Passionate Performance: Striving to Change the World with Mrs. Virginia American, Dhomonique Murphy
Did you know that 1 in 4 children in America will grow up never learning how to read? Readers2Leaders is committed to bringing hope, opportunity, and education to the front doorstep of every child we touch.
Dhomonique Murphy is a 3x Emmy Award-Winning Television Journalist and the reigning Mrs. Virginia American Dhomonique has appeared on stages across the nation and has been featured on The Steve Harvey Show, FOX, ABC, NBC, HSN, CBS , and countless radio, print, and local television platforms.
Dhomonique is also the founder of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Readers2Leaders, Inc. The Yellow Box Project is on a mission to put thousands of books by way of e-reader into the hands of children in underserved communities across the nation. (TheYellowBox.org)
Dhomonique is a leading industry expert in the field of personal and professional development. She is the owner and President of The Right Method (TheRightMethod.com). Dhomonique and a television crew traveled the nation in 2020 to interview some of the world’s most notable business icons and motivators. She conducted the interviews inside the living rooms of these individuals to learn their secrets of success. Dhomonique is now working to bring this to a national platform. She has been endorsed by the co-founder of Constant Contact Alec Stern, Shark Tank’s Kevin Harrington, New York Times Best Selling Author Sharon Lechter, co-founder of Priceline.com Jeff Hoffman, famed motivational speaker Brain Tracy, and many others.
Dhomonique is a published author of three books: A) RESET: Attitude is Everything, B) The Right Method Cookbook, and a contributing author on the bestselling book: 1Habit for Entrepreneurial Success alongside Les Brown.
Dhomonique and her husband Frank reside in northern Virginia (Arlington) with their two young sons Christian (2) and Christopher (1).
Did you know that 1 in 4 children in America will grow up never learning how to read? Read that statistic again. That’s 25% of children. WriteExpress Corporation. “Literacy Statistics.“ Begin to Read. Accessed April 16, 2014. According to the Reading Foundation, many academic and social issues can arise for children who are poor readers. We believe that every child has the potential to succeed in life and opportunities to read and learn should not be limited based on economic status. Readers2Leaders is committed to bringing hope, opportunity, and education to the front doorstep of every child we touch.
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, it’s Hugh Ballou. Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. Each week, we talk to people with a story to share, stories of what they have done to launch a nonprofit, what they have learned, what has helped them be successful in impacting people’s lives. Today, my guest is Dhomonique Murphy. She is in the DC area, on the other side of Virginia from where I am in Lynchburg. She’s got a story to share with you today. Before we get to your story, you impact people’s lives. Tell us about your life and what your passion is for impacting other people’s lives.
Dhomonique Murphy: First and foremost, thank you for having me on your show. I’m so excited to be here. I’m a big fan of yours and your work for many years. I love what you do and what you represent. Thank you for this opportunity.
A little bit about me. I am a student at heart. That is how I like to describe myself. If you take away the resume and the accolades, I love to learn. I am a thirsty learner. And I love to help people. If you want the resume version of it, my background is in television. I started very early on in my career hosting TV shows at the age of 14. My first show was called Whatever, and it was on the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis. I did that for four years before going on to obtain a degree in broadcast journalism. I have worked all over the country in television as a news anchor and TV host.
I transitioned recently into the world of entrepreneurism. I have a couple of companies. I am also the founder of a nonprofit called Readers to Leaders. We have a project called the Yellow Box Project.
I am the daughter of two teachers. I love teachers so much. Teachers should be paid way more. They are the backbone of our society. We all are where we are today because of teachers. I have a deep admiration for anyone in the educational arena. Mom and Dad, teachers. I grew up in a household with a working-class family, but my mom and dad always made sure I had books to read. Every weekend, my mom and I would go to the library, and I would pick out three books every Saturday. I would come back and read those books and get lost in stories. For me, I credit a lot of my success as a communicator and journalist to the gift my parents provided me as a child: access to books.
Fast forward many years. I am a mom now. I have two children: an almost-three-year-old and a one-year-old. They love books, but I make sure they have access to these books. Education is the greatest gift we can give anybody in the world.
