Want to Create a Movement? Create a Community.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015
by Cheryl Green Rosario, Executive Director, The ZAC Foundation
Creating a movement is more than just the message or simply making a grant – it is also who is sharing your message that counts.  Let’s look at how the drowning prevention community is using this model.  
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are approximately 3,800 drowning deaths that occur annually.  Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under age 5 and second leading for children under 14. To curb drowning and near drowning incidents, there is significant work happening all across this country, especially in high drowning states like Arizona, Florida and Texas.  In these states, as well as others, community organizations have stepped in to bring awareness through water safety campaigns and various drowning prevention activities that have saved lives and made a significant impact locally.   
Working in leadership for many foundations and nonprofits over my decades-long career, I’ve seen first hand the makings of great community engagement and how that engagement can translate into positive results for any awareness and education campaign.
While many foundations are focused on making the strongest impact, locally, national foundations can utilize the same model across communities to create a broader fabric of awareness and change from coast to coast.  
The ZAC Foundation is an example of this paradigm.  In 2008, after the drowning of their six-year-old son, Zachary Archer Cohn, Karen and Brian Cohn established The ZAC Foundation – a private family foundation that has grown into a leading national voice in water safety.  In starting the organization, the Cohns wanted to ensure that families have the tools they need to be water safe, and in order to reach that goal, they would need to build a community.
They began in their own backyard, partnering with the local Boys & Girls Club to create a weeklong water safety and drowning prevention program called ZAC Camp in honor of Zachary.  Through a multi-year partnership, The ZAC Foundation was able to incorporate elected officials, area First Responders, the local media and other community based organizations, not only to reach the more than 100 campers attending the camp from year to year, but also to spread the message throughout their home State of Connecticut.  
With the success of this multi-voice network they built in their own hometown, the Cohns and The ZAC Foundation were able to replicate this model through a national partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in nearly 50 cities across the country, creating not only a national water safety community, but also building hyper-local water safety communities in each town they visited with their ZAC Camp program.  
In just a few short years, through ZAC Camp and our other water safety programming, The ZAC Foundation has developed a nationwide network, touching the lives of over 7,500 children and their families, and reaching over 45 million through the media and engagement with local community officials.  
Creating a grassroots movement to bring about national change like water safety and drowning prevention is not accomplished just by imparting lessons; it is about building a community to help guide the mission, continuing to share Zachary’s story and increase awareness of these life-saving lessons long after a grant has been made or a program or event has concluded.  
If you want to create national change, consider building a community.
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