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Tales from the Tribe, We Mean Business

When giving shapes a leader, who shapes leaders, who shape leaders…

by Chelsea Fuller
 ∙ Feb 4 ∙ 7 Min Read

To say we’re excited about our annual June life skills and leadership retreat with the Herb it Forward Foundation (HIFF) out of Philly, is a ~huge~ understatement, especially because this year will have an added layer of the profound ripple effect of giving that makes our mission — and more importantly, theirs!! — come alive.

Meet Sophie Lavin: camp BFF to Chelsea, our CEO, Soph, 31, is Philly-raised current New Yorker and a long-time women’s weekend (after years of being intimidated to dive in and see what she found…but that’s a story for another day!).

Soph has been a Campower Ranger at HIFF’s retreat all three of the last three years since its inception, and now, through her work with the Next Level (leadership development) organization and the cohort she of emerging leaders she found within their program she’s among the leading fundraisers of this year’s HIFF retreat. 

Read on for Sophie’s story (via an interview with the CP Crew) of how she got inspired by the HIFF campers to really step into her own power and leadership and how she motivated a team to raise over $60,000 in just 18 days (which will fund almost 60 campers coming to June’s retreat!). 

CC: What does HIFF mean to you?

SL: I have always been SO inspired by the campers’ stories and what they’ve been through and the impact to make a change because of their own experiences. I’ve watched them take these seedling ideas into action [on their campuses and in the community]; I’ve been particularly inspired watchingthem want to create a better life for people that struggled with what they struggled with (and ultimately achieve that in their own ways). These young people from where I am from  had these grand ideas…and were going after them, which was so inspiring. It made me think: if they’re going after their dreams, what is keeping me from going after bigger things? It meant so much to me to be inspired by this younger generation and know I was having some impact on them. 

CC: Tell us a little bit about your fundraising challenge.

SL: Last year I enrolled in a program with Next Level, which  – at the core – is an emotional intelligence leadership training, giving you tools to break yourself out of your stories and build the life you want to create. Understanding the blockers in your life and gaining the tools to overcome them to become the leader of your life . The program I just finished was a three-month program. During this time you’re focusing on creating results in your life through the things you’ve learned – come up with a vision for your life – love and relationships, finance, career and work, community service, etc…you are a team for accountability, goal setting, vision creation.

In the final stretch of the program, we were given the challenge to take what we learned, what we were applying to our own lives and to take it out into the world by doing a community service project. The task was to create and carry out a large scale fast-paced community service project. We were asked to set a fundraising goal of what we could accomplish in 18 days, as a team we selected a community organization. I was really excited about this part, and once I heard the parameters, I knew that Herb it Forward was what I wanted to support. So I threw that hat into the ring. The first order of business was to pick two captains to lead the team: I wanted to do it, thought I would be good, but all these “someone else would be better” self-doubt thoughts kept coming into my head. A girl on my team told me, “I see you wanting to do this, raise your hand,” which changed the course of this for me, and I became the captain with someone else. 

CC: How did you inspire the group to commit to fundraising for HIFF? When you first launched the campaign, what was your vision for success?

SL: It was interesting and challenging, there were a lot of people who were really excited to pitch these amazing non-profits. But ultimately, the similarities of what HIFF was doing for these young, change-makers, was so related to the pay-it-forward goal of our group’s fundraiser, and that’s why the group aligned to HIFF as our non-profit.  

The team set a goal of raising $50,000 in 18 days. And we broke it down by rationalizing that each team member would be responsible for raising $1,500, a very doable goal (we thought). We let HIFF know about the goal before a single dollar had been raised. In my mind (and the minds of my team members), there was no way we weren’t raising the money because of that motivator: our commitment to an organization that was now going to rely on our word.

CC: What was the fundraising process like over those 18 days?

SL: Things were crazy! It feels like a dream. I was so in it, watching the numbers, coming up with ways to inspire the team when it felt like we were far from our goal. From my perspective as one of the leaders, I was thinking, “how can we make this more interesting, create friendly competition?” Something I gained from this was: with my leadership, I am able to inspire others to have their own breakthrough moments. Look, it’s uncomfortable asking people for money, so recognizing that, acknowledging it and speaking about the *why* you’re doing it was really successful, and being persistent, really paid off. I found that reminder texts were super helpful, getting on the phone with my family, I even asked people on dating apps (and they donated!), it was the biggest thing I had done, probably ever, raising $50K for a non-profit. 

CC: What was the outcome of your efforts?

SL: We raised $62,581 in 18 days! (!!!!!!!!!!), which will send about 60 campers to the HIFF Leadership Camp with Campowerment next year. It will be the largest HIFF camp to date. Because of the money we raised, they wouldn’t have to “cap” headcount to leadership camp. 

CC: What did the process teach you or inspire within you?

SL: I have never worked harder at anything in my life, and there has never been such a reward. I learned that my voice matters, my leadership matters, in the way that I lead with love, can inspire people and make an impact.

CC: We’re out to prove that giving is contagious. How has this experience inspired you or others to continue to commit to paying it forward?

SL: Since this experience, I have been so excited to figure out my “next thing” that I will do to pay it forward. I have joined the planning committee for a giving trip with Strong City, an organization focused on funneling resources (monetary, intellectual and beyond) into local projects that empower underserved youth in challenging cities, starting in New Orleans [link] From my Next Level team, I have heard that they’re getting involved in nonprofits: one of my friends on my team was so inspired by HIFF, she’s working with similar organizations locally. Another friend is using what he learned on our Press committee to help a non-profit in his city. Yet another person has taken this pay it forward mentality by helping strangers, paying strangers tolls, that ripple effect is still alive and well.

As a team, we spoke a lot about how our efforts for HIFF will impact us in our lives, inspiring us to continue paying it forward, but also how our fundraiser will benefit the organization and impact the students as they go to pay it forward in their own lives. 

So, with this, we’re curious, how are you paying it forward in your every day life? We challenge you to: 

  1. Think about all the ways and areas of your life where you’re a leader – be it at home, at work, or amongst your friends 
  2. Consider how your leadership benefits others? What could you be doing more of? 
  3. Dare you to: DO MORE – challenge yourself to go bigger, lead something new, and watch your ripple effect take shape. 

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Way-Fun Fact #28
Campowerment campers range in age from 21 to 80+. Intergenerational friendships made at Campowerment continue + grow, long after the bugle blows.