It wasn’t a group David Potter ever dreamed he would be a part of, but at 10 years old he was forced to join.
Lost & Found Grief Center calls the group the 1 in 12, which represents the number of children in Missouri who will experience the death of a parent or sibling before they turn 18 years old.
While his family was serving as missionaries in the Dominican Republic, Potter’s mother and father were murdered in their sleep. Potter said he was the one who discovered the tragic scene. After the funeral, he said people moved on with their lives. But for him, just existing was difficult.
“Most people won’t mention someone’s name when they die,” he said. “In reality, you need to talk about it.
“That’s what I love about Lost & Found. We talk about it.”
Potter, who owns insurance firm David Potter Agency Inc., said he wishes he had a support like the Springfield-based counseling center when he was a kid. And that’s why he supports the agency today.
His latest involvement comes as an ambassador for the nonprofit’s “I am the 1 in 12” campaign, happening in November during Children’s Grief Awareness Month. Potter is one of 12 community and business leaders who are sharing their stories of loss through Lost & Found’s social media channels. Others include Brad Thomas, president of Silver Dollar City Attractions; Dori Grinder, vice president of membership for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce; and Ron Prenger, senior vice president and chief hospital officer with CoxHealth.
Karen Scott, co-founder and executive director emeritus of Lost & Found, said the campaign helps spotlight the shocking statistic.
“What we’re trying to highlight is that with help, people do survive and thrive,” she said.
Scott, whose organization serves 1,500 children and guardians a year, said highlighting successful businesspeople in the campaign was intentional.
The concept is not new. But Mostly Serious LLC Digital Marketing Analyst Becca Godsey said it’s taken on a new life in the digital age.
“It’s actually a really smart way to advance your brand and recognition very quickly, especially on the smaller level,” she said. “The value of micro-influencers is that it allows for brand conversation.”
For Lost & Found, Marketing Coordinator Lizz Walrath said Facebook posts have received 28,000 impressions two weeks into the first-time campaign. She said the only costs associated with the campaign are staff time, and they have been “blown away” by the engagement and conversations that have come from the social media campaign.
“The response has been so positive that we plan to continue the campaign throughout our upcoming 20th anniversary year,” Walrath said.
Godsey said nonprofits especially benefit from this type of campaign with brand ambassadors, or influencers, because their support is rooted in relationships.
“When we’re choosing to donate time or money, it’s because we have a personal connection,” she said. “When we have influencers that we feel connected to, that we respect, that we trust … it makes it easier for us to feel connected to that particular mission.”
Another nonprofit that has utilized micro-influencers is Harmony House. Through its annual iCare campaign, the agency raises awareness and funds to combat domestic violence in part through its community leaders and businesspeople. Among this year’s 10 iCare ambassadors are Brian Fogle, president of Community Foundation of the Ozarks; Rick Hughlett, preside of Rick’s Automotive Inc.; and Shelly Addington, vice president of UMB Financial Corp.
In its fifth year for the campaign, Harmony House officials estimate among billboards, digital ads, radio and TV spots, printed ads and social media, this year’s campaign netted 18 million impressions – a record for iCare.
“The ambassadors and awareness leaders are a large part of the visual impact iCare has across the community,” said Jared Alexander, Harmony House’s development director. “These are people and faces we all know, we all trust and who are local professionals that have a passion for our community’s overall health.”
Harmony House officials have said it costs roughly $6,000 a year to run the iCare campaign, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. The concept has been so successful locally, raising $260,000 in 2018, that the nonprofit began a beta test for a national campaign last year.
Joey Powell also has used influencers in her role as the public relations and marketing director at Friends of the Zoo/Dickerson Park Zoo.
She describes herself as the “anti-social media” media director, so when she joined the zoo, she knew she wanted to enlist the help of well-connected young professionals.
“I asked them to come out to the zoo,” she said. “I want nothing more than for them to experience cool things and share it.”
The volunteer team of 12 assembled in May and became known as The Flock. Powell said they post on social media regularly about the zoo with #TheFlock and #LoveDPZ, and the buzz has been evident. Powell said she isn’t tracking impressions because members are posting on their personal social accounts. But after a year, she will compare visitor numbers. The zoo had roughly 200,000 visitors last year.
“We’ve had people get a membership to the zoo and say, ‘I’ve heard of this Flock thing, what it is?’” she said. “It’s the best form of advertising. And it doesn’t cost me a dime.”
Powell said she organizes monthly visits to the zoo for members of The Flock, with activities ranging from after-hours dinners to shadowing zookeepers and feeding animals.
Among the 12 ambassadors of The Flock is Daniel Ogunyemi of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southwest Missouri, Ashley Norgard of Kutak Rock LLP and Britton Jobe, partner at Neale & Newman LLP.
“I hadn’t been to the zoo since I was a kid,” Jobe said. “It’s opened my eyes to what a fantastic community aspect that we’ve had.”
Powell said she will continue The Flock year-round to encourage people to visit the Zoo, as community influencers promoting the brand has proved to be a hit.
“It has worked better and been more rewarding and successful than I’ve ever imagined,” she said.
Starting a dialogue
Scott said the success of Lost & Found’s 1 in 12 campaign has come from the ambassadors, most of whom are financial supporters of Lost & Found or have served on the nonprofit’s board.
She’s hopeful the campaign is the start of building more awareness of Lost & Found.
“We are just awkward about grief in our society,” she said. “Some of the stories have elicited a lot of responses. Something in the story resonated with them.”
Silver Dollar City’s Thomas was 9 years old when his mom died from breast cancer. He said when he was a kid, resources to work through grief weren’t widely available. That’s why he is participating in the 1 in 12 campaign.
“Even for those of us whose loss was decades ago, the reality is that hole is still in our hearts,” he said.
“Most adults who lost a parent decades ago, it was more of a whisper than a conversation with how people would deal with us.
“Lost & Found allows children to talk boldly about their loss.”
He said the campaign is helping the community realize how many children are affected by grief.
According to the 2019 Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model, Missouri is ranked No. 13 in the nation for the highest concentration of bereaved children.
“I hope that the campaign makes grief a topic of conversation,” Thomas said, adding it will help bring awareness to the free resources at Lost & Found. “There is no reason a child in the Ozarks should be dealing with grief alone today.”
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