I've had some recent conversations with a talented Millennial looking to make positive social impact, Jessica Henry, director of marketing and communications (and master storyteller) for the exceptional nonprofit, Not For Sale.
Both Jessica and I made career shifts into the social cause arena via the for-profit worlds of advertising (Jessica), finance and luxury fashion (that would be me). We quickly bonded over that pivot in our career paths as well as our thoughts on 'branding' and trying to create loyalty via that somewhat elusive "immersive brand experience."
I asked Jessica what attracted her to nonprofits and Not For Sale and she put it in these terms: "Very rarely do you find a cause in this space that is innovative and thinking outside the box. Within that number, it becomes even harder to find a team of people that are approaching social change like Steve Jobs approached mobile technology -- that is, with dogged excellence in pursuit of doing things that no one has done before."
Jessica specifically saw and continues to see Not For Sale as an organization that "isn't looking at philanthropy alone... " -- i.e., fundraising and the usual engagement funnels. Rather, in her words, "We found that we needed more effective and efficient ways of fighting human trafficking than just asking for donations and giving hand outs; neither option was sustainable or scalable. That's why Not For Sale creates social enterprises that link both consumers and identified high-trafficked communities around the world by products people actually want to buy."
Throughout our conversation, Jessica really tapped into the fact that Not For Sale understands that their advocates are brand ambassadors and thus, have created an accessible platform that invites anyone to communicate on the basis of hope, specifically, that, "People want to be a part of an exciting story and a winning team, and that's made up of everyone, every artist, businessman and musician, advancing our mission to end slavery. Human trafficking is an overwhelming issue, but we're seeing traction and movement and it's inspiring people. You can tell."
Jessica really is passionate about the efforts Not For Sale makes to include everyone in the conversation. She immediately suggested I watch this video while we spoke to get a greater understanding of their efforts, which started as a challenge to envision a plan to end slavery in the Peruvian Amazon.
The Birth of REBBL
Jessica also expressed how Not For Sale has a multi-faceted vision that synchs well with her core values and passions (and she pointed out that these are very similar to overall Millennial values and passions): "...[N]ot only did I want to really invest myself with a mission where everyone is on the same boat and poised and committed to make long standing change..." but that there was a "gut feeling" an "emotional ingredient" in the mix that compelling her to dedicate her talents to Not For Sale. Additionally, Jessica said that she "marvels at the brainpower" and "dedication to excellence" across diverse age groups within the entire team at Not For Sale.
Ultimately, Jessica pointed out that what is important here with such a difficult issue is that Not for Sale holistically understands that overcoming major issues takes singular steps and noted that Allison Trowbridge, Sr. Director of Brand and Strategic Relationships at the organization, focused the story of their mission in accessible terms from the very start.
Not For Sale has created an experience for people to take action. They've chosen this approach to disrupt the usual pathways for non-profit engagement, which is usually a closed, one-way path. Jessica said, "[T]his is where Not For Sale really stands out."
Check out their dashboard on how you can get involved -- maybe you only have one hour a month to do something? There is a tool to help you educate yourself on the issue and talk about it with your peers. Maybe you are a high school athlete and wonder how you can make a difference? Get your team to wear patches on their uniforms that say TEAM NOT FOR SALE and get the conversation rolling.
Circling back a bit here, throughout my conversation with Jessica, we discussed the how and why people choose to 'engage' in a brand and how a lot depends on the manner in which a brand defines themselves. Not for Sale is inclusive and welcomes any one single person to step in and find a way to meaningfully be part of their mission (or brand... as some brands... would call it). Not for Sale has created that 'immersive online experience' for anyone to investigate, educate, engage and share -- it feels like it fits an individual 'bespoke' approach to social cause engagement.
Finally, only when we begin to make ourselves aware at home about the repercussions of human trafficking in all it's forms and make responsible choices with our buying habits and time -- can we begin to move the dial by helping people out of dire economic circumstances towards a brighter future. Millennials like Jessica are dedicated to a commitment towards acting on the social impact they bring with their own personal brand platforms. This is what I know as "brand equity" and it is priceless if we want to make a difference in the world.
Follow Michelle S. Melendez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/88perry