Shared Purpose Builds Engagement

What is the true purpose of your organization?


Hank Fortener is the founder of Adopt Together, the first and largest crowdsourcing platform for adoption expenses. He discusses his leadership approach to engaging his internal teams and his target audience, through communicating the shared purpose of the organization’s mission.

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and I was part of a beautiful family. My parents had 3 of us biologically, and then we fostered 36 kids over a 7-year period. So 36 kids came through our home, sometimes for 2 weeks at a time, sometimes 2 months. Other kids would stay for years. My parents did that for seven years while I was growing up, and then they decided it's time to adopt. So I watched as my brothers and sisters joined our family through adoption. We adopted eight kids from six different countries.

As I got older, I moved to Los Angeles and I kept meeting people who would say, "Hey, how did your parents afford that?" It never even occurred to me that adoption was expensive or any of that nature. So I called my dad. I was like, "Hey, how did we afford that?" And he's like, "Yeah, it's really expensive."

And that's what's happening around the world is people were being scared away from adoption and scared away from getting kids into families because they go, "The price tag's too high. That's what I make a year. That's half what I make a year, I can't even afford that."

So my dad and I got together and we created an online system. We were the first ever crowdfunding site for adoption expenses. We're still the world's largest crowdfunding site for adoption expenses. The only crowdfunding thing that was out when we started was Kickstarter, so it was good because it gave people a concept, like they kind of understood what crowdfunding was.

We started it in 2012. We kicked off AdoptTogether and launched it for one family who's a friend of mine. I thought, "If this works for you, we will have felt like it was a total success." And now, 3 years later, we've served over 1,100 families and raised a little over $5.2 million to help kids join families.

It is that shared purposed of realizing that what you're doing by fundraising for your adoption is not going, "Hey, I need money from you." That's like such a base level thing that people usually recoil. I get weirded out. If I get asked to go to coffee or lunch by someone who I know needs money, I'm just like, "You know what? Why don't you just tell me right now what you need, because I'll tell you 'no' fast. I don't want to get drawn in."

But with a thing like an adoption or with any space that we created through crowdfunding, as a person with resource, I couldn't be a part of an adoption because I don't have room in my life or just character wise. I don't have room in my life, or I'm not old enough, or some women are like, "Hey, I'm single, and I'll wait till I'm married to adopt. But I want to be a part of this. I want to be a part of that beautiful story." They can't do it unless there's a system like what we created through AdoptTogether. There's just no way for them to help and be a part of it.

What we learned was to communicate best, we want the families to realize what they're doing is inviting people to be a part of their adoption story. They're not just raising money. That's the byproduct of it. But the first thing they're doing is inviting people to be a part of their adoption story. And as donors, you're not just giving money. That's a byproduct. You're a part of that child's story for the rest of their life. When that kid crosses the stage at a high school graduation, you're going to get a YouTube video or whatever exists in the future. You're going to get something sent to your heads up display that shows that kid walking across, and you'll know, "I was a part of that, that they couldn't have done that without me, and I couldn't be a part of that moment without them."

So I think that's what I've learned so much is that most of leadership or most of those engagements is about shared purpose and finding people who go, "I want to be a part of that," and then allowing the fundraising to always be a byproduct of that relationship.

Hank Fortener

Hank Fortener is the founder of Adopt Together, a non-profit, crowdfunding platform that bridges the gap between families who want to adopt and the children who need loving homes. He is also Pastor at MOSAIC in Los Angeles and is the ...

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