Stronger Together with Children Mending Hearts

Stronger Together with Children Mending Hearts

The non-profit organization, Children Mending Hearts, is spreading the love even during the COVID-19 pandemic. By connecting with the Stronger Together project, they’ve begun raising funds for their organization to continue with their programming next year.

Driven by empathy and kindness, Children Mending Hearts is an organization that equips children with the skills needed to connect with their emotions and the world around them. As a non-profit that works in schools, Children Mending Hearts has encountered more than one road block in the wake of COVID-19. While selling merch online is only a part of the story, it’s been a powerful step in helping them continue offering their services and connecting with donors.

We would love to start by learning more about your mission. What is the story behind Children Mending Hearts?

Children Mending Hearts was founded by filmmakers Lysa and Grant Heslov in 2008 after taking in a family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and several trips to war-torn countries like Sudan where Lysa connected to children through art.

Lysa found herself wanting to empower children in the U.S. and beyond, to show empathy and help other children affected by poverty, violence or other painful circumstances such as bullying.

So now for over 12 years, Children Mending Hearts has been dedicated to combating bullying and intolerance by inspiring empathy in children through art and service-learning programs.

That sounds like really great work. How has your organization been affected by COVID-19?

Our non-profit has been incredibly impacted. As an educational arts organization, we have our programs in over 100 schools across the country. With schools’ shutdown for the foreseeable future, many of our programs have been suspended. This has left countless students without important social-emotional and artistic learning elements.

Also, with the closing of schools and the abrupt end of our programming for the year, we’re unable to collect metrics on the impact that we’ve had on our students and their classroom climates. This is invaluable data, especially in regards to us getting funding for the next school year.

Our yearly fundraising event, Empathy Rocks, has likewise been postponed. This event is where we collect a majority of our donations that allow us to continue to help children not only on a day to day basis, but when emergencies pop-up.

Losing an opportunity for funding as a non-profit is likely very frustrating. Why did you start selling merch? Why did you choose Spreadshop as the platform to do this? 

The biggest attraction we had to Spreadshop was it was print-on-demand. Since we’re a small non-profit, we don’t have the resources or space to produce and store a full run of T-shirts. What got us to stay was Spreadshops affordable prices, ease of use, and great reviews. It also was incredibly easy to integrate it seamlessly into our website!

How have you been marketing your Shop?

We’ve tied the launch of our shop into our new website of resources for at-home learning. Because we can’t teach in the classroom, we’ve created a new website full of resources for teachers, parents, and students. These lessons, activities, and research are completely free. We’re also now offering our classes on Zoom, free to any child who wants to take part.

We’ve ear-marked all funds raised from our shirts to supporting these live classes. By allowing our free lessons to continue at home, we’re not only making sure that kids come out of this with a heightened level of kindness and understanding, but that they are able to use our lessons to process their feelings during quarantine.

To market our shop, we created a collection of model photos using stock images, which we then used to create a social media campaign and a newsletter that we sent to our donor base. We also have our teachers wearing the shirt during our class, and have done live videos to promote the shirt.

What has the response been like from your customers and donors?

The response has been incredible. The shirt’s message really resonates with our customers and donors. Since we focus on spreading empathy, we wanted the shirt to be a reminder of the importance of empathy during the pandemic.

We quarantine because of empathy— to protect others who may get sick. To flatten the curve. Empathy is also why we’re checking in on our elderly neighbors, and thanking the essential workers who are putting themselves at risk to take care of us.

Children Mending Hearts created the “Separate Together” shirt to remind everyone that through empathy, it does not matter that we are isolated. We are together.

Here are some of the comments we’ve gotten from our donors:
“Proud Super Empath ??❤”
“Absolutely I’m going to wear in Malibu @beach -soonyour my hero”
“Ordering now!! Love them”
“I ordered mine, can’t wait to throw it into my alternating 3 outfits ? & Jewels’s ❤️”

What a wonderful response! How did you create the designs you are offering in your Shop?

Our whole team came together to brainstorm ideas about what sort of message we wanted on our shirt. We then workshopped those ideas until we settled on the simple and straightforward “Separate, Together.”

Because this is a very specific fundraiser, we wanted to make things as simple as possible for our donors. We decided to limit it to two common/neutral colors – black and grey – and one shirt design for men, women, and children.

The actual design was created by downloading fonts with a commercial license, incorporating our logo, and adding hand drawn flourishes in a free program called Inkscape.

Any advice for other businesses that are thinking of selling merch, opening a Spreadshop or that are new to print-on-demand?

Have a clear vision of what you’re making and why.

It’s tempting to put up a lot of designs in a lot of varieties, but indecisiveness and lack of purpose can keep people from committing to a purchase. If you’re excited about a design, you’re able to sell it.

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