You May Not Realize it When it Happens, But a Kick in the Teeth May Be the Best Thing For You

By Nonprofit Marketing ArizonaFebruary 22, 2016

Mr. Disney knew what he was talking about. Our nonprofit organization, Recycle your Bicycle, is a 100% volunteer project, and a part of the Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents. We collect used bikes from the community all year long, and in the fall, hold workshops every Saturday for volunteers who refurbish them to “like-new” condition, and gift them to children in foster care during the holidays. “Everyone remembers their first bike,” said Gary Jones, member of the RYB team. “We got to give that memory to more than 750 children in foster care last year. This year, we’re aiming for 1,000.” 

Because the program relies solely on the support of generous sponsors, we struggle to have a place to store our bikes throughout the year, and then hold our workshops for 100 – 150 volunteers each weekend in the fall. This year, we were introduced to a generous donor who offered up some terrific space. Upon accepting his generous help, we gathered up our supplies, tools and bikes we had already collected earlier in the year and moved in.    

After hundreds of man hours invested in moving and setting up our new workshop, we were broken into and robbed. Despite the fact that our workshop was well marked with signage indicating that we were a project focused on helping kids in foster care, these hoodlums took some of our best bikes and worst of all, our tools. You can imagine that a bike repair project without tools for volunteers could lead to a serious drop in effectiveness. To top it off, our landlord decided that it was too risky for us to stay in our existing space because of his other tenants and we had to move …. just a few days away from our major drive for bikes!  

There are a lot of ways a team can react to this. We did the usual police reports but also know that the villains probably sold the bikes and tools too quickly for us to recover them. We could have closed down and discontinued the project or even postponed it  to this year. Instead, our team sat down and we reminded each other what it is like for a kid in foster care…things are unpredictable, other people make decisions about your life and you have to start over at a new home, school, whatever at the drop of a hat. It is stressful and heart breaking….a real, ‘kick in the teeth.’ So maybe it’s appropriate that we experience some of the challenges they do and it will make us better at what we do. 

We decided that we would use our misfortune as a rallying call and never hung our heads and fretted over our new circumstances. We notified our TV partner and told them what happened and then a local PR person who works with one of our partners reached out to other local media outlets and asked them for some help.We also reached out to our volunteers and asked them to spread the word that we needed some extraordinary help to pull off our project this year.   

The result was that folks in the community heard our story, offered up tools and even donations to help us out. Bike shops around town gave us support and one called their supplier who also offered up tools from their “dings and dented” supply. One of our partners was so moved by the story that she even made a personal donation to the program. Other friends of the program heard about our situation and volunteered to help us out. 

So now, our program has begun. We have started moving in to our new space, and have nearly replenished our supply of tools. Time will tell if our bike donations will rise this year with the extra communication, but we are confident that our brand and our project are stronger because more people have now heard of us and understand how we serve. The community also knows that we are a sustainable program and by bouncing back show that we are a program worth supporting as we continue to carry that positive attitude forward.  

This ‘kick in the teeth’ was no fun, but it caused us to re-evaluate what we do and why, and we have learned that we have the foundation in place to overcome adversity. We learned that reaching out to our partners, volunteers and team didn’t make us look weak, it helped us repair a bad situation. Like children in foster care, we were dealt a bad hand through nothing we had done. But we stayed in the game and remained focused on our plan because we know that what we do is changing the lives of the children we serve.        

For more information about the Recycle Your Bicycle program, please visit: