Case Story

Cause Marketing in Action: Foojee and Global Village Project

Many of the nonprofit leaders I speak to are eager to align with companies for short-term sponsorships or long-term partnerships. And many of the small businesses owners I talk with want to be more charitable. It seems like an easy match, right? Not always.

Nonprofits are more likely to target individual donors or grants before approaching companies. And small businesses aren’t always sure how to implement a giving strategy, so they may only take advantage of opportunities that fall into their lap.

More often than not, it looks like a middle school dance with each occupying their own side of the gym. But I’m hoping to help fix that issue, and one way I’ll do that is by bringing you stories of philanthropy in action. Having an example to follow on the cause marketing journey can not only show you what a for-profit/nonprofit partnership looks like in action, but give you a glimpse of the magic it can create—on both sides.

So, on the eve of International Day of the Girl, I’m beyond delighted to tell you about the successful partnership between Foojee, an outsourced Apple IT department, and Global Village Project, the only school in the country dedicated to educating refugee girls who’ve had their education interrupted.

Lucas Acosta, the owner of Foojee is a long-time friend, and Amy Pelissero, head of Global Village Project, is someone I’ve heard about for years and am glad to finally meet. They are a fantastic case story of what is possible for a local social impact partnership.

 Amy Pelissero and a few of the students at Global Village Project

Amy Pelissero and a few of the students at Global Village Project

First, we’ll get Lucas’ point-of-view on the partnership, and then bring it home with Amy’s perspective. I loved reading their responses, and think you will too!

Why did you choose to partner with Global Village Project?

Amy and her team have created this education from scratch, and have proven it to be successful with hundreds of refugee girls. They’re doing such impactful work, and I wanted to be a part of it in some way.

Why is this cause important to you?

There are two main reasons why GVP is important to us. Education is near and dear to our hearts at Foojee. We feel that education has an opportunity to improve a life regardless of a child's parents, culture, or religion. Secondly, GVP is focused directly on a segment of our society that is often overlooked: refugee girls. Women, especially in developing countries, are often the last to be recognized and supported, and GVP is solely focused on them.

What are the benefits you provide to the nonprofit?

We provide all of GVPs IT services including Mac and iPad management, networking, and security, and we do it at no cost to them. Why not just give money? We could donate money, but GVP’s efforts are so close to Foojee’s values that we want to offer our strengths to their cause.

What has this partnership done for your internal culture?

We’re not here to just provide IT services. We can use our strengths for good. We’re doing IT work, yes, but we’re here to serve a bigger purpose. We can make a positive impact in our society by our work, and partnering with GVP gives us a tangible way to contribute to our purpose.

Has this partnership benefited you externally, for example with clients or other partners?

We’ve been able to partner with Apple’s volunteer program, which has been a great opportunity for all three organizations. We introduced GVP to our local Apple team and within a few months, Apple employees were volunteering at the school by helping teachers best utilize their iPads and Macs in the classroom.

What is your hope for the future of your partnership with Global Village Project?

My hope is that GVP can continue to assist more girls, and extend their reach into more communities. If Foojee can play just a small part of their success, then I’m happy to continue partnering with them.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Sign up to volunteer! The stories I hear every time I visit just send chills down my back. GVP is on the front lines of restoring hope and building foundations to an underserved segment of our society. Here’s a video we made a couple years ago about the school to learn more.


 Lucas Acosta of Foojee

Lucas Acosta is passionate about Apple technology and people. If it’s got an Apple logo on it, his company, Foojee, makes it work in business and education. Lucas has been converting Windows users since 1993 (at the age of seven).

When he’s not building Foojee, you’ll find him reading about tech and business, crafting fine coffee, running, catching up on his favorite TV shows, or hanging out with his wife, Cristina and their daughter, Emilia.

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Here’s what Amy had to say.

Other than simply getting your IT needs managed, how has this partnership benefited GVP? What makes Foojee a good partner?

GVP was connected with Foojee in 2014—just as I was finishing my first year as Head of School—and I feel certain that our partnership has been foundational to the tremendous growth we have seen over the past four years. When we met, GVP was tightly strapped financially, and the pro bono work Foojee provided allowed us to broaden our services and our capacity across the board at a time when we could not otherwise afford to do so.

We were able to invest in new laptops, interactive whiteboards for our classrooms, online assessments and learning platforms for our students, and a STEAM and Career Exploration program because of what they were providing.

Foojee also acted as a powerful connector. They introduced us to Apple Education support services, Apple Store volunteers, and new potential friends and donors through their strong social media presence and the powerful promotional video they produced highlighting our partnership.

