Tomorrow, the US will welcome a new president into the White House. After almost a year of COVID, a summer of social unrest and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, and seemingly endless political battles, many of us have looked to January 20, 2021, as a marker into a new era. And one Winmo client will have a special place in the celebrations.
The Spirit of Liberty Foundation, under the leadership of trustee, Richard Rovsek, was originally formed to raise funds and to assist in the restoration and maintenance of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. After the restoration was completed, and as a result of 9/11, the Foundation’s mission was changed to enhance the meaning and importance of liberty. Today, they also support the creation of meaningful jobs and incomes as well as aid first responders.
I spoke with Richard to uncover how the Winmo client discovers new corporate sponsorship partners, how they responded to the trials of 2020, and accomplishing miracles on a minimal budget.
Samantha Stallard: Tell me about the Spirit of Liberty Foundation.
Richard Rovsek: The Spirit of Liberty Foundation is a 501 (c)(3), nonprofit foundation. I founded the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation and personally raised over $150 million from major corporations to be sponsors. There had never been a campaign that was that successful.
Fast forward to 2001-2002, Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, MD was filled with injured young men and women from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I convinced Macy’s to loan their Santa Claus to visit the hospitalized soldiers, bringing them gifts and messages from congress members, the president, and the first family.
Now we call it Operation Christmas Miracle – The Believe in Santa Tour, which just wrapped up its 19th year. Our Santas are all over the US and were even invited by the commanding general to visit a base in Iraq, we sent “America’s Santa” — a Vietnam veteran in a camouflage suit. There are several hundred thousand young men and women on bases around the world who can’t be home for Christmas, so we bring the magic and spirit to them.
SS: How does the Spirit of Liberty Foundation achieve its goals as a Winmo client?
RR: Spirit of Liberty is a small operation. We accomplish miracles with minimal money and modest staff and Winmo allows us great access. The world has changed, it’s more difficult to connect with the right people. I used to pick the phone up and call the CEO of IBM’s personal assistant to schedule a meeting. Now, when you call, they say, “go online.” As much as the world’s changed if we send 100 emails to 100 CEOs, we’re going to see a 20-30% response rate.
We give them a reason to respond to us and Winmo provides us that access that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Our goal simply is to generate corporate participation and funding for projects that make a difference.
Yesterday, one of our sales employees went through 150 corporations that I wanted to be identified. In a couple of hours, we narrowed down all the companies we hope to partner with, including the contact information for their CEOs, CMOs, and PR teams. Winmo is so critical to our success, because it gives us extraordinary, accurate access to decision-makers.
SS: What companies have Winmo helped you reach out to and partner with?
RR: We’ve connected with Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, General Motors, Texaco, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Eli Lilly, and Johnson & Johnson just to name a few.
SS: How did the Spirit of Liberty Foundation respond to the COVID crisis?
RR: The healthcare professionals in this country, whether they’re orderlies, nurses, or doctors, are today’s greatest generation. They’re in the trenches fighting a very evil enemy, just like our soldiers did in World War II. I don’t think we can ever say thank you enough.
I convinced the Pilots Association and private air crafts owners to participate in what we called Operation Thank You, The Relay in the Sky. We had over 100 pilots and private planes crisscross America landing at the FBOs, the private hangers, thanking healthcare workers as we crossed America. We did it in five weeks. Governors drove out with their staff and waited for the plane to land. Our last flight was in Washington D.C and had over 100 veterans and VA hospital doctors, nurses, police, and firefighters waiting for us, as our conclusion of Operation Thank You.
SS: What’s next for your team?
RR: Right before Operation Thank You, I asked governors to give us state flags and had them all sewn together on racing sailcloth, for boat yachts. In the upper left-hand corner is Delaware and the bottom right is Hawaii. It measures 25×30 feet. We unveiled it in San Diego then took it to the Capitol for Veterans Day.
I was absolutely elated, that without even saying it, we had headlines like, “America’s flag is the real flag. Bringing America together,” et cetera. It’s not just stars, it’s states. You can see their personalities. We’ve been asked to have that flag carried in the inauguration behind Joe Biden. And he made a statement, “There are no red states, there are no blue states, they’re all American states.”
We’re definitely going to stay on as a Winmo client because, frankly, it’s a bible. It’s a bible that’s so needed and you’ve done a great job of keeping up with the times.