Family, faith, football, Facebook and fashion: Dusty Buell uses these five F’s to sum up his life, profession and priorities. Currently the Director of Marketing for Heartspring in Wichita, Kansas, Dusty approaches life and work by focusing on what’s most important to him and by connecting his priorities and values together.

Nothing is more important to Dusty than his family, who inspire his work in the nonprofit sector, helping other children and families who face hardship. At Heartspring, a worldwide center for children with special needs, Dusty serves as an organizational spokesperson and is responsible for all marketing campaigns, social media engagement and brand management. Heartspring is a residential school, serving children with severe autism and other disabilities that interfere with their learning potential.

“It’s a very unique group of students we serve and there are only a handful of schools such as ours in the world,” says Dusty. “They are truly some of the most resilient and amazing kids you’ll ever see.”

Throughout his 10+ year career in nonprofit leadership, Dusty has established himself as a dedicated advocate and strong voice for those children and families who need it most. He describes his attraction to nonprofit marketing being formed through his experiences and influences growing up: “This is all I knew, my father helped children and families on the programming side of nonprofit and my mother is the best in the business at advertising and marketing for agencies and fortune 500 companies.”

Football – or rather sports in general – is another element of Dusty’s upbringing that shaped his values and his approach to work: “My father was my coach and growing up, sports shaped me as a person. Through sports, you learn about who you are, your core values and motivations. You have to be coachable and respect others; it has a huge influence on your leadership style, teaches you it’s okay to make mistakes and engrains a team first attitude.”

The marketing team of three at Heartspring, led by Dusty, delivers everything in-house from videos, websites and webcasts, to event promotion, social media and branding. “My team drives my ambition. There’s nothing they can’t do or won’t try. They’re that needle in a haystack type of team; not your average people and almost impossible to find.” Dusty is most proud of what he brings internally to his organization. He feels marketing is a department that has to work and build trust with each individual department, and should serve as the unifying force. “It’s more than just being the public face of your organization, it’s about being a leader when no one’s watching.”

Dusty’s last two ‘Fs’, Facebook (social spaces) and fashion (trends), highlight the importance of always being on top of what’s current, and the marketing opportunities made possible by social media – including the unique ability to reach anyone at an individual level.

Dusty credits his openness to learning – and failing – with the success he has achieved to date: “I fail all the time – I just don’t fail without learning. I came to Heartspring with an approach that had been proven, it worked and it was good. But it didn’t work here: you have to cater your marketing plan to the strengths of your organization. Oftentimes those strengths go well beyond any organizational philosophy. It’s the people, the personalities; that’s what you build your plan around.”

“When you’re in marketing, you’re an organizational problem solver. Don’t define yourself by a job title, and always be willing to learn. You have to be one with the overarching message and build internal relationships; without them, you won’t succeed.”

Connect with Dusty on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Follow Heartspring on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube.

Share your experiences as a nonprofit marketer or communicator! 

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira