By Deb Buehler
The CONNECT! campaign is already bringing people who love agriculture together. Former FFA members, people whose lives have been touched by FFA, parents of FFA members, supporters, teachers and school administrators are all sharing their stories of personal impact.
The stories that are being shared are laced with a love for our two most precious resources—agriculture and kids. Today’s farmers explain how their high school supervised agricultural experience projects reinforced a love for the land that coursed through family veins for generations. Agribusiness owners relate how experiences in FFA set them on their path for future successes in marketing, sales and invention. Parents, teachers and school administrators describe the positive changes they’ve witnessed in young people after they discover FFA.
According to Ryan Gallagher, director of individual giving for the National FFA Foundation, “We often say, this is not your grandfather’s FFA anymore.” However, it is obvious from the stories shared through the CONNECT! campaign that the core principles and values of FFA have remained the same even as the industry of agriculture has continued to change.
Grass roots campaign
As you read through this issue of Making A Difference, you’ll learn the specifics of CONNECT!, sample some of the heartfelt stories of how FFA made a difference in members lives and hopefully gain a sense of why it is so important to us to reengage the 8-10 million former members. Gallagher shared that “this is an opportunity to establish a new relationship or re-establish one we’ve lost and then to listen and advocate for the needs of the ag community at large. We know these individuals still love agriculture and FFA, we just have to CONNECT! with them.”
Will Fett, assistant director of individual and major gifts with the National FFA Foundation, described CONNECT! as an effort to go to the current alumni and student databases to find individuals who are FFA supporters or who have an FFA or agriculture background. The campaign information is easy to forward via Facebook or Twitter and email. For every forward that results in another CONNECT! registration, the originator of the link adds to their registration count and entry into the prize drawing. After signing up, people can pass it on to family, friends, colleagues and community members making more connections on behalf of FFA.
What do connectors gain?
For those who join in the CONNECT! campaign there are many ways to be involved. CONNECT! will help identify people who wish to become classroom volunteers or be willing to serve as a judge in their area. For others, an involvement choice may be receiving updates about FFA happenings and initiatives of interest for agriculture and the local community.
“One of the best things we’ve noticed is that we’ve asked people to share their story,” Gallagher indicated. “We have a growing story bank reflecting the impact of FFA on people’s lives. If ever a call to action is needed, this story bank becomes a vital resource for showing just what FFA does.”
With an all-time high membership of 540,379 students in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, FFA is having an impact on young lives. CONNECT! is an opportunity to bring the 24 million adults who work in some area of agriculture together as a support base for advocacy and individual giving.