How A WWII Hero Made a Supporter Out of Me

How a WWII hero made a supporter out of me | Value First In Action: Part I

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans.If you ever find yourself in New Orleans, carve out a half-day to visit the National WWII Museum.

Yes, it will be extremely touristy, but you will quickly find yourself lost amongst the theatres of war and their amazing collection of artifacts and sound and visual effects.

And if you happen to love nonprofit marketing, you will witness a flawless execution of Value First nonprofit marketing.

My Experience at the National World War II Museum…

…began in the lobby, amongst real WWII planes and tanks, where I waited in line to buy my tickets. As she swiped my credit card, the kind cashier mentioned, your ticket purchase also includes The Dog Tag Experience.

What could this possibly mean?

Not yet sure, I took the dog-tag and followed the cashier’s prompt, entering the antique train car to my left to find out. As the car filled with fellow curious visitors, screens on either side of the seats showed the American plains passing by, and then a video begins on the small screen in front of me, providing my introduction to the museum and the Dog Tag Experience.

Upon scanning my dog tag, a second video begins, explaining the story of one real World War II hero whom is associated with my tag – a Louisiana farm-boy named Joe Crain, who joined the Navy at age 15, despite the minimum enlistment age of 17 (an estimated 200,000 soldiers enlisted underage).

As I continued through each exhibit, organized fantastically by each theatre of war, I found many more scanner activated video screens and more stories of Joe and his role in WWII.

Joe’s story, and all the other stories told that day, landed heavy and hard on my eyes, ears, and heart. I had come to learn about the largest war in human history, but quickly found myself entrenched in the very typical story of one soldier…

Joe Crain, a WWII coxswain whose story I experienced.Upon deployment as a coxswain, now 16, Joe witnessed one of the worst friendly-fire accidents in American history on the shores of Sicily, earning a Legion of Merit for his role in the rescues. From there, as part of the USS Henrico crew, he would pilot his LCVP boat to and from Normandy shores on D-Day, and again as part of Operation Dragoon in Southern France. Crain’s final battlefield deployment was on the shores of Okinawa on Easter Sunday, 1945. On the second day of battle, a kamikazee pilot crashed into the USS Henrico, killing 49 people. The ship limped back to San Francisco, and Joe, still just 18 years of age, returned to civilian life – a hero.

…a fascinating personal layer on top of the larger-than-life exhibits!

But the Dog Tag Experience doesn’t end there. In fact, the nonprofit marketing wizardry was just beginning.

Continuing My Experience with Value First Marketing

The welcome cultivation email I received from the National World War II MuseumI received an email from the National WWII Museum with a link to all of the videos I watched, more digital content from them, how to connect on social, and a brilliant donation ask. If I enjoyed Joe’s story (I did!), and saw the value of these personal stories, perhaps I should donate to help them expand their library (7,500 and counting) of personal WWII stories before they’re gone forever.

Sure, it was a bit much for one message, but it was a very relevant follow-up (and helped me get the facts straight for this post). What’s more, the donation ask capitalized on recency and was hyper targeted to my experience.

Since my visit, I have continued to feel connected to the history and experience from my visit to the National World War II Museum. The museum has sent me a few more emails, highlighting memorabilia I can purchase at their store, GivingTuesday, and more digital resources. You could say I have been (ahem) CULTIVATED.

Rather than asking for my email and then spamming me for donations, they chose a much more eloquent option. They continued the conversation under the pretext of the value they provided me.

“My visit, their fundraising goals, and a hero named Joe Crain are all blended together to make one continuous experience.”

One of many impressive exhibits.

You may be thinking – wow, good for them and their 500,000+ annual visitors. What does this mean for me and my organization?

Check out Part II: Applying lessons from The Dog Tag Experience at your nonprofit.

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