Tips From John Melia, Wounded Warrior Project
1. Recruit community evangelists. “You have to find people out there in the community who are going to talk about your cause. You have to build broad-based community support for your mission. And you have to have people that become evangelists for your cause. Evangelism opens up opportunities. People talking about you is important. If you’re in the nonprofit world and your cause is important enough to start a nonprofit around, then it’s important enough to build a broad base of community support around.”
2. Build your brand. “Your brand has to stand for something. In our case, our logo is one wounded guy carrying another wounded guy. But often we talk about the fact that that translates into the community. That’s on the battlefield. But into civilian life, into our communities, [the donor gets] to be the person that’s carrying that wounded warrior.
“We powerfully send that message that you’re part of this process. He or she carried him off the battlefield; you’ll carry him for the rest of his life. And that’s been important. Just from a pure business perspective, you have to have an identifiable brand. People have to see that brand, and they have to know what it means.”
3. Maintain accountability. “You actually have to do what you say you’re going to do.”
4. Don’t limit your supporter base. “We work really hard to involve the American people in our mission. It’s in our mission statement that we enlist the public’s aid for the needs of wounded service members. A lot of old-guard organizations do not enlist the public’s aid. If they’re environmentalist [organizations], they only enlist environmentalists. If they’re veterans organizations, they only enlist veterans. We very much have enlisted civilians and everyday Americans in our cause. And I think that has been really powerful.
“I think we’re one of the first veterans organizations that has said the citizenry is really part of our mission, because our guys are going to return to communities and they’re going to be just another guy down the street with this incredible experience — being a veteran, being wounded and coming back from that. But the most important piece of that to our organization is how do these guys and gals become leaders in their communities? Not just leaders amongst veterans, but leaders in their communities. So we equip them, working with other civilian citizens, to become community leaders.” — John Melia, founder and executive director, Wounded Warrior Project