A few years back, before the nonprofit was created, I was at an event in Fiji. There was a speaker on the stage who said, “One in four children will grow up to become illiterate adults.” I heard that, and there is no way I heard that correctly. I pulled her aside after that and asked, “Could you please tell me again what you said about kids and reading?” She said, “One in four children will grow up to become illiterate adults.” My natural reaction was, “Okay, that is a global statistic, right?” She said, “No, that’s in America.” I still said, “25%? A quarter of our population? There is no way.”
As a journalist, I like to dig. I started digging and found out that is the case, shockingly. One in four children will become illiterate if we don’t do something. It’s a massive problem we have on our hands. I went into schools in urban communities because I wanted to see firsthand for myself how big of an issue this is. In a lot of urban and rural settings, a lot of the books in these schools or aftercare programs are not catered to the students’ ages. You may have a class of fifth graders with books for kindergarteners. You see that often. A lot of the books are dilapidated, missing pages or covers. A lot of the instructors are not encouraging students to read.
That was the big eye-opener for me. As a mom myself, I can’t sit back now that I have this information and not do something. That would be a big disservice to the world now that I have the information. I said, “Okay, here we go. Creating a nonprofit.” Everyone said, “What? You’re going to create a nonprofit? That’s not your wheelhouse. Your wheelhouse is business and television.” I said, “I know, but this is such a big issue. I firmly believe that together, we can end childhood illiteracy. We can end this in our lifetime if we come together.” I do firmly believe that. How cool is it to imagine that you can be part of the solution to end childhood illiteracy in your lifetime? Talk about sleeping great at night.
Started the process of creating a nonprofit from scratch with no experience. It’s been a journey. I’ve learned so much about the nonprofit space. I’ve made mistakes and created opportunities and aligned with the right people. We can get into more of that, but it’s been a wild ride in a good way.
Hugh: These are all the key success factors. I am a keynote speaker. Someone first put me on stage in 2007. I am a conductor, so it’s the first time I had to face my audience. People introduced me as an expert. I used to say, “I am a student of leadership.” I am a student of leadership still, but I am old enough to have made all of the mistakes at least once. I can claim the expert status.
A couple of interesting things. You used to live in Lynchburg. You were a news anchor at one of our affiliates.
Dhomonique: I was at ABC 13.
Hugh: You left before I got here. I hope it wasn’t because you heard I was coming.
Dhomonique: It was, but we’ll get to that another time.
Hugh: You’re over in the flat part with a lot of cars. They call it the Beltway.
Dhomonique: Very busy, yeah.
Hugh: You should move back over here. Behind you are some interesting things. There are some trophies, and there is your book. Before I get into questions about the nonprofit, tell us about what those are.
Dhomonique: Sure. These three statues that frame my head here are Emmy Awards. I am humbled and honored to have earned three Emmys in my career for journalism. One is focused on entertainment, and the other two are news-based stories for anchoring, reporting, hosting. They have been earned over the years from storytelling, which is something I specialize in. I love telling stories. I love learning and meeting people. This is something I am proud of.
The book is called Reset. It is a book that helps people reset their lives. There was a Gallup poll toward the end of last year that said 93% of people are disengaged in lives. We are just existing. We are not living. They are born and die at 20, but they are buried at 80. The reality of that is people are not excited to live. They don’t jump out of bed in the morning and say, “I can’t wait to change the world and be a part of society.” They’re not there. I get it. COVID has put a stamp on people. People are losing their jobs or dealing with insane levels of stress they have never dealt with before. Suicide rates are through the roof. Child abuse and domestic abuse rates are through the roof. People need help. It’s a very weird and difficult time we are in.
Reset was written before COVID-19 hit. It helps people work on their mindset and change their paradigm. If you are feeling stuck and frustrated and don’t know what to do, it’s a 30-day transformation with a physical workbook in the back to help you go through the steps of resetting yourself and your mind to help you feel good, feel invigorated. You can wake up excited in the morning. It teaches you how to transform your mindset.
