Since we’re putting out a couple of new intro videos across our social media channels and on our website, we wanted to provide a bit more background information, so everyone knows all about how we got started. Cardz for Kidz! partners with many top corporations, universities, and organizations across the globe. In addition, while tracking the production, the average quarter over quarter increase in handmade cards is over 30%. Professionals? Detailed strategy? Not so much. Hmmm…just in case anyone asks, our founder did take a Nonprofit Management Essential course provided by the Allstate Foundation in partnership with Northwestern University.
No One’s Overlooked. The first time our founder, Ike Nwankwo, got people to start making cards was in 2010. He got a group of children to work with young adults to make cards for pediatric patients at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, formerly known as Children’s Memorial Hospital (Lurie Hospital). His boss, Boe, highlighted that he could deliver the cards, but requested that none of them say anything like, “Get Well Soon,” “Feel Better,” “Hang in There,” and/or have religious messages. Now that we’ve expanded, avoiding such language was a great idea since more locations are agreeing and listing those same concerns—one concern is some of the patients have long-term conditions they may not overcome, so they strictly want encouraging cards rather than reminders of their conditions. Whenever we connect with new locations, we can agree and highlight that we steered clear of such language from the very beginning. In addition, how Cardz for Kidz! started to expand was—originally cards were just dropped off at Lurie Hospital, but then more groups wanted to join in. At the same point, our founder had a Basic Information Technology class where everyone had to talk about how they use technology at work. One classmate talked about how they worked at Advocate Kids—a current Cardz for Kidz! partner, who has sent 3,651 cards—and another classmate worked at Sinai Children’s Hospital, which closed their pediatric hospital but purchased a DVD player and sent 974 cards.
It’s interesting that just so happens two classmates worked at locations we needed.
Later, as more groups joined in and we expanded past the Chicagoland area, our founder used his contacts at a large children’s hospital (C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital) that he grew up volunteering at to try and start a partnership there. They immediately followed up to his emails, checking in and providing updates on their lives, but didn’t respond to receiving handmade cards. Then when there was another follow up email, strictly focused on sending cards to their large pediatric hospital, neither contact responded. Years later, the hospital PR department reached out to write an article and touched on Cardz for Kidz!, but still there wasn’t much interest in receiving these handmade cards.
THAT’S IT!! Too Small No Such Thing. “Based on our years of experience of working and volunteering with pediatric hospitals we know that people focus their donations on the large, renowned hospitals. Therefore, Cardz for Kidz! focuses our donations on small to midsize hospitals that often get overlooked by other groups. We know those children and families need support as well.” With that statement, most of the smaller hospitals really get excited and passionately agree. There was a hospital where a team member had to repeat themselves a bit more and raise their voice to confirm that NO, we at Cardz for Kidz! did NOT call them on accident. No, we were NOT trying to call the other large hospital. Once that was clarified, they were extremely excited and surprised since “no one” calls them. Now they’re one of our strong partners.
Consistent Growth. Originally, it was after things slowed down at church that our founder then took Cardz for Kidz! to work. Then the sister companies joined in and started making cards as well. While talking about Cardz for Kidz! with friends, these friends mentioned how they wanted to host card-making events at their respective offices. They stated how it’s a great idea and it should be a “certified” nonprofit. After glancing around, our founder saw that was a lot of work and that seemed unlikely. Then, suddenly, he talked to a friend from high school who was a lawyer who agreed to do the hard-original paperwork (Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws); including all the necessary legal jargon. Later, his neighbor from middle school and his sister’s best friend, who are both lawyers, agreed to review all the 501(c)(3) paperwork and his cousin designed Taylor—aka the original logo.