In addition to allowing us to expand and strengthen our services and our capacity to do the good work we do, Foojee provided us with knowledge, skills, and leadership that we desperately needed around IT and education.

Our partnership with Foojee has allowed us to build and develop a model STEAM program for refugee teenage girls with limited English and schooling and to enhance our program’s impact. GVP would not have been able to integrate and take advantage of technology in so many powerful ways without Foojee. They have provided invaluable support for our staff and students and directly and positively impacted the lives and learning of our students.

Foojee’s partnership has strengthened GVP in so many ways, including adding strength to our voice, our mission, and our vision of ensuring that refugee girls have the education they need to pursue their dreams. They believe in the work we do, stand beside us, and support us. We know that our strong collaboration allows us to join together to create a bigger impact in our community and dream a better world.

How do partnerships in general benefit both your internal and external culture at GVP?

In August we started our 10th academic year at GVP! Founded in 2009 by a handful of visionary volunteers with big dreams and a very brave first class of 30 students, GVP has become a place where we make a difference and dream a better world, one girl at a time.

Since our inception, we have served 225 refugee girls with limited English and interrupted formal schooling in our all-day academic program. Currently, 37 of our graduates have gone on to graduate from high school and 26 are enrolled in or have graduated from college.

Given that 75% of older newcomer refugee students do not complete secondary school and only 1% of refugees access tertiary education, we are proud to report that 96% of GVP alumnae who completed our program continue their education beyond our school. We depend on partners like Foojee to turn our dreams and our students’ dreams into a reality.

GVP’s founders understood the power of a strong community of support and imagined and created a place where a village of support enabled them to start and sustain a brand new school for refugee girls. GVP is the only school in the nation dedicated to educating newcomer refugee teenage girls.

We are certain that we have been able to make a difference for almost a decade now due to the strength and support we have found in our friendships and partnerships. We rely on our connections and relationships to influence our ways of thinking and doing, and are incredibly humbled by the opportunities our partners have opened to us. Together, we are transforming lives, our work, and our world.

What is your hope for the future of the partnership with Foojee?

I hope that our partnership will continue to develop and deepen with time. I see a future where we generate more recognition for the good work both organizations are doing, where we can help each other increase connections and meet new potential partners, and where the relationship is more evenly balanced.

Foojee has done so much for GVP, and we aim to give back to them in all the ways that we can. Specifically, I hope that we can continue to work thoughtfully and strategically to increase brand recognition and media coverage, to increase sales and funding, to attract new donors, volunteers, and clients, and to inspire change.

What do you wish more for-profit organizations knew about partnering with nonprofits?

Positive collaboration allows organizations to join together and make even bigger strides in bettering their community and improving the world. The end result of this kind of collaborative partnership is that both organizations are stronger.

Working with nonprofits can provide for-profit employees and leaders with a stronger sense of purpose, engagement, and create recognition for the good they are doing. Nonprofit partnership is a worthy and wise investment of resources.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We strongly believe in the power of collaboration and community—and in the power of each one in a partnership to positively influence and impact the other. We are deeply grateful to Foojee for their strong support and for the impact they are making in our school and in our students’ lives each and every day.


 Amy Pelissero of Global Village Projec

Amy Pelissero is the Head of School at Global Village Project, a special purpose school for newcomer refugee teenage girls with limited English and formal schooling. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience with students from preschool through adulthood, and strong ties to the refugee community.  

Amy lives in Decatur, GA with her husband and two daughters, and loves reading, writing, travel, live music, and time with family and friends. 

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PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

  Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at a cause marketing partnership. Having an example to follow on the cause marketing journey can not only show you what a for-profit/nonprofit partnership looks like in action, but give you a glimpse of the magic it can create—on both sides.

 Kristi Porter of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

Quick note: During the summer, we'll only be publishing one blog post per month as we focus on some new activities and allow you some down time without falling behind on content.

I don't know about you, but I love events. I love attending them, of course, but also working on them behind-the-scenes. When I was an event marketing director, I was able to help create a dynamic experience for almost 8,000 people. And with my nonprofit and social enterprise freelance clients, it's still a blast to see an event go from concept to completion, resulting in smiling faces, sales earned, and money raised.

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of working with one of my favorite local organizations, Atlanta Dream Center, on their annual benefit dinner. I had been volunteering with them for three years at that point, and they were Signify's first, official client, so they'll always have a soft spot in my heart. Understandably, I was thrilled to be working with them on a professional level now, too.

At the end of the evening, we had quite a surprise—we had not only met the fundraising goal, but we had quadrupled the previous year's total! High fives all around!