Hugh: Wow. It’s an important time for nonprofit leaders and clergy to reposition ourselves and reinvent what we’re doing. It wasn’t working very well before, but certainly now, we have to rethink how we serve the communities that we’re called to serve. I am proud to tell you I have three grandchildren who are two, six, and twelve. They are all readers. You and I met on C-Suite Network. Joe Swinger had announced a couple of years ago he had launched a children’s book, and he gave me one for my granddaughter, Moira, and she read it to me a couple weeks ago. They all love their books and love sharing their books.
Tell us some stories about the impact of your work on children. Some of us forget we need to clearly talk about the impact we have on people’s lives. Do you have a story or two you could share with us?
Dhomonique: I have so many. These kids are just so amazing. It’s hard not to get choked up when you think about their stories. I can give you a couple.
Most recently, we were in Lynchburg a few weeks ago. We did a delivery at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lynchburg. I will explain after how we do these deliveries. It’s a Yellow Box Project, so it’s nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s an experience for these kids. We did a drop there. We went down there and the television crews came to cover the story. There was a young girl who was interviewed. I was a fly on the wall behind, listening in. The reporter asked this young lady, “What does this mean to you, to have this device?” We gave them Kindle e-readers. She says, “I can now go to college.” I heard that. I asked her later, “Sweetheart, what did you say?” She said with full confidence, “I can now go to college.” I said, “Did you honestly think before you got that device you couldn’t go to college?” She said, “Yes.”
A lot of these children, they don’t have hope. They don’t have a lot of resources. Someone told them a long time ago they won’t amount to anything because of where they came from, where they were born, where they live. They were told, “You’re not going to be anything.” She truly believed she could not be successful until she got a Kindle e-reader. At the very core, if we can do something to change the mindset of these children to believe they can be amazing, oh my gosh. It really sat with me. It bothered me: Here we have this young woman who can go on to be whatever she wants. She could be a teacher, nurse, doctor, lawyer, CEO, firefighter, doesn’t matter. But she believed until she got that device that she wasn’t good enough, that she wasn’t worthy of it.
Changing the mindset of these children, going in and telling them, “You are amazing. Period. You can do whatever you want to do. You are so incredible. You have the same skillsets as anybody else. You can do it.” A lot of these kids don’t fall into that category. The kids we serve live in neighborhoods where they can hear gunshots every day, and that’s normal. Before COVID-19, these kids were going to school walking past drug dealers to get on the school bus. These kids don’t see a lot of happy, bright things at all. It’s a very dark community. If we can shed any bit of light on these children, pour love on them, we have done our job. Those are two examples.
I had one family who the kids were raised by their grandmother because the father was a murder/suicide. The father killed the mother and then killed himself. The grandma had no money at all. She broke down and said, “Oh my gosh, this will help these kids so much because I can’t afford to give them anything. All I can do is keep a roof over their head and give them food. I can’t do these things.” The gifts of literacy in these communities is literally changing the world. I get choked up. It’s emotional, being a part of it.
Hugh: You ought to. That’s powerful. What ages are you targeting?
Dhomonique: Originally it was 0-18. Then we figured 0 is not quite the best market to target. The Kindles we deliver have audiobooks on them. We are targeting 3-18, but our niche is 3-12. We do expand to 18. If there is a teenager, they absolutely qualify for our products.
Hugh: Do you target certain kinds of books?
Dhomonique: Yeah. Let me tell you the concept first so everyone understand how it works. It’s called the Yellow Box Project, and our company is called Readers to Leaders. How it works is we hand-deliver bright yellow boxes. I call them the box of sunshine. Inside they are loaded with tissue paper, a Kindle e-reader, and all the accessories. They don’t pay for warranties or pre-loaded books. 10,000+ books and audiobooks are pre-loaded.
Another thing we are adding into the book this year, which wasn’t there last year, is an affirmations coloring book. The kids will have these affirmations. For those who don’t know, an affirmation is a saying that builds character development. When they color them in, they become real, and they have messages like, “I am amazing. I am smart. I am strong. I am brave. I am awesome.” When they color them in, they come to life. There are 52 because there are 52 weeks in a year. They color them in, tear them out, and tape them on their locker or bathroom mirror. We encourage them every day to look at themselves in the mirror morning and night and say 10 times in a row, “I am amazing,” which builds character development into the children. The coloring book kids are representative of children all over the world. Every kid who gets one will find a child who looks something like them, which is important, too.
Hugh: This is substantial. The website is TheYellowBox.org.
Dhomonique: I want to clarify there are two Readers to Leaders. One is YellowBox.org. That’s us. The other one is in Dallas, and we are not affiliated with them.
Hugh: If they want more information, they can go to the contact page there. Kids are amazing. I served megachurches for 40 years as a music director. I always worked with the third through sixth graders in choirs. They have great things to do. When I taught middle school, I taught music. I did a full production of Godspell with sixth graders one year. Everyone said, “It’s hard. How did you do it?” I said, “I never told them it was hard.” It’s potential ready to go. Sometimes we’re the ones who limit. Giving them the tools and affirmations when sometimes they don’t have it anywhere else is remarkable.
I think I heard in what you said that you were in Lynchburg, and you didn’t call me for coffee? Later.
You have a magic wand that looks like a conductor’s baton. You wave your magic wand, and you said 12 months. How about in five years? What does the future look like for this project?
Dhomonique: Three to four years from now, everyone in America will know about the Yellow Box Project. Period. That is the mission. We delivered 460,000 books by way of e-reader in 2020. That was our first year. This year, my goal is four million. We are expanding throughout the USA. Last year, we were popcorning it. We did drops in Missouri, Illinois, Virginia, and the DC area. This year, we are hitting hard on Virginia, expanding to the mid-Atlantic, expanding all over. Then this will be a global program.
Literacy is fundamental everywhere. I don’t have the numbers of other countries, but I do know in America one in four will be illiterate. I can only imagine that number is even worse if we look at it from a global standpoint. We are going fast. I am not stopping. There is an amazing team of people. This is not a Dhomonique thing. This is an everyone thing. If folks are listening and want to get involved, we just built a board of directors out. There are more people advocating and fundraising. We are trying to get into the pockets of all of these communities across the country.
In three to four years, I see this as being global and also being a household name. When you think of Readers to Leaders, you’re like, “The Yellow Box Project? I have heard of that.”
Hugh: If folks are interested, they can reach out to Contact@TheYellowBox.org.
Dhomonique, you had a pretty important career as a journalist and entertainer in the media. You had this idea to start a nonprofit. You applied for it and got it, and here’s where we’re going. You got a team, and it was a slam dunk, right? Everything worked out? No? So far, you’ve hit some of the main leadership success factors that we teach in SynerVision. Everything you have talked about, we tell people they need to do. The latest one was surround yourself with successful people. Tell us what the learning curve was and the leadership lessons you learned. What would you share with other people about taking your vision and making it real?
Dhomonique: How much time do you have? It was not easy. Anyone who tells you that it is is not telling you the truth. It takes a village. Hear my words. It takes a village to do something like this. You are not going to start a nonprofit and change the world by yourself. It doesn’t happen that way because it is- I wanted to create something and have the world be a part of it, something that was bigger than all of us. When you start a nonprofit, you cannot worry about the how. It’s the how that stops people every time. When this was created, I had zero experience in the nonprofit world. Zero. But we’re going to do it. We’re not going to worry about how. We are just going to have this vision of what it is, and we’re going to do it. We’re just going to take it one step at a time.
First step: Let’s become official. Next step: Build a website. And we have a new one coming out in a few weeks. You’re constantly reinventing. The next step, the next step, the next step.
For me, I am going to be super transparent because people need to hear this. It wasn’t easy at all. When I first started, I remember having 18-hour days. I still work close to 12-hour days seven days a week. In the beginning, it was 18 hours. A lot of it was me studying the space. How do you start a nonprofit? How does it work? What is an EIN? How do I get grants? How do I align with people? How do I really run it? Do I hire a staff? It’s a nonprofit; there is no money. How do we make this work? It was a lot of research in the beginning.
If I can give a lesson to anybody out there listening to this, again, it takes a village. When you try to do it all yourself, and that’s what happened with me in the beginning, I said, “I’m going to do everything. I will do all the administrative work, help build the website, and on and on.” I was spread so thin that nothing was getting done. I knew I had to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to make this work. Let me start asking for advice. Let me start asking. That’s the word: ask. Ask for help. Ask, “Can I have 10 minutes of your time? Can you help us? Let’s do this together.” Asking is a beautiful thing. I am a firm believer that if you ask, you should give to get. I am not a person who just takes. There is some giveback. I am not saying financially, but make sure you are giving as well as receiving if you want people to help you.
There is a resource that I found that was great that was called Taproot. Look up Taproot. The logo is a yellow T. I reached out and set up an account. They provide you with pro bono services, volunteers who want to donate their time. I was able to get a team of four people to help. I had someone who specialized in project management, a woman who specialized in PR, a web developer who is on our board now, and a gentleman in finances. This was great. Together, it was an hour here, an hour there. In the beginning, it was me getting the information and implementing it. Having that help was so beneficial. That was my first piece: getting the help, not being afraid to ask for help, and aligning with people who could direct you in that way.
From there, it was a matter of getting out there, creating a social media page. I got a Canva account. For those of you who don’t know it, I highly recommend it. It’s how you make branded graphics that look super nice. Instead of paying a PR firm thousands of dollars a month, just do it yourself. Canva has a free model as well as one that cost $120. I got the paid one. You can create these graphics that position you as an industry expert because you look more professional. When you look more professional and polished, you get eyeballs on your brand. Visibility, media attention, leads to credibility. That was the method. It was finding the blueprint of creating something that looks professional, and then getting the visibility, which gives us credibility in the marketplace. This was how it was engineered.
We used Canva. Then we got a system called Hootsuite. We scheduled all of the posts. Everything was dropping in, which took my time away from social media. We have members who are volunteers helping on other arenas. Now I can focus more on getting the boxes out there.
Hugh: That is amazing. You asked people, and there is the skill in the asking. But there is also the skill in being very clear about why you exist. You gave me some great questions. I just realized I am interviewing a professional journalist who interviews people. All of a sudden, I became very self-conscious. You get on an elevator in a high-rise building and push 4. Someone after you pushes 10. They say, “Oh, Dhomonique, what is this yellow box thing?” What you say to them is compelling enough so that when you get off on 4, they forget they are going to 10 and get off wanting to know more about it. When you first answer what is it you are doing, what do you say to them?
Dhomonique: I say we believe we can end childhood illiteracy in our lifetime. Readers to Leaders is on a mission to put thousands of books into the hands of children in underserved communities across America.
Hugh: That is essential. You’d be surprised at how many people have these great ideas, and when you ask them to tell you something about it, 10 minutes later, you still don’t have a clue. That was powerful and succinct and on target and delivered with passion. I think if anybody wonders why you’re doing this, they just need to look at you and see your passion.
TaprootFoundation.org is the website for that organization. Canva is great; find it at Canva.com. I have three definitions of what a leader is. A leader gets things done. A leader figures out how to get things done. A leader influences other people. You said that it’s about the vision. You’re hitting on the top topics we teach. This is exciting. Share some of the other secrets if you will please.
Dhomonique: A lot of folks don’t know about this, that there are lots of places that offer pro bono services for you as a nonprofit, even legal services. You can actually get an attorney to look over everything for you. We’re a nonprofit; we don’t have money. How do we do this without tapping into personal finances? How do you do that? When Readers to Leaders was first started, it was such a passion of mine that I funded the first 30 kids in the program, self-funded. When you are starting, you have no proof of concept. Everyone was like, “Just stop. Why are you doing this?” “It matters.” Out of the Bank of Dhomonique, I paid for the first 30 kids because I wanted to do this right. When people see that you did it yourself, they’re like, “You funded 30 kids yourself?” I go, “Yes, because it matters that much to me.” That’s how passionate I am about this project.
In terms of pro bono services, I started working smarter, not harder. I do work hard, but I was so maxed out that I didn’t know if this was going to go anywhere. I changed my mindset and said, “No, this is going to go somewhere, but you have to align with the right people so you can stay in your lane, what you’re good at. You’re not good at finances; that’s not your thing. Find someone who is good at that.”
When you’re a nonprofit, you don’t’ have a lot of funding. So there are pro bono services around the country that will provide you with everything you need, start to finish, a whole team of people to start your nonprofit. You can find people who do PR, marketing, web development, financial services, and CPAs on Taproot. These are individuals who just want to help. They will devote X hours a month to help you.
The website I use is DC Bar. If you google “nonprofit pro bono legal help,” there are six organizations in the nation that do it, but it’s broken up geographically. In the Virginia area, it’s DC Bar. They provide free legal services. All of this is so important to have an attorney look over. If you have D&O insurance, which you need to get if you have a board of directors, and a lot of people don’t know this. Once you’re operational, the E&O. But the D&O is critically important. I didn’t know this stuff, so I found an attorney who helped me navigate these waters for me. I don’t want to get sued or penalized because I am doing something I am not aware of. I found an attorney on there, and I am able to contact him all the time. I can send him things pro bono. I sent him my bylaws. He went through them and told me to change wording and add things. Articles of incorporation. We now have a board; do I need to change my articles? He went through them and said the way the articles were written, wasn’t necessary. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Look up legal services. Use Taproot. My third tip is interns. Interns make the world go round. The place I use is called Handshake. You can create a profile on Handshake and post your internship expectations on there. They will connect you with hundreds of universities in America. I think I identified 60 I wanted to align with. You can pick what universities you want, if they are in your area or want to expand. In today’s digital space, I have someone working across the country as an intern helping you out because they don’t physically have to be there anymore. Interns are great because you are able to divvy some of those tasks out.
I am not about abusing interns. Make sure you are taking them under your wing and showing them how it works and what you are doing. If you can bring in a team of interns to help you navigate those waters, including little tasks like scheduling posts on Hootsuite for social media, that’s great for an intern to do. The research. There are so many things.
Google Ads, they have a free grant program where you can get $10,000 a month for ads. You will find the link to that by Googling “Google Ads nonprofit grant.” You apply and get approved pretty easily. It’s $10,000 for ad space so you can get the word out about your nonprofit. Those are some resources that really helped me and can help you out, too.
Hugh: We have been using Google Ads for five or six years. I spend all of that $10,000 in places that direct to my website. It’s a valid program. You find traffic and convert the traffic to whatever you want people to do.
*Sponsored by EZCard*
Dhomonique, this is a great class on what you do when you have an idea and want to start a nonprofit. Somehow you get all the steps and they worked, and you stayed with them until they worked. Are you willing to entertain a few questions?
Dhomonique: Absolutely, and I can answer what you just talked about as well.
Dhomonique: The first thing you want to do when you have a nonprofit: think of it like spokes on a wheel. You could do this or this or this or this. Your mind is like a hamster on a wheel. You got to get hyper-focused and figure out what it is that you want to do. What is the one thing? I hear often from people, “I want to do education with bounce houses and deliver food.” That doesn’t work. You have to figure out what your one thing is.
From there, once you have it, there needs to be a need for it in the marketplace. A lot of nonprofits sound amazing, but there needs to be a need. Figure out the numbers. For Readers to Leaders, 25% of American children will be illiterate. That is a massive need. When you figure out what it is you want to target, make sure there is an actual need. When you are going to people asking for donations and help, if there is not a true need figures-wise, numbers you can show people, it’s more of a hobby. When you tell people, “This is a massive problem. We’re talking about one in four children,” it goes deeper than illiteracy, which is awful. But if you can’t read, you can’t get a job. You can’t function in the world.
What we find often with these children when they are feeling like they are ten steps behind, a lot of them drop out of high school. When they drop out of high school, they have to eat and provide. Often what we find is they resort to crime because that is a way to get a quick dollar. They need to eat and be able to support their families and themselves. The quick way to get money is resorting to crime. That means jail rates go up. Incarcerations go through the roof. It’s a cyclical effect.
Even from a health care standpoint, when you’re not educated, you don’t know the difference between feeding your children a well-balanced meal and going to the gas station and feeding your children Hot Cheetos and soda. That is another huge issue as well. That comes with the education of illiteracy. It’s not just illiteracy, which is a massive problem. It’s a cyclical snowball effect that affects everybody in some way, shape, or form. Figure out if there is a need in your community.
