Andi Teggart: You started the Extra Mile after traveling to visit your dad who was dying. Can you tell us more about how that led you to start TEM?
Matt Dimmer: I created The Extra Mile in honor of my father, Pete Dimmer, who lost his battle with cancer in 2012. The inspiration came on my trips back and forth from L.A. to Michigan to be with my dad who was rapidly losing his battle with pancreatic cancer.
I spent countless hours on airports and waiting for connecting flights. I would examine everyone around me. Their actions. Their facial expressions and body language. I thought to myself, is there anyone else here who’s traveling to visit someone they love who’s dying? Then I started to think about all the people who couldn’t afford to take a flight. And maybe not even to attend a funeral. That just didn’t seem fair to me. So I imagined what I could do to help.
Before my dad passed away, I shared the initial stages of my idea with him, which was a very special conversation. I felt honoring him with an organization like this would also be a great legacy that my sons can carry on.
Andi: What was the scariest part of starting your own nonprofit? What has been most rewarding so far?
Matt: The scariest part? The unknown. Never having created anything like it. I really had no idea where to start. But having a creative background, I began with the naming and branding. I basically put off all the legal work and research until the very end. Maybe not the smartest way to go, but it worked out just fine for TEM.
Hands down the best part of starting this organization has been connecting people to one another. I’ve completed three flights so far. Two within the US, and one where I brought a man back to his home in Boston from Dublin Ireland to spend time with his mom as she fights pancreatic cancer.
The first flight, I hand delivered a man who had been estranged from his father for twenty-three years. We were able to help him see his dad and make amends just days before his dad passed away.
Andi: How do you see your background as a creative director affecting your travel? And, how does creativity impact or affect a nonprofit?
Matt: I believe that travel can be extremely inspiring for everyone. Visiting new and different places adds a layer of texture and experience that permeates your life. Parts of it filter into your creativity without you even realizing it, and in turn influence and enrich everything you do.
A person with a creative mind often is enabled to conceive the core ideas that could in turn become nonprofits, but may not always be able to follow through and make them a reality. Sometimes there needs to be that business-minded side of the coin, that can take the idea and make it real. I was lucky enough to have a very entrepreneurially minded mother, who was always throwing out ideas for this and that. I think those conversations that we would have at my house stuck with me, and helped me with the follow through I needed to make this dream a reality.
Andi: Why is empathy important to you? And why is taking action on empathy even more important?
Matt: Growing up, my parents instilled values and ethics that have stayed with me throughout my life. Being aware of situations and showing compassion to those in need is something that was always at my family’s core. Giving back is not only the right thing to do, but it feels amazing when you do it. I promise you, once you start, you can't stop.
Andi: Do you have any stories you can share of people being compassionate with one another?
Matt: Absolutely. I had a woman reach out to me privately, and offer to give me an abundance of miles. She asked what individual requests I had, and after taking her through them, she wanted to help with one specific situation. She single handedly helped make the international flight happen, and wanted to remain anonymous. My first flight was made with the help of a friend’s employer who converted American Express points to miles for us. Again, an amazing gesture and one that I hope we'll see more of.
Andi: How are you using social platforms like STAND to gain awareness and raise funds? Does social media provide more awareness or funds typically?
Matt: TEM has been pretty active in the social space from the get go. We’ve garnered interest and awareness through FastCompany, LinkedIn, PSFK, and Springwise as well as Mashable. I’ve also received requests for assistance from all over the world and emails come in almost daily from people in need of our help.
I've just started working with STAND, and hope that it will lead to a successful fundraising drive that can propel us to the next level.
Andi: What will TEM be doing next?
Matt: It’s completely wide open, which is exciting. It could remain a small sustainable organization that connect a handful of people each year. It could be picked up by a major airline, and become their philanthropic arm, doing good with every flight purchased, or maybe even get a major grant that allows it to get to the next level of operations and become more of a household name. You'll just have to follow us to find out.