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. 

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.

Riggs Partners Receives Ten Awards at InShow

Riggs Partners Receives Ten Awards at InShow

COLUMBIA, SC (November 18, 2013) – Work developed by Riggs Partners was recognized for the 19th consecutive year at InShow, a juried competition showcasing creative excellence from across the state.

Riggs Partners’ winning entries included:

The agency also received a special judges award for the Palmetto GBA Annual Report.

InShow is presented by AIGA South Carolina, a chapter of one of the industry’s oldest and largest professional organizations. InShow was created 19 years ago by the Columbia Communicating Arts Society to showcase the very best work in the Columbia market. In 2004, AIGA South Carolina took over, expanding the event to a statewide competition.

“InShow is always highly competitive, and we’re so proud of our team for their success in branding, design and interactive for such a wide variety of clients,” said Cathy Monetti, founder and partner of Riggs Partners. “Plus, to receive a special judges award is the cherry on top.”

The value of pro bono

A recent article in the New York Times speaks to the importance of not working for free because it devalues all creative vocations, rendering our work worthless to a culture that often defines value monetarily. As a part-time freelance designer, I tend to agree with this premise in a practical sense. Why should I give my time, effort, and skills to someone at absolutely no cost? For exposure to new audiences? A chance to beef up my portfolio? The possibility of future work? While such offers sound appealing and may at times even benefit the creative, they are ultimately the equivalent of asking for a free 5-course meal at a fancy restaurant in exchange for a positive review on Yelp. Spending all your 9 to 5 efforts on a project for next to nothing in return could therefore be considered an insane waste of time.

Why then do we do it once a year, for 24 hours straight? Because pro bono is not just working for free, it’s consciously giving for free: giving of our time and talents to deserving nonprofits who’s jobs are to give of themselves every day; steadfastly giving back to our communities what they have so graciously given us — a chance to make the world a better place. As I reflect on CreateAthon and all the good that was done last week, I realize that not all work done for free is worthless or a devaluation of our creative talents. Pro bono work can in fact have far greater value when done for the benefit of other do-gooders. It’s this spirit of giving back, this CreateAthon, that continues a cycle of good in our community. This is our ever-so-small contribution to the continuing rotation of the great world around us. And for the joy set before us, we will do it again and again.

10 CreateAthon Secrets Every Volunteer Should Know

  1. Bring PJ’s. When you work all night, changing clothes a few times helps.
  2. Washing your hair at 5am helps you power through the last few hours. Also, your hair may look like you’ve combed it with a porkchop. I know this to be true.
  3. Bring tissues to every presentation. Even if you don’t think you’ll need them, you will.
  4. When you can’t make a decision, get another opinion. If it’s 2 a.m., get an intervention. Remember: “Think about it. Decide. Move on.”
  5. Try to eat healthy. Staying up all night is tough. It’s harder when you’re full of chocolate, cheezy poofs, cookies, Red Bull, popcorn, coffee, doughnuts, peanuts, tiny candy bars and Little Debbie Fudge Rounds.
  6. Deliver the extra idea. There are always extra little awesome details or ideas, make them happen. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many nonprofits. Go the extra mile.
  7. Be flexible. You never know what will happen. Go with the flow.
  8. Have fun. The 24 hours of CreateAthon is pressure packed. Take time to have fun. Stop what you’re doing, have a normal conversation. Hop on Twitter to see what other partner agencies are doing. Hold a 2am all 80’s dance party.
  9. Don’t be afraid. When you leave your last CreateAthon presentation, you will be so energized it’s almost hard to believe. You’ll feel empowered at what you did and gave. It’s a feeling that never goes away and only gets stronger when you volunteer again next year.
  10. Spread the word. There are many areas in this nation where CreateAthon could do 24 hours of good. We’d like to be there. You can help.

Watch the video below to get a sneak peek at the magic of CreateAthon.