However, I don't think it was an accident. After working on so many events over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.

So, if you're looking for event planning tips, this one's a doozy! Here's how to make your next event more successful than your last. (Hint: It's probably not what you think.)

 How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

If you stumbled upon this post looking for the latest event planning tips and tricks, you might be a little disappointed. But, hang with me, I think you'll still learn a really valuable lesson, especially if you're a beginner to the event planning world.

You see, what I've found over and over again, across many contexts, is that while there are always shiny, new ideas to make your event look awesome, there is one element of event planning that should always get the spotlight.

It's the step that should never get skipped.

So, what is it? Strategy.

I truly believe taking a more strategic approach to planning the 2016 Atlanta Dream Center (ADC) annual benefit gala was key to its financial success.

Here's why.

A FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS

When I first started as a contractor for the benefit dinner, I was mostly working alongside the development director, who had been in the position less than a year. So, we were both newbies to the event. And even though the dinner was entering its fourth year, I felt like the event was still just trying to get off the ground. 

There was no established model to follow. The ADC staff had tried a few different formats, but hadn't really fallen in love with one yet. That gave us a lot of latitude without a tremendous amount of expectations, except for the fact that this was their largest fundraiser of the year. #NoPressure

There were a couple of things we immediately did to start off on the right foot. The first was to get organized. Those who had been in charge of the dinner previously were no longer with the nonprofit, so we had to conduct a treasure hunt for some of the assets because I really wanted to take a look at what had been done before to assess how effective it was, and ways to build on it.

Once we had them collected, my suggestion was that we move everything to Google Drive so all stakeholders would have instant access. This plan worked great, and allowed us to collaborate well. It also solved the problem of keeping everything in a central location should someone else leave in the future.

The other, main thing we did was set up regular planning and check-in meetings leading up to the event, which was about five months away. Some of those were just between the development director and I, and some involved all department heads for the organization that needed to have a say in aspects of the dinner. 

These two choices may seem easy, small, or inconsequential, but I promise you that they made a big difference in the tone and feel of the event right from the start. And everyone could feel it.

Never underestimate the power of being organized!

STRATEGY'S ROLE IN EVENT PLANNING

Now, we were ready to start the event planning process. And this is where strategy became the star player.

During one of our early meetings, the entire team was sitting around a table discussing the format, logistics, and what people liked and didn't like from previous years. I also started asking them more questions about who would be in the seats.

This proved to be a key moment because, not only should you ask this question every time you plan an event, but that year was a turning point for the organization. The goals for this dinner were bigger because costs had risen, of course, but they were also gaining a bigger reputation in the area.

Previously, it had been friends, family, and close partners who attended the event. That year, however, they wanted to target new individuals and corporations. Essentially, they were ready to broaden their reach.

So, we had to start looking at everything fresh for that year's dinner. What had worked in the past might not work for a new crowd.

We revamped the sponsorship package, added a lot of cold leads to the potential sponsor list, and changed the format of the event to be more forward-thinking and informative, rather than using "insider" language as they had done before.

This new group of attendees might not be familiar with the different ministries under ADC's umbrella, or know why the work is important, or understand how their donations can effect people and programs all over the state. It was a big opportunity, and we didn't want to miss it.

I also created::

  • Positioning language for the sponsorship package, instead of it just be a list of benefits, which helped people understand the what and why of their mission.

  • A formal sponsorship letter that anyone on the staff could use as a framework to solicit donations.

  • Talking points so that anyone who spoke about the dinner to a potential sponsor, donor, or ticket buyer could stay "on message," relaying the most important aspects of why the event was being held and what the money would go to.

  • The text for the website and email/print newsletters, so that everything was aligned and on point.

  • A marketing plan for them to see the event strategically from start to finish, even if I wasn't around.

  • A press release to get the word out about the event's success after it was over, which could bring more eyes to their work, resulting in even more new supporters, donors, or partners.

The ministry also began working on ways they could highlight their uniqueness, as well as how it relates to the overall mission of the organization. We needed to clearly communicate how everything worked together. And it turned out to be a very cool, experiential element of the evening that they now improve each year.

From the initial conversation to the wrap-up meeting, my goal was to bring a new level of professionalism to the event, and a fresh pair of eyes.

Don't get me wrong, their staff is outstanding at what they do, and they are relational to the core. (And a whole lot of fun!) But, like many small nonprofits, they struggled with systems and processes. Strategy wasn't the foundation of the event. 

(Note: Having an annual fundraiser because everyone else does or simple because you need money isn’t a strategy—or even a very good reason. Make sure you truly understand why you want to host the event before you put your staff through the pain of executing it.)

