Recently, Heifer received a free space in the “gifting suite” for the American Century Championship golf tournament at Lake Tahoe. Pro athletes (and a few actors) were escorted through the suite, where they were loaded up with free schwag from 20 different brands—and Heifer. Heifer ‘s Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations Marleen New and I were able to spend a few minutes with each person to give them the Heifer “pitch.”
The most common note we recorded on our cheat sheet of names and faces was “polite.” That’s code for “Are we done? I’ve got a tee time coming up.”
Looking back over my notes, I wondered why we get that reaction—not just in the gifting suite, but in the marketplace at large. (It couldn’t be our presentation—it was brilliant!) About a quarter of Americans in 2010 felt some responsibility to improve the world—down from 31 percent in 2007. The need is greater than ever, yet people often feel powerless. But these were some of the most powerful people in sports (and I mean powerful—many could bench press a heifer on an off day). But I think a lot were just information-less. We provided information (about Heifer and hunger and poverty), and in a few instances, you could see them “get it.”
To be honest, we made a few bona fide contacts that could help Heifer reach a wider (and different) audience. Anthony Anderson (of TV’s Law and Order fame) said “I’ll help” by naming Heifer a beneficiary at an upcoming fundraiser. (Remember, Anthony?) Lou Holtz said, “You’ll hear from us.” And to be fair, several players and coaches had their own charitable foundations (Lou Holtz, Robbie Gould, Jamie Moyer—a prince of a guy) that do good in their own right. If anything, those guys “got it” quicker and with less persuasion than the tee-timers. They’re already in the habit of trying to make a difference, and they’re already aware of the need.
So how do we—you—make a difference? Well, sure we’d love for you to donate to Heifer. But even if you’re not a former NFL player with lucrative endorsement contracts, you can do more. You can spread information. You can learn more about hunger, poverty and their root causes. You can learn more about how Heifer addresses these issues. You’ve got your own social network: work it. Talk is cheap. Heck, it’s free. Talk to 50-60 people like we did in the gifting suite and you won’t convert all of them. But you will convert a few bona fides. And that’s all it takes to start a movement.
Gotta go… It’s time to tee off on hunger.