2016 is wrapping up! Mike Wakeland, our CEO, shares his thoughts on our many victories, and the way forward. Take it away, Mike!
What a year 2016 has been! It seems like only yesterday it was just beginning, and we were talking about what we wanted to accomplish in the coming months.Time continues to fly by, and DialogueDirect continues to soar.
This year was full of adventure, travel opportunities, new campaigns, and new clients. To me, it’s the journey to reach those goals that I know we’ll remember the most. Yes, the results are important, but the journey to achieve those results is what we’ll reminisce about. Stories about the ups, downs, and everything in the middle. It’s the adventure we strive for. The stories of victories and the stories of the ones that could have been.
Much of our success in 2016 was due to expanding our charity partnerships and strengthening our core staff. DialogueDirect North America tested with new partners, and increased our capacity with Save The Children USA, The Nature Conservancy, Child Fund International, UNICEF Mexico, Greenpeace Mexico, Save the Children Mexico, and welcomed our newest partnership with the ASPCA. Who doesn’t love puppies and kittens?
With all the excitement this year, we were still able to enjoy some sun in the fun. The DD USA team had the opportunity to travel east for Vietnam, to see firsthand the amazing work Save the Children does in Vietnam each day. In September, DD USA and DD Mexico ventured south to the beautiful island of Aruba for a little R&R. In May, DD Mexico explored their amazing country with a visit to the historical city of Querétaro. These events are not only rewards for a job well done, but the building blocks of the tight-knit professional relationships we strive for at DialogueDirect. We are a family, and family sticks together.
As I sit here in a hotel lobby in Mexico City, a two man band plays the most appropriate song, “Everyone Wants to Rule the World,” I reflect on what DialgoueDirect aspires to do each and every day. It feels like the band, and that song, are talking to us, the dedicated people who put on their armor each and every day, not to rule the world, but to change it for the better. Is it an easy task? No, just ask the countless team members who work in the sunshine, rain, snow, and yes, the bitter cold. The ones who hear one hundred “No’s” each day, and have the courage to fight for that “Yes!” They’re fighting for the idea that we can change the world for everyone. They’re fighting for the belief that our voice can make a difference.
As human beings, we all want the same things, no matter where we’ve come from. We want happiness, we want better lives for our fellow humans, we want to leave this earth a better place than we arrived. Isn’t that how we hope to be judged? That we did our part?
As the sun comes up each day, I continue to reflect on the work we do at DialogueDirect. It is such an amazing organization that we are all part of. We have the opportunity not only to make a living by helping others, but to become better people ourselves. We lay our heads on our pillows at the end of the day knowing we have contributed to humanity.
To the team members on the front lines, and to the office staff supporting our efforts, I want to thank you for another amazing year at DialgoueDirect. This team continues to impress, and elevates our efforts to another level. May each of you enjoy your holidays, and may 2017 bring you much success!
Thanks for guiding us through another great year, Mike! See you again in 2017!
Want to join us in the new year? You can find out more about our career opportunities here: DialogueDirect Careers Page
We took another trip to see the work Save The Children does on the ground, this time in Mexico!
Our fundraisers in Mexico recently had the opportunity to visit one of Save the Children’s Community Development Centers, located in southern Mexico City. As avid fundraisers for Save, they jumped at the chance to see the change they’d worked so hard for happening in real time, and eagerly departed for the Amecalli center. Robin and Abril, two top notch fundraisers, shared their reflections with us.
We visited one of Save the Children’s Community Childhood Development Centers (CCDI), located in the southern part of Mexico City. The center is called “Amecalli” and was founded in 2006. This center initially provided care to a small group of just twenty children, but now serves over one hundred children and their families.
The community center itself consists of two levels, a courtyard, an orchard, and clean bathrooms, providing a serene, harmonious space for children to learn and play. Inside, there are classrooms, where children are divided by age, and a library. The walls are covered in letters, drawings, paintings, informational programs, and inspirational slogan posters.