We made a huge amount of progress that year—and it showed. Yes, the final fundraising tally was fantastic, but those who had previously attended their benefit dinners also noted how different everything felt. They could see and feel the shift and intentionality, and they were really looking forward to the next one. That's definitely what you want to hear!

The staff also said that it was the most relaxed they'd felt at the benefit dinner. (<— Also what you want to hear!) Each person knew their role, and were able to connect with sponsors and donors throughout the evening rather than running around putting out fires and pitching in on last-minute logistics. 

One of the other things I suggested to the team was that we not only ask for donations at the end of the event, which was already part of the plan, but we give attendees other ways to stay engaged and build deeper relationships with ADC throughout the year. This was important both for the die-hard fans and the people who were new to the mission.

You don't want to have a great event and captive audience, and then just say you'll see them next year. You want to give them a clear next step, and make it easy to take.

Our answer was to have staffed tables and flyers available in the lobby while people waited in line for valet service. This move gave attendees options for getting more involved with whichever ministry struck a chord with them that night, as well as opportunities to further utilize their time, resources, and funds to support the nonprofit.

DETERMINING SUCCESS

It's absolutely true that sales and donations are important. Those things keep the doors open and the lights on. And it's equally true that people have planned events with far less strategy and still seen great results.

But planning a successful event can be seen so many different ways:

  • Hitting bigger sales and revenue goals

  • Increasing attendance

  • Not driving your staff insane

  • Letting you sleep easier at night

  • Allowing your tribe to take the right, next steps with your organization

That's why I think strategy is the key to making your next event more successful. It certainly worked for Atlanta Dream Center, and I think it will work for you too.

 

“‘Exceed expectations’ is an overused expression with few who can document occasions when they actually did exceed expectations. Kristi Porter is one who can point to the work she did with the Atlanta Dream Center and accurately state that she exceeded all of our expectations. You will be well pleased with the results achieved by bringing Kristi onto your team.” - Mark Northcutt, Atlanta Dream Center

 



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 After working on so many  events  over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.So, if you're looking for event planning tips, this one's a doozy! Here's how to make your next event more successful than your last. (Hint: It's probably not what you think.)

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Building an Audience of 8,000: Marketing Case Story

One year ago this week, I was still the Event Marketing Director at Orange, and we were hosting 8,000 of our closest family ministry friends for The Orange Conference 2016. People come from almost every state, about a dozen countries, and numerous denominations to attend this event each year. It's quite the undertaking, and though I worked on other events throughout the year, most of my time was spent on this 12-pound baby (really big, sometimes painful, but worth the labor).

If you aren't familiar with Orange, they create curriculum, resources, and events for church leaders and volunteers. They do a lot of really amazing things, and if I may say, they put on some great events!

As #OC17 starts today, I thought it would make a fantastic marketing case story for us to examine. 

 Photo Credit: The Orange Conference

Photo Credit: The Orange Conference

TWO SIDE NOTES

  1. If you'd like to watch the tonight's opening session on the live stream, visit Live.TheOrangeConference.com starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. This year's theme is "For Our Neighbors."

  2. I'm using the term "case story" because case studies are usually long, boring, and stuffed with stats. I wanted this to be a little less complicated and easy-going, so I'm utilizing that term, though I didn't create it. (I wish I had!)

GOALS

The major goals for the event are measured in:

  • Ticket sales, which include the current event and next year's pre-sales;

  • Product sales, which includes books, physical products, digital resources, lifestyle items, etc;

  • Social media metrics, which is tracked using a software;

  • Attendee satisfaction, which is assessed both through social media, comments the staff receives, and a post-event survey;

  • Next steps taken, which can include things such as lead cards filled out, emails given, downloads of the conference app, and things like that. Ideally, this is something you want attendees to do at your event to continue the engagement after it ends.

TACTICS

As you can imagine, an event of this size requires a lot of time and effort to promote. Here are the major ways we did that:

  • Internal email list including curriculum partners, previous attendees, and some partnership lists

  • Mailing list which includes the same as above, plus a purchased list.

  • Text system. We were able to send text messages throughout the year to those who opted to receive them.

  • Social media, mostly consisting of blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat

  • Facebook ads

  • Ads on internal sites

  • A social media tool kit that our speakers, fans, and attendees could utilize to spread the word for us (which included both images and what to say)

  • A signature line in staff emails

  • Cross-promoting at other events, both Orange's and events where they had a booth

  • Blogger network consisting of bloggers who were Orange fans, across the US

  • Advertising on relevant blogs and websites

  • Print ads (Yes, those still work too!)