Hugh: It’s massive, and it’s hidden. Where I live in Lynchburg, Virginia, before the Civil War, it was the second wealthiest city in the country. Now we have some of the highest poverty in the Commonwealth of Virginia, 24.5%. I look out my window at Fort Early. Where I live in the 01 zip code, it’s 41.5% below the poverty line. I imagine there is a lot of children in that demographic that have challenges and don’t have reading.
We have a few folks who want to ask questions. That noise was coming from Dallas, Texas. Bob Hopkins is the author of Philanthropy Misunderstood, an essential coffee table book. Bob, I know you have a question for Dhomonique.
Bob Hopkins: First of all, congratulations. I think you’re amazing. Not many people are like you. I don’t know the world knows there was only one half of a billion people who can do what you have done. You have been blessed.
Dhomonique: Thank you, Bob. That means a lot.
Bob: What is the major challenge that you have now that you have created this nonprofit to get where you need to be and where you want to go and accomplish your goals?
Dhomonique: The number one thing is funding. As we all know, that’s what every nonprofit struggles with. We created the board of directors, which is brand new. It’s a dynamic team of individuals who are mission-focused. I have a few board of advisory seats open, so if anyone is interested, please shoot me a message and let me know. It was aligning with the right people who specialize in different areas. We have folks who are good in the strategic arena, folks who are good in finance, folks who are good at fundraising. I have three, three, three. I have some good at marketing and PR. It was creating a board who everyone can go in their own directions but together it’s a strong unit. Funding is always the top thing. We came back together this year. Now the focus is coming up with our fundraising strategy plan. We want to hit the ground running hard, starting March 1. That will be our outreach sequence. We are building up for that.
Funding is the toughest thing. Once you hone the messaging down of what you are and become clear as to what you need, it becomes an easier ask. Not easy, but easier. It’s an easier ask for people to see once you have spelled it out. We are building all the pitch decks out. We are getting everything in place. We have a new website coming out soon that will help someone see the vision themselves. I find people are busy, and if they are going to donate time or money, they want to see it clearly. There is a book called Don’t Make Me Think, which I love. When someone comes to your nonprofit, they don’t have time to figure out what you are doing. It needs to be crystal clear. Getting that messaging clear was a big part of 2020.
In 2021, it’s building out the board, becoming hyper-focused. We have milestones for each month. The end of this month, the goal is to have all of our partnerships in place. We want to partner with organizations like a supply chain. We want to be able to partner with Boys and Girls Clubs or Headstart or Big Brothers Big Sisters. Instead of reaching out to communities individually, we can funnel our services through these organizations and touch so many more children faster. That’s how we want to scale it. Focusing is how we are going to implement our strategy.
Hugh: Great question, Bob. Bob and Jeffrey are on the call, both of whom are professionally certified fundraising professionals. Jacque Zoccoli is on here for the first time. Where are you calling in from, and do you have a question for our guest today?
Jacque Zoccoli: I am calling in from Arizona. I am fascinated because there are so many things that are available to you in partnership that I would love to entertain. We don’t have enough time. Literacy is one of my big things. I am very impressed, of course as we all are. If we could only clone you, it would be wonderful for the rest of this world. The way you are working, you will find those people because they are there ready to work. Any question that I have for you, well, it’s all built around partnering. I can bring quite a few people to your table. I am going to put my information in the chat in case you want to get ahold of me. That’s really all I can do at this point. Thank you so much, Hugh and Dhomonique.
Hugh: Jacque has connected me with some amazing people. The most recent is people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. What they are doing there to promote leadership is amazing. She will connect you.
Dhomonique: That is my ask of anyone here. I have five board of advisory seats open that I am trying to fill. If you have a passion for it or are able to connect.
Another partnership area is we are building out an LMS system on the website. It’s a learning and management system. The children get e-readers. The e-readers have 10,000 books on them. This year, we need to be able to measure and track success. The learning management system, when the kids get their e-readers, they will enter the number on the back so we can track the e-readers. I can tell how many books they are reading. Once we create those partnerships, which are not done yet, they will sign a memorandum of understanding saying once a month they will make sure these kids go on their computers at their facilities and fill out a few questions. How many books did you read this month? What was your favorite book? Can you summarize the book? What would you change about the book if you could? If you were the author, what would you add to it? It’s not just giving them a device and hoping they use it. We want this to be effective and measure and track that success.
Another partnership I am looking to fill, which is not done yet, is finding partners to incentivize these children. When they complete their task, maybe they get a coupon for a free lunch. Or they get shoes. A lot of the kids we serve like athletic shoes. I want to stay away from music and devices because the point is to create readers and not provide them entertainment. Athletic shoes or lunch, things like that. Each month, when they are incentivized, they want to read double the books next month so they can hit the next level. That is a partnership we are looking for as well. If anyone knows anyone in alignment or incentivizing or something I am not thinking about, I welcome any feedback.
Hugh: If you would reach out to Dhomonique, she is so busy talking that she can’t copy all the contact info in the chat. We have time for one more brief question. We have Mr. Rash here from Bedford, Virginia who has run Legacy International plus more nonprofits. There is some stuff near and dear to your heart. Mr. Rash, do you have a question today?
J.E. Rash: First of all, I want to thank you very much because your passion and enthusiasm are viral. I empathize with the struggle, and I salute you for your accomplishments because after 40 years of doing a number of nonprofits, it is quite a journey, and you are doing a wonderful job. You touched on so many points that we do in our organization, Legacy International, globally. We are a global organization. We also here in Bedford have a school from preschool to high school. We identify with the children and the reading and the leadership development that has to be from earliest childhood all the way through adulthood and service to the community. Thank you very much for your beautiful presentation and your enthusiasm.
Your name does sound familiar. I think I recognize you from Channel 13, maybe from the time Jeff Taylor was there as an anchor.
Dhomonique: I came a few months after Jeff left.
J.E.: Did you? Okay. That’s good. He’s an old friend, one of the first people we met when we first came here in 1975. We use LMS systems globally. We are using them right now in two programs. It’s quite successful. We have a wonderful staff of people who are highly skilled in LMS programs. If you need to have brief contact with anybody who has used it and can tell you some of the pitfalls or wonderful ways to navigate it, I’d be glad to share info with you.
The one question I have for you is something we are also looking into after so many years is sponsorship. Have you looked into it, given the profession you are in and have been in for a number of years? How are you approaching sponsorship? You had a wonderful guest on a few weeks ago, Hugh, who did sponsorship.
Hugh: Charmaine Hammond.
J.E.: Charmaine, yes. She was talking about sponsorship. That lit a little fire under me. I was wondering what your thoughts are on sponsorship.
Dhomonique: I actually have not done sponsorships yet. I can’t speak to that. I would welcome learning more. That’s not an area I have tapped into at all.
Hugh: I smell several collaborations here. I will connect you all. I think there is some synergies in what you are doing, and you are a faithful servant of humankind, which Bob has taught me is philanthropy. Dhomonique, you have heard from some amazing people. That is because you have attracted them.
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Dhomonique, you have given us so much. What do you want to leave people with today?
Dhomonique: That’s a great question. So many things are running through my mind. I want to say thank you. This has been such a fulfilling conversation with you, Hugh. It’s a beautiful space. I want to pour some love and flowers on you for creating this space for people to come and share and collaborate. It’s a beautiful thing. We need more collaboration in our world, not competition. Whatever I can do to be of service to you, I would love to know how I can support the mission and what everyone else is doing.
Hugh: Dhomonique Murphy, Reset. You have reinvented life. You have pivoted to a new place. There are so many words that describe it. You figured it out. You had the commitment to make it happen. That is what is so often missing. You had the stick-to-it-ness to figure it out. My admiration for what you have done. I am so pleased you could be with us today. You have inspired many people and will continue to do so. You can find Dhomonique at TheYellowBox.org. Contact@TheYellowBox.org is her email. Thank you for being on the show today.
Dhomonique: The pleasure is all mine.
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