Children from the ages of one to six receive care in the Early Childhood development center, most of whom live in the local community. The CCDI’s early childhood program is a huge help to parents that have to work extended hours, especially single mothers, and the center’s workshops also provide single mothers with the chance to further their own education.
Maintenance, materials and food are provided by the community through voluntary contributions. However, institutions like SEDESOL (Mexico’s Secretariat of Social Development) also participate, and contribute to training program implementation.
The center follows a holistic education approach. It teaches math, reading and other essential skills, but also fosters artistic expression and critical thinking skills. The center’s teachers all come from the community it serves, and dedicate themselves fully to educating their students. Most of them do not have college degrees, but are trained to teach by Save the Children, and constantly receive additional training, to provide their kids with the best education possible.
The center’s cultivation of their own orchards, the way the staff prepares food, the ban on sugary drinks for the kids, and the enforcement of excellent hygiene all reflect the depth of consideration for the children’s development. These programs also work to educate parents on ways they can improve their own health and hygiene, and promote healthy living throughout the community.
Quetzalli, the current manager of the CCDI, stood out to me as a particularly noteworthy success story for the center. As a child, her mother left her in the care of the community center, and unfortunately, never came back for her. Today, at 21, Quetzalli manages the center, and teaches alongside the teachers who helped raised her, running her own preschool group.
There is more work to be done. The center wants to offer services to one hundred and fifty children, include collaborative programs with the National Institute for Adult Education, and implement more nutrition and addiction prevention programs. But they have made great strides, and I was so inspired by what I saw!
When we arrived at the center I thought it would be like an orphanage, full of sadness and misery. I knew I was about to live an experience that would leave its mark on me forever. It did, but not in the way I imagined. Instead of a depressing orphanage, I found a world full of imagination and order.
Instead of suffering children, I found the opposite. I found children who love to play, full of curiosity. I could see by the way they talked, ran, and played together, how grateful, happy, and excited they were to receive the love and support of their sponsors, like me.
I saw a community of over a hundred children, who visit the center daily. This center teaches kids from kindergarten to high school, so it’s a diverse crowd. I immediately noticed everyone’s attention to hygiene: after they eat, the children get up from their table in an orderly manner, collect their dirty dishes, give thanks for their food, and form a line to brush their teeth.
After watching the kids learn and play, we learned about the services the community center provides. They cooperate with other local programs to provide the community with fantastic tools like a computer room, continuing education programs for high school graduates, and tutors for children who need extra help. These programs also empower parents with tools for managing their businesses, provide extra meals to families who need them, and host childhood development workshops for new parents.
For the first time, I saw the change my work has created for this community, and for these children. I saw that we are changing the lives of thousands of children, and that has inspired me to continue supporting them, and urging others to do so, too. I am definitely a different person now that I’ve seen the change we’ve made.
Thanks again to our incredible partner, Save the Children, for the opportunity!
Want to make a difference with Save The Children? You can learn more about our career opportunities on our careers page.
A few of the places we’ve been this year: Baltimore, Orlando, Aruba, Vietnam, Nepal, and Mexico. We’ve traveled more this year than we ever have before, and we love the results we’re seeing! Every time our fundraisers get on the road, we see heightened energy, a renewed sense of purpose, and huge growth in our fundraising performance.
What is it about traveling that helps fundraisers grow? I asked our Regional Training Manager, Nicholas Mirsky. Nick has been with us for six years, and he’s seen it all. He’s trained fundraisers from sea to shining sea, in Portland, Boston, San Francisco, New York City, and many cities in between. I wanted Nick’s insight on how traveling expands a fundraiser’s horizons and capabilities, and he shared his thoughts. Take a look!
There and Back Again: A Fundraiser’s Tale
By Nicholas Mirsky
I began my experience with DialogueDirect almost 6 years ago to the day. Over the years, I have had so many wonderful opportunities to see this amazing country, and on a few occasions I’ve even been given the chance to explore different continents as an ambassador for our company. I’ve been asked to share a few of my experiences and any sagely advice I might possess. I’ll frame this with a few quotes from a sage I love, J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord Of The Rings.