What started off as a small idea, to simply to reach the children at one local hospital, grew to impacting children in the Midwest, and then finally becoming a certified nonprofit, which was now looking to expand nationwide. Then, as stated in our introduction video, it became North America. After talking with a couple of friends, companies like Google® and Quicken Loans® proudly joined in with their logos. Google® introduced Cardz for Kidz! to a new platform where we could get more donations. THAT’S IT!! What if we use those increased donations that we’re getting from corporations (sparked from reaching out to our personal connections) to help send packages to children in Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHCs) and experiencing other trials across the globe, so they can feel like they have friends around the world. What was originally planned to be something small, we’ve (thankfully) had to expand and increase our goals for, as artists and groups started reaching out to us. Originally, we were just planning on reaching out to hospitals in certain cities in the USA…then expanding to more cities across the USA. Now, we’re trying to make sure we have multiple handmade card recipient locations on each continent!
Additional Assistance. Here’s that 100% open and honest portion. This section may get some folks in trouble, but we’re sticking to the rules of our blogs! Before we officially came up with the idea of focusing on locations that may get overlooked, we were striving to partner with the major hospital that was in the area where our founder and a top volunteer worked. At that time, we were exclusively working with hospitals. Their idea was we could send cards to the Ronald McDonald House Charity that was close by, maybe the siblings would walk over with them, then the staff could potentially think they were cool and ask where they got these cards from, then the RMHC staff would say they came from Cardz for Kidz!, and finally the hospital would reach out to start receiving handmade cards for their inpatients. Instead, we went with the focusing on smaller hospitals idea as we expanded, #toosmallnosuchthing. Thankfully, as time progressed, more groups started to learn about Cardz for Kidz! and we were getting cards from more locations. THAT’S IT!! Now that we had more cards coming in and were reaching our extended list of hospitals; we felt we should not only focus on the patients, but on the families as well, #familiestoo.
Based on the increased number of cards, our Cardz for Kidz! founder was able to encourage families since he personally understands what it’s like for families when a patient is going through a medical trial. A top volunteer can reach Ronald McDonald House Charities since she has been placed in a similar experience. In addition, what originally started with RMHCs across the United States has expanded to official partnerships in Brazil, Romania, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and many other special delivery locations.
There are a couple more unique (or some might say accidental) paths that highlight our expansion, but we want to focus on one more: our partnership with Maryville Academy in Illinois. We’re partnering with hospitals, homes, and nonprofits across the globe that are encouraging disheartened children and families. One story that caught our attention was when we heard that there were scared children who were separated from their parents and being held in troubling conditions. Due to our mission of trying to uplift spirits, we immediately utilized Google to see if we could find the locations where those children were being held. It was surprising, but we did find one article that there were a couple locations here in Illinois. We connected and sent both places some cards in Spanish for their children. We followed up with them to see if they wanted more handmade cards in the future. One declined and there was no response from the other. On another note, we heard about the Chicago Volunteer Expo and found out that we could set up a booth for people to come make cards and learn about our organization. The first year, things went so well they invited us to come back the next year to be one of the featured nonprofits—and people could volunteer to make handmade cards throughout the event.
The following year, we had to bring a BIG sign, a LOT of card-making supplies, handouts, and more. When our president found a parking spot, he tried to start unloading. He quickly realized he had too much to carry, but, thankfully, there was someone walking up who could potentially assist. She agreed. It turns out that she worked for Maryville Academy, listened to our description, and connected us to the correct people at Maryville Academy. Currently, we send them 50+ cards and 85% of the cards are in Spanish. Thankfully, we grabbed the cards at the last second before heading out to the first Volunteer Expo event. In addition, we’re grateful that through our Google researching we were able to find Maryville Academy; it’s just surprising how it just all worked out in the end.
Overall, our goals and mission statement have been modified and changed over the years. Since we’ve been growing, we did at least one more small change, #nomorechanges. When we review the changes and reflect on how things have grown over the years, it’s always impressive. We’re hoping to continue expanding. It’s always interesting how Cardz for Kidz! went from children at one church making cards for one hospital, to becoming a global nonprofit—making a global impact. If we compare the growth of the organization with the Maryville Academy partnership, we could see a lot of similarities. We definitely planned on reaching those children during their down times and uplifting their spirits. We didn’t anticipate that we’d be able to run into them at an event where we were recently selected to be one of the featured nonprofits. As mentioned before, we could say this start and rapid growth was ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, and we’re thankful for how you’ve helped throughout the process.