Category Archives: CreateAthon

CreateAthon

A Riggs Partners community service program that provides pro bono marketing planning and materials to area nonprofits. There have been two offshoots: the National CreateAthon Network, with agencies across the country participating; and CreateAthon OnCampus, developed for the university setting. Combined gifts: $11 million

CreateAThon Helps Launch Social Enterprise

Social Enterprise is capitalism for a cause, and a growing business model.

Client Profile

Epworth Children’s Home offers congregate care to children ages four to 18 who are victims of abuse or neglect. Funding sources include the SC Department of Social Services and the Methodist church. Seeing funding diminish over time, Epworth Children’s Home formed Friends of Epworth as a 501 C-3 focused on fundraising.

As part of its strategic plan, Friends of Epworth realized that traditional nonprofit fundraising tactics such as events were not going to be able to substantively contribute to Epworth’s mission. As a result, the Friends of Epworth sought to begin a social enterprise.

Backstory

Founded as an orphanage in 1895, Epworth once operated a dairy. It has been serving peanut butter ice cream to students and alumni in its dinning hall since the Great Depression, thus ice cream was a natural endeavor for the social enterprise. The Friends of Epworth envisioned Epworth Ice Cream on supermarket shelves with 100 percent of profits benefiting Epworth Children’s Home.

What we did for them during CreateAThon

We developed a brand strategy, logo, package design, sales sheet, online strategy, website wireframe and marketing plan.

Potential Impact

Our hope is to grow the enterprise to $100,000 in annual profits over three years, and ultimately, raise $2MM per year through national sales.

Partners

Others contributing pro bono services to this endeavor include law firms, Nelson Mullins and Adams and Reese, The University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business and truematter interactive consultancy.

Epworth_100

Epworth_copy2Epworth_copy Epworth_mockup

CreateAthon Case Study: District 5 Foundation

When we concocted the idea of CreateAthon all those years ago, we were careful to identify the kinds of organizations we believed would be best suited for our 24-hour pro bono model. That list was pretty simple: a candidate had to be a private, 501© 3 organization, as opposed to a governmental agency, church or school. So when we got an application from the District Five Foundation last year, we weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Wasn’t it a school district program? Wouldn’t that break the rules? Upon closer inspection, we learned the Foundation was indeed a private, nonprofit organization in good standing, comprised of parents who were dedicated to raising money for all manner of important educational initiatives that otherwise would not be publicly funded.

Color us intrigued.

We learned that in just a few short years, the group had raised upwards of $60,000 annually to deliver some really impressive programming, resources and experiences to District 5 faculty and students. Their goal was to up their game, reaching the $100,000 fundraising mark annually. 

The communications issue was two-fold: 

1. Nobody understands why a Foundation is necessary in the public school system (aka “I pay taxes, enough already”).

2. Nobody understands why a gap in public school funding is everyone’s issue, and what’s at stake if we don’t fill that gap (more well educated students yield a better workforce, better leaders, and a stronger community).

We understood the intellectual value of what these folks were trying to do, but we knew the message could be a real yawner. What absolutely set us on fire, however, was the passion of the parents who were in involved in this gig. So we got our 24-hour game on.

Here’s a quick look at how we addressed their objectives.

Nomenclature and identity: After the necessary research, we determined the organization needed to be called what it was. No time or budget for cutesy conceptual names.  The ever-magnificent Maria Fabrizio developed an identity that put FIVE front and center.

Brand strategy: We developed a comprehensive message platform based on the thesis that District Five Foundation is the only organization that can move beyond the confines of public education budgets and deliver the kinds of advanced learning experiences students and teachers deserve.  It’s all about getting past barriers and making things happen.

Website: Our fellow Weconians, truematter, rose to the challenge yet again and led the way toward a web site that distinguishes the Foundation’s work and makes it imminently clear how people can get involved. 

Development strategy: We helped the Foundation diversify its development plan by developing engagement opportunities for four different giving audiences. We also outlined tiered giving levels, with engagement opportunities for specific audiences and initiatives.

Social media: Keely Saye and team worked their digital marketing magic, delivering a buyer persona study, content strategy, keyword research and editorial calendar to fuel social media growth and web site traffic/engagement.

A year later, we’re told the CreateAthon work has significantly helped the organization raise its profile within the community and attract new levels of support. Specifically, the Foundation is on track to exceed its fundraising performance from last year, which will allow it to bring more, different, and better educational opportunities to students and faculty.

We think that deserves a high Five. 

Full Circle Moments and Life-Changing Conversations

It was just about a year ago that Teresa Coles casually asked me if I could stop by the WECO so she could run an idea past me. As we settled into the cozy comfort of the green room, I was a bit bowled over when she asked if – after nine years of owning my own public relations consulting firm – I would consider joining the team at Riggs Partners. And not just joining the team, but heading up a new division to add public relations to the agency’s already impressive suite of services.