I came to DialogueDirect because I needed to work, and I, like every other 20-something-year-old, had no idea what I wanted to do, or who I wanted to be. The only thing I knew about myself, entering this company, was that I wanted to make a difference and I wanted see more of the world.
My first opportunity for travel came when my city coordinator asked me if I wanted to go to DC the following week. Someone had dropped out of the scheduled trip, and I jumped at the chance. I learned on my first day of the trip that traveling can be very scary. My first couple of hours in DC were tough; the objections were much harder, nobody seemed to have enough money, or time, or empathy, or trust, and I felt out of my element. Going into lunch on zero donors, while traveling for the first time ever, gave me a sinking feeling. A quick pep talk from my Team Leader and taking a mental reset of lunch, helped me turn it around and I got on board. By the end of the day, I got four kids sponsored and by the end of the week I had a personal best of twenty donors in a week. When I stopped thinking negatively, I realized that people everywhere are basically the same. Ultimately, traveling early in my career with DialogueDirect taught me to take personal accountability and to practice positive belief. After all, if people everywhere are the same, then I can succeed anywhere.
Between my first trip to DC and my three-year anniversary, I consistently traveled every few months. These trips helped me build better relationships with my team and colleagues in other markets, but most importantly they helped me feel more confident. When I was promoted to Campaign Coordinator, I had a wealth of successful trips under my belt and this helped me feel like I could accomplish anything. When it came time to run my own market, I was left with limited options because New York City, the greatest city ever built (in my incredibly biased opinion), already had a City Coordinator, and my unwillingness to move meant I was stuck. Self-imposed limits, geographic ones especially for the aspiring City Coordinator, are barriers that we create for ourselves. That’s when Mike Wakeland, our CEO, leader and friend, asked me to move to Chicago to take on a leadership role there, and help the campaign during what would become the coldest winter ever (seriously, look it up.)
I had mixed feelings to say the least. I knew I wanted to grow, and that in Chicago I would be given the chance, even if it meant picking up my life in NYC and moving. Ultimately, my desire to grow accepted the frigid cold of polar vortex Chicago. I spent three months in Chicago helping them build followed by two months in Houston helping them build followed by a rotating roll between Boston and New York helping my teams in both markets build. All the while each experience helped me grow as a leader, manager, and person. I spent the better part of 9 months traveling, not sleeping in my own bed, and forming the foundation of some meaningful and lasting friendships. Three years into the job, all I knew was that I wanted to grow, and after four years I knew that it was exposure through travel that allowed for me to develop personally and professionally.
Fast forward to the present. Tonight I sleep in my own bed but soon I will venture out west for a three-week road trip, followed by another excursion to Florida, and I know more travel will follow shortly in 2017. My current role as Regional Trainer has me on the road a lot but I would trade the comfort of my own bed for the wealth of my experience any day. In six years’ time traveling for DialogueDirect, I am lucky enough to have:
• Eaten deep dish in Chicago
• Walked over the Brooklyn Bridge
• Seen the monuments of our nation’s capital
• Swam along Miami beach
• Eaten Texas BBQ in Houston
• Eaten fried plantains on the Colombian Caribbean coast
• Visited a Leinster Rugby match in Dublin, Ireland
• Fundraised on Paul Revere’s Freedom Trail in Boston
The first and only time I traveled to Connecticut (my home state) for work, Andreas Leitner, the original face-to-face fundraiser and founder of DialogueDirect, told our group of budding managers that dialoguing changed him. It made him better, smarter, and kinder. Dialoguing has also changed me in my short six years in the business. Travel has opened my eyes to the world, and I am a better, and more understanding person because of it.
In summary, my only piece of advice, is to remove self-imposed barriers, get out there, and say yes when someone offers you the chance to travel (and don’t forget to crush your goals on your trip). We never know who we will become after spending time away, but every new experience gives us the opportunity to grow. So get out there, see what Dialogue Direct has to offer, make a meaningful impact and build real relationships along the way.
Want to travel the world with us, and fundraise for incredible charities? You can find more about our careers here: DialogueDirect Careers Page