Putting People & Abilities First


Over the past year-and-a-half, we learned that Collins’ wisdom goes beyond discovering your organization’s core values; it is also about discovering a name that truly represents your mission.

“As Pi Kappa Phi’s national philanthropy has evolved, service has become more than just a project. Service has become a part of who we are and what we do as men of Pi Kappa Phi. It remains one of the differentiating factors from our peers in the fraternal world,” said Push America Chief Executive Officer Chad Coltrane this summer.

As our philanthropy has evolved, so too has its name. And so, during a special luncheon at the 54th Supreme Chapter in August, Mark E. Timmes, Pi Kappa Phi chief executive officer; Chad Coltrane, Push America chief executive officer; and Christian Wiggins, Pi Kappa Phi chief operating officer, made an exciting announcement for the fraternity and its philanthropy: Push America has evolved, once again, to become The Ability Experience.

The new name not only more clearly reflects the organization’s mission to use shared experiences to support people with disabilities and develop the men of Pi Kappa Phi into servant leaders, but it puts the abilities of all people front and center in our daily work. We believe it captures our core purpose even more clearly than our days of building play units. The men of Pi Kappa Phi do not simply raise money, but instead experience the power of service as they promote the true abilities of all people.

Strengthening our philanthropy

More than a year and a half ago, the greater fraternity began a re-branding process in order to strengthen our global brand. The question was posed: How could we create a stronger tie between all of our entities and better position the fraternity’s brand in a crowd of 76 national fraternities? Pi Kappa Phi and all the fraternity entitiesÑPush America, the Foundation, PropertiesÑengaged a brand consulting firm in order to help answer that question and create greater consistency between the four organizations.

Early in the process, we knew that in order to strengthen our philanthropy, we needed to strengthen its brand and tie to Pi Kappa Phi.

In June 2013, a survey was sent to student and alumni members, as well as external constituents of the organization. Through the surveys and follow-up interviews, we learned that people could not clearly articulate the mission of Push America, nor could they consistently identify the organization’s name. Our own students and alumni still thought Push America stood for “Play Units for the Severely Handicapped” or “People Understanding the Severely Handicapped,” names that have not been used in more than 20 years. And so, among the branding firm’s recommendations, was a proposal to change the name of Push America.

As the leadership of the fraternity and Push America carefully considered the proposal, three reasons resonated with everyone involved:

First, it was to our strategic benefit to have a name that truly represented what we do. We are no longer building play units, and we are certainly not “pushing America.” We needed a name like, “Toys for Tots”Ña name that simply says it all.

Second, as our philanthropy has evolved, we have evolved P.U.S.H. to PUSH to Push, confusing generations of members and supporters. Originally Play Units for the Severely Handicapped (P.U.S.H.) was changed to People Understanding the Severely Handicapped when we made a strategic decision to no longer build and donate “play units” in 1989. P.U.S.H. became PUSH America in 1992 in an attempt to further distance the brand from the “play unit,” and in 1997, the name was again changed to Push America. Along the way, our core values have never changed, but brand identityÑhow others recognize and articulate who we are and what we doÑbecame increasingly diluted.

Finally, an environmental scan revealed that many organizations with “America” in their name are actually associated with political action committees, and most use red, white and blue as the primary colors in their logos. As a philanthropy seeking to change the way society viewed people with disabilities and fraternity men, we needed to differentiate ourselves from the sometimes polarizing work of these organizations.

More importantly, we needed a name that clearly reflected our values and one of the organization’s greatest strengths identified by countless survey respondents: the “shared experiences” between the members of Pi Kappa Phi and people with disabilities.

A name with focus

In order to consider the proposed names for Push America, a focus group was created composed of Pi Kappa Phi alumni, board members, national Push America event participants, and staff, along with a fraternity/sorority life advisor and experts with experience in marketing, branding and re-branding. The focus group thoroughly reviewed and discussed the many naming suggestions.

The group ultimately concluded that the organization’s new name needed to encapsulate the idea of abilitiesÑone of our core valuesÑand the experiential nature of everything we do.

With feedback from the focus group, the Council of Archons, the branding firm and the National Council, the Push America board of directors made the final selection: The Ability Experience.

The future of our philanthropy

If there is one thing we have learned through this process, it is that change is hard; but as Collins identified through his research, the timeless fundamentals of visionary organizations are not only their ability to preserve their core values and consistently innovate, but the ability to put those values into practice.

Our members, friends and supporters are the people who will truly build brand equity in The Ability Experience, because our new name is who we have always been. Although Push America, and the many iterations of its name since the organization’s founding in 1977, will always have a special place in Pi Kappa Phi’s history, it is clear that our true passion as men of Pi Kappa Phi is service to others before self.

You cannot participate in a program of our organization and not come away with an appreciation for the abilities of all people. It is a true Ability Experience.

“For more than 37 years, we’ve lived our obligation to leadership and service and honored our vow to change the world through our own philanthropy,” said Christian Wiggins during the luncheon at Supreme Chapter. “Today, we’re proud to present the next step in linking our founders’ vision, our values and our philanthropy.”

Over the next few months, you will continue to see us updating our marketing and materials to reflect The Ability Experience brand. As with any change, it may take a little time to fully embrace the change. We encourage you continue to support our mission and our programs. We now, as we always have been, are an organization committed to promoting the abilities of all people through our shared experiences.