The Abercrombie & Fitch Co. volunteer toured Flying Horse Farms, admiring the pond where many campers catch their first fish, the archery zone where they dance after hitting a bull’s-eye and the dining hall where they sing for their suppers.
A&F had been seeking a way to engage its associates — many from around the world — in the Columbus community. This place, he thought, they would love.
He was right.
The A&F team dove into the camp’s mission headfirst. Associates invested weeks painting our WellNest to make it the happiest hospital on Earth. They volunteered as camp counselors. They held sample sales and gave us the proceeds.
Five years later, what started as one visit has evolved into a game-changing partnership for not just our camp but also for our worldwide network of camps.
Setting up the model
A&F has just announced an official partnership with the SeriousFun Children’s Network. Founded in 1988 by actor, philanthropist and Ohio native Paul Newman, the Network is a community of independently managed and financed camps and programs around the world creating opportunities for children with serious illnesses.
A&F has pledged to give the network at least $7.5 million over the next five years.
It will donate more than 50,000 T-shirts a year to camps. And it will send more than 50 associates a year to camps across the globe to serve as summer camp counselors — without them having to use vacation time to do it.
It is a model partnership, and we are incredibly grateful.
How we got there
So, how do nonprofits and corporate partners create a win-win relationship? Here’s what we’ve learned:
- Dream big, but start small — Yes, you have to dream big to achieve big, but million dollar donations don’t happen overnight. Authentic engagement is key to sustainable relationships.
- Engage associates organically — Our relationship with A&F was built by a groundswell of associate enthusiasm, not a top-down directive.
- Leverage one another’s assets — Recognize what each party can offer and leverage those assets to simultaneously lift you both. Camp, for example, has hosted A&F staff retreats, offering an inspiring haven for their team. And A&F artists have designed and painted our WellNest, theater scrims and signage around camp.
- Be creative — There is not a one-size-fits-all model for successful partnerships. Be willing to meet your partners where they are. If you want your partners to go all in for you, show that you’re willing to go all in for them. Everyone — and most importantly, in our case, the campers — wins.
Set the bar high — Going above and beyond not only shows the partner you’re working with what a great partner you are, but it also shows future partners what a great partner you can be. The more we all inspire each other, the better the work — and the better the world.
Mimi Dane is the CEO of Flying Horse Farms, a camp for children with serious illnesses. Located in Mt. Gilead, the camp serves hundreds of children each year — free of charge. The camp is a member of the SeriousFun Children’s Network, the world’s largest family of camps for children with serious illnesses, which was founded in 1988 by Ohio native Paul Newman.