  • Press release

  • Partner e-blasts

  • Google Ads

STRATEGY

Yes, there are a boat load of items mentioned above, especially for those of you who are the only employee, or running the show with a small team. But again, all of these things occurred over a year's time. And many of them happened on a regular basis. There wasn't just one ad or one blog post or one mailer. 

The pricing for the event was broken into five major deadlines, including the pre-sales on-site at the current event. Prices, of course, increased as the event neared. This brought in early revenue and helped us plan. Additionally, these distinct time frames gave me windows of time in which to promote.

It's also very important to understand how your audience plans to spend their money. For example, we had two major deadlines to focus on: opening day and the February deadline. Opening day, of course, because we had the lowest prices and offered a bonus (early breakout registration) that was very desirable to our attendees. And everyone gets excited during an event launch. The February deadline was incredibly popular because many churches just had their budgets renewed with the calendar year, and we also offered curriculum credits, which enticed current and prospective curriculum partners. So, those two factors meant that I spent most of the marketing budget promoting those two deadlines.

RESULTS

  • Every year, attendance for the event increased. We were very blessed in that way. When I started in fall 2010, there had been 4,300 attendees at the previous conference. And in 2016, there were about 7,400 at Orange Conference, and 500 at ReThink Leadership, a simultaneous event for senior pastors across the street. Those senior pastors came across the street for OC main sessions to spend time with their teams.

  • With increased attendance, social media reach also increased each year, resulting in about 2 million impressions in 2016.

  • Product and ticket sales also increased every year, but I am unable to share those numbers.

  • I read through every OC survey that was filled our during my time there. I was, obviously, responsible and accountable for sales in the marketing department, but I really wanted to know what people thought about the event. Did we meet their expectations? How could we improve? What made a difference? Why did they come to our conference over another? Overall, the feedback was incredibly positive. This was our signature event, and we tried to do everything with excellence. Of course, there are always people who didn't enjoy the event or different aspects. That is to be expected. But the key is to have a good filter for yourself when receiving negative comments to decide if it is valid, or if it is out of alignment with the mission. Sometimes it's just based on personal preference.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

No matter what size of an organization you're currently at, there are some lessons to be learned:

  • I was my own department. But I certainly didn't do everything! Other people took care of the graphics, social media management, logistics, etc. Only myself and I think two others actually worked on the conference year-round, and I was the dedicated person for promoting it. It was an all hands on deck situation as the conference got closer, but when you are well organized, have good systems in place, and have others to support you, it's a testament for what you can accomplish! (It's not too late to spring clean!)

  • To plan and execute a successful event you must have a marketing strategy in place. You can't just wing it. For much smaller events, you don't have to work as far in advance, but you still need to understand the ins and outs of how you're event will come together. Effective marketing also helps get people in the doors! The more the merrier, right?

  • Outline your goals first and foremost.

  • While I listed many tactics above, I'm certainly there are a few you can choose from to start implementing for your next event.

  • You might be surprised to learn that our marketing budget didn't dramatically increase even though our attendance did. I was very used to working for small organizations with small budgets, so I utilized as many free avenues as possible. Additionally, we focused on getting people to bring larger teams to OC, rather than finding more churches to come. The latter is a much better way to concentrate your energies.

  • If you're event is just getting started, you may not have previous feedback to work with. If that's the case, start by sending a survey to your email list and social media followers to gain insight. You can also try asking people you know who fit your ideal audience.

  • Don't skip over the "next steps." You need to know what you want your attendees to do when they leave. You need to decide on how you want them to stay engaged with you after they walk out the doors. Waiting for emails about your event year after year isn't going to cut it.

  • Adding "surprise" and "delight" to your marketing efforts is always encouraged. People attended The Orange Conference to learn about family ministry, understand the trends, get information on how to do their jobs better, and connect with others. But they LOVED anytime we were able to surprise and delight them! There is even an entire main session dedicated to fun at OC because the brain gets a little overloaded during all the learnin' that a conference brings. These concepts also help endear you to your attendees.

REMINDER

If you'd like to watch the tonight's opening session on the live stream, visit Live.TheOrangeConference.com starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. This year's theme is "For Our Neighbors."

FINALLY

I love events. I've been planning events since I was in junior high! I guess I was always destined to be a part of them in some way. I get so excited by attending conferences and events, and I enjoyed creating a great environment for others. I'd love to help you with your next event.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 Building an Event Audience of 8,000 people. The Orange Conference Marketing Case Story

 Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.