I realized recently that I haven't done a very good job of "connecting the dots" when it comes to Team NeighborLink and our vision for it. Nonprofits, including us, don't always do a great job at outlining why we do some of the things we do that require you to help us carry it out. We always have a grand vision and have a strategy that works, but we've not told you enough of the story for it to be understood clearly or captivating. For this reason, it's why our new initiatives typically take awhile to get going or flounder all together.
Simply, we don't always tell you how the time or resources we're asking of you add value to the organization or to you as an individual.
Everything has a value and very few people want to do anything long-term that doesn't have a value proposition that translates time and resources to something in it for ourselves or for the organization. There are only so many "gifts" of time and money that we're willing to give each year, and anything more than that needs to have an easy to understand value proposition.
So, I want to cast the vision for Team NeighborLink, our cause related all-around athletic club, and how it fits within NeighborLink.
The Question to be answered is, "Why would a faith-based organization that mobilizes churches and volunteers to assist vulnerable homeowners with home maintenance and repairs spend time and money developing a running and cycling club?"
It's a great question and on the surface, it's doesn't make that much sense until you understand the awareness, community building, and economic potential of such a team. Below are some key reasons why we're committed to exploring the option.
Every time someone is in a race or out in their neighborhood wearing their shirt, its a testament and reminder that we're all in this together and we have a responsibility to be aware of those around us. It's an internal reminder, and a reminder be aware of those that we meet on the road could need a nod of encouragement.
It creates conversation and opportunities to share our mission.
It Creates Community
It gives everyone that buys our gear the immediate knowledge that they are part of a larger group of people that all support the same thing. NeighborLink is a great community to be a part of, and Team NeighborLink is another community of people within that greater NL community.
Runners, cyclists, and any other dedicated athletes relate deeply with their sport because of the camaraderie that comes with competition, and the immense challenge that we place on ourselves to stay committed to our training plans and to do well. Some of us also use these activities as another way to connect to God as we connect with the nature around us and our physical weakness.
We believe in community and if having a way to create and connect to a community of people that have never heard of NeighborLink includes athletics, we want to explore the opportunity.
Economics & Fundraising
Nonprofits using athletics to raise money is nothing new. Orgs have been leveraging athletic events for years as a way to raise awareness and funds for their organizations. Fundraising is hard and our organizations need to be creative in how we fundraise to meet the needs placed on our organizations. NeighborLink is no different and we see the economic viability of using athletics as a fundraising tool.
We want to build Team NeighborLink for the longterm and how we're doing that is by doing the majority of our fundraising through the merchandise we create. Each item has a $10 donation built into it. We focus on small buy-in opportunities rather than by putting all our eggs in one basket by creating a 5k or focusing on having everyone run one big race, like a mini-marathon. We want to get committed people that are thinking about their overall health and commitment to the team that are willing to run multiple 5ks, ride their bike in a dozen events over the year, or wear their shirt every time they walk the neighborhood.
How are we going to really make any money from the team? Well, it's going to take members of the team setting goals and inviting people to donate as a way to support their efforts. We have to leverage the traditional ways people have fundraised in the past as well.
We also dream of small, grassroots events that only allow a certain amount of participants and break the mold of traditional events. We're dreaming about an epic, 80mile bike ride/race and a 50mile relay run this fall. Stay tuned for more details.
What gets us really excited is the fact that there are 9 cities using the NeighborLink model and 5 of those are "NeighborLink(enter city name)" and could be adding members to the Team NeighborLink community. More info on the NeighborLink Network, here. We have the potential to have hundreds of people wearing Team NeighborLink shirts all over the nation.
As the NeighborLink Network continues to grow, so does Team NeighborLink. We see other affiliate networks and large nonprofits, like World Vision and Team In Training, and see Team NeighborLink being on that level one day. We could even see major national sponsors that would allow us to have top-tier regional athletes competing in major events for us. It's all a dream at this point, but it's a dream we can see happening.
We need your help though. Team NeighborLink is nothing without it's members. Here are a few reasons why we need you.
1. Everyone's Welcome
Anyone can join the team and the purchase of any of our athletic gear gets you on that team. You choose your involvement from there, but you're one of us now. Join our email list and stay connected to what's going on.
2. Volunteer at Events
Every event we setup at is one more opportunity to share not only about Team NeighborLink, but why Team NeighborLink exists. To support the efforts of thousands of volunteers making a difference through serving the seniors, people with disabilities, and other families facing life's circumstances.
Standing at a booth or monitoring an intersection at a cycling race by itself may not be that exciting, but when you know what impact is has on NeighborLink, it can begin to make sense.
So, when we ask you to join us at those events, think about the impact it has on the organization and not just the event task.
3. Help Us Build The Team
We need people that are smarter than we are to help develop the team's model in order to become as great as we think our vision is. A vision is only a vision until people start working on implementing it. We hope there are a few of you out there that have been waiting for the opportunity to invest your time into a team like this. We need you. If that's you, reach out to us for a conversation.
Holding ropes in a NL shirt = exposure = more conversations or more Google searches = more volunteers = more coaches = more projects getting done = more donations = More practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God's love being carried out.
I hope this helps tell the story in a way that it makes more sense as to why we're doing Team NeighborLink. We're always open to conversations and ideas, so don't hesitate to reach out.