Fighting Poverty with an Aspirational Message
LIFT CEO Kirsten Lodal talks about using the power of aspirational communication to modernize the way America fights poverty.
When she was a 19-year-old college sophomore, Kirsten Lodal founded LIFT, a nonprofit that connects families to the resources and networks they need to achieve economic mobility. Since then, more than 12,000 LIFT volunteers have worked with more than 100,000 individuals and families across the country.
From the very start, her organization faced a built-in communications challenge. “Poverty is not a topic people want to talk about,” Lodal said. “It’s such an unappealing topic … it seems overwhelming, it seems intractable, it seems depressing. So that’s what we’re up against as an organization combating poverty.” Nonetheless, Lodal and her team felt it was crucial not to mask the fact that tens of millions of Americans live in poverty and many more live “on the brink.”
To get past the sense of helplessness and toward action, Lodal said it was crucial to help people see overcoming poverty as achievable. To do this, her team began with a simple, aspirational statement of purpose: Lifting families out of poverty for good.
“It was that ‘for good’ piece that was so powerful,” said Lodal. This aspirational mindset also prompted her team to examine whether their efforts were actually helping to end the cycle of poverty or just treating the symptoms of it — a process that was at times painful, but ultimately invaluable.