To fully understand the shock, surprise and overwhelming sense of “Me? They want me?” I have to take you back to 1998. I was in my second job out of college, working as the Community Events Coordinator at Carolina Children’s Home, a residential treatment facility for abused and neglected children. As with most nonprofits, the children’s home often struggled with having the resources to produce the kind of materials that we needed to help us solicit community support. We heard that a local marketing firm was going to offer free services to area nonprofits, and applied to see if they would develop a brochure for the Home.

As you may have guessed, we were selected as one of the first nonprofits ever served by Riggs’ signature program, CreateAthon. What they probably saw as a small, simple, 8-page brochure was like gold to us. When we went to speak to civic organizations and potential corporate sponsors, we now had an attractive, professional piece that beautifully described our work and explained how our community could help us give our kids a better life.

Over the years, I had numerous opportunities to observe Riggs through our shared professional associations and connections. I attended open houses and parties in their old office on Lady Street. I dropped off snack foods and supplies one year for CreateAthon, just because. I cheered for them at industry awards shows, because it’s great to see good people do well. I even got a chance to be their client when I worked for another nonprofit in the early 2000s.

In 2011, I reached out to ask if I could volunteer at CreateAthon, and received a very enthusiastic call from Teresa inviting me to work alongside her as an account manager for two clients. Of course, I was hooked and again volunteered for CreateAthon in 2012, this time serving as a lead account manager. It was a true full circle moment to go from CreateAthon client to CreateAthon volunteer.

I loved being my own boss for nearly a decade. Some of the proudest work of my (gulp) 20-year career came during that time. I was fortunate to work with amazing clients and meaningful causes. But just as I felt the pull in 2004 to venture out on my own, in early 2013 I was feeling the pull that it was time for a change. I just wasn’t sure what it was.

Thankfully, Teresa did. To say that I’m grateful to be a part of this team is an understatement. I have the best of both worlds – the opportunity to develop our public relations department with the same entrepreneurial spirit that I used to build my own company, and to be a part of an incredibly talented and generous team.

So, the next time someone invites you for a casual conversation, keep your ears, your heart and your mind open. That conversation just might change your life.

In Pursuit of Purpose

We had to see it coming: Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot Foundation and the guru of the pro bono movement, has moved beyond inspiring us to share our professional skills as a means to social good to building an entire economic sector around doing work that matters.

Aaron’s new gig is CEO of Imperative, a cadre of social entrepreneurs, product developers, economists and all-around brilliant creative minds. They’re on a mission to create a fully functioning Purpose Economy by 2020. The bottom line? Helping people and organizations uncover, activate, and monetize work that leaves a mark on this world — and making a good living doing it.

I got a preview of this big fat idea last winter, when I attended the first-ever Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted in NYC by Taproot. Our last exercise was to figure out – in 15 minutes, no less — how to transform the pro bono marketplace into a $20 billion economy by 2020. We burned up some post-it notes on that, let me tell you.

Those close to Aaron knew he was already at work on the Purpose Economy, writing a book while making the transition to Imperative. Ever watchful for news of the book release, I noted the announcement by Imperative just this past week of the Purpose 100, a compilation of people throughout the world who are deemed to be “transforming our innate need for meaning into the organizing principle for innovation and growth in the American economy.”

In a culture obsessed with the “awards season,” it’s refreshing to see people recognized for their bravery, creativity and tenacity in pursuing something larger than themselves.

I encourage you to spend a few moments with this list and consider the ways in which these remarkable human beings have channeled the talents, experiences and relationships they’ve cultivated in their lives into a force for good.

Then get out a sheet of paper and start looking for your purpose. It’s there, just under the surface, waiting for you.

Chronicle of Philanthropy Profiles CreateAthon

In the midst of the hustle-bustle that was last week, there was a blissful shining nugget that almost slipped by me. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the premier news resource of nonprofit enterprises, cast its mega-watt spotlight on CreateAthon. If you’re a Chronicle of Philanthropy subscriber, you can read it here. If you’re not a subscriber, here’s the goodness you missed.

The story shared the years-long effort of Riggs Partners in establishing the effort in 1997 and growing the one-night marketing blitz into a year-round, nationwide nonprofit entity. CreateAthon Executive Director Peyton Rowe also shared that the group is very busy during the “off season” forming a national board and finalizing strategic and financial planning.

We were equally thrilled the story included partner agencies ECG Group, verynice and Think Tank PR and Marketing. The piece featured projects from the 2013 CreateAthon including those for Epworth Children’s Home in Columbia, SC; The National Museum of Animals and Society in Hollywood, Ca.; The Girl Scouts of Suffolk County in Commack, NY; and Madison County Historical Society in Edwardsville, IL.

We’re always grateful for the never-ending flow of ideas and information that stem from the Chronicle of Philanthropy. That they would give CreateAthon a big ol’ fist-bump is nothing short of a dream come true.