind of encompassing it? So really working across a lot of different divisions in order to kind of pull together how to grow sales and to grow brand, um, positive Bram strength across the markets Onda Lot of that was, uh, standing out. It was making sure that we had customer service guarantees that were better than our competitors, and that were the most customer friendly was making sure products were what they should be and that we could stand behind them. And it was following marketing principles of how to reach customers best and how to pull that in. And then also, honestly, our foster kids campaign ended up being a program that became the heart of our company. It led us to have more employees that were engaged in the brand had customers coming into our starters to donate items. So it really became a rally point for our company and became very successful strategy that all the votes launched what we are today.

How did the school prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts?

Based on experience at: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Marketing, Eastern Washington University
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
so the best parts were probably the, um I said I went on a marketing path S o that was more focused on. Well, actually, there's a lot of business skills on their to it, actually, you know, which I didn't think I needed at the time. But I taught you accounting a lot once you economics a lot, a lot of computer classes and all of those kind of things general business law and then marketing principles of how to message a grand had a create an ad I'm had to create Social Post weren't really a thing then, but it was more around PR. So I would say even things like my business law class, which was probably the worst cost that Iver's was has been very helpful because I understand what we can in my marketing world. In retail, I understood what was lawful and what wasn't and or the basis of those or how to go find those solutions. And then the marketing obviously is very operable to nonprofit space and retail space because, um, Jonah management and also just brand building and communication and social requires all of those basic skills. And then the accounting classes, which I also did not love. I now have demanded European L on a balance to you and also investing our savings accounts that it makes more money for kids next year. And so all those things are critical to repute, a nonprofit, but you really only need to wear many, many difference, different tasks.

What three life lessons have you learned over your career? Please discuss the stories behind these lessons, if possible. Stories could be yours or observed.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
That's the biggest life lessons I have had a brought and kind of brought me to where I am today on. And when I look for employees, which we talked about it a little bit, is to constantly be listening and learning, even if you don't think that you need that knowledge in the future. There wasn't marketing. I didn't need to listen to the merchandising people drone on about margin and how they could get this off afraid or where they were getting in and and how those things. But actually listening to it in understanding those pieces let you problem solve solutions in my own field. On I would say, Let me be promoted much faster and much quicker than my peers because I began to understand the bigger picture. I'm and be able to understand and solve problems bigger than my rule because I understood the functions of the business. Um, in understanding when you know accounting is talking about profit loss and all these different things of understanding where the business is and where we need to make those changes, um, and then in the nonprofit space, using that same thing off, listening to what your nonprofits are saying, as far as just in their daily conversation of like, we've been struggling with this or I wish we have this or just off statements of reading everything I could get my hands on as far as what's going on in the world around foster care, just the world in general, What's going on in the retail world because we have so many non profit. We have so many corporate partners that are in that space, so I would just they never just because you're done with your degree and done with school, Um, you should never stop learning. You should never stop listening to what other people are saying even if you're in a big meeting and it doesn't apply to you because learning those pieces maybe not the nitty gritty of exactly how to do it, understanding how they work, um, let needs you be from. I mean, I was a big, early young vice president branding for very major corporation. Andan allowed me to calm Rome, this nonprofit and I don't think I wouldn't be able to run this non profit. If I just need marketing, I wouldn't be able to. There's too many uses

What starting job (after internship) would you recommend to students who hope to grow professionally like you? What other parting advice, dos, and don'ts would you give?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Jul 27 2020
I'm tearing is a big piece. So even with your first job, I'm finding you know, sometimes you just got to get your foot in the door. Might not be the exact path that you want or think where it's going to go. But look at what you're going to learn or where there's opportunities might be in order to and to do that I was a marketing coordinator for building Industry, Doesn't even interested in building, um, But I was right ended up writing commercials for radio, and I ended up writing a lot of doing a lot of events sponsorships, Andi actually learning the event space, and I obviously used that a lot now. So instead of just looking at what industry it is, look at what you're going to learn or what your opportunities could be within that organization. To then take those first skills and up people playing it, and whether that's growing within the same order or taking it and shifting industries. You don't have to get stuck in one one industry. Look for the tools that you need to learn in order to feel that rhythm and build those those skill sets. You can definitely go straight into nonprofits, and you're gonna learn a lot of different skills within those profits. But don't think that you only can work in non profits If you stay in that track your whole life because many different industries, it's about skills it's about it's about the skills to be able to bring it over.