How Brewer Direct + Wheeler Mission transformed a city
From Randy Brewer, President/CEO/Chairman of the Board, Brewer Direct
As a nonprofit, how do you expand in your city?
By 2018, Wheeler had been serving their community for 125 years. Locally, they’re widely known and well respected. Their Thanksgiving morning “Drumstick Dash” race is the second largest in Indiana. They have a faithful community of supporters and volunteers. They even serve as the City of Indianapolis’ winter contingency partner.
But they still faced challenges, the biggest of which was their Center for Women & Children. They’d gotten to the point of turning away 700 requests monthly from women and children seeking help.
When Wheeler turned to Brewer Direct, VP/Client Service Lolly Colombo knew that the tried-and-true direct response fundraising methods would not be enough. So together with Wheeler Mission, Lolly and Brewer Direct proposed launching a citywide, multi-channel strategy that would capture Indy’s attention.
The ultimate goal of the campaign was to transform an entire city from “unaware” to “engaged” about the challenge of homelessness among women and children – and to become part of the solution, along with Wheeler Mission.
But it would take a bold, out-of-the-box plan. Brewer Direct’s VP/Creative Director Matt Sommer notes that today, consumers are inundated with digital advertising and promotions – up to 10,000 impression per day. “The question,” Matt says, “is how to cut through all that clutter and make a meaningful, lasting, even ‘actionable’ impression.”
It would take a campaign designed to touch the hearts of existing donors… engage new donors… and generate new major and corporate gifts. All while celebrating Wheeler’s 125 years of service!
So Brewer Direct’s team came up with a branded campaign name and goal that tied perfectly to the need…
The name: Building for Change
The goal: Raising $1.25 million in 125 days to celebrate Wheeler’s 125th anniversary and expand their Center for Women & Children to meet the current (and future) demand.
(To read more about the goals of this campaign, download our case study below.)
How do you expand your audience?
When approaching the Building for Change campaign, Brewer Direct started with a very simple principle. “There is nothing more powerful than setting hearts on fire,” Lolly says. “We helped Wheeler accomplish that at a grassroots level by meeting the people in their city where they are with powerful messaging wrapped around a powerful mission.”
Traditionally, in nonprofit fundraising, a capital campaign would begin in a “silent phase.” Before rolling out to the general public, a nonprofit like Wheeler would go about raising 30-50% (sometimes more) of their overall goal from major donors and other corporate partners.
Why? Well, NonProfit Pro puts it this way: “The idea is that when you open the campaign up to the public, you want to be able to position it as being successful. It encourages others, particularly smaller donors, to give, knowing they’re part of a successful campaign.”
When Brewer Direct planned Wheeler’s Building for Change campaign, they proposed a major paradigm shift from the start. The idea was not to be silent at all. In fact, the idea they proposed was making so much noise in the traditionally silent phase that it actually “silenced” that old paradigm.
And it worked! “By bringing our message to the person on the street, we were able to leverage the voice and passion of public opinion,” Lolly says. “That led to the social media world catching on fire and rallied local media to bring the focus of Wheeler’s campaign to support homeless women and children to the forefront of Indy’s attention.”
With the campaign trending across social media, Indiana celebrities like the Mayor, the Governor and the Second Lady of the United States lent their support. When prominent city and business leaders got on board, it prompted others to lend their support as well. It provided legitimacy to the campaign while strengthening Wheeler’s brand. And with such prominent endorsements, the campaign was already a success in the eyes of the city.
These endorsements not only raised awareness and interest among the public, but helped lead to major contributions too. It was only reinforced when Brewer Direct took Wheeler’s message to the streets… quite literally.
What media do you use to grab the attention of your new audience?
From the online world of Facebook to the actual sidewalk pavement of downtown Indy, Wheeler’s message about the increasing number of homeless women and children was everywhere for 125 days in 2018.
“We hoped to stop people in their tracks, make an unforgettable impression,” Lolly says, “and get them thinking about something really important.”
To start, Brewer Direct updated Wheeler’s branding imagery and logo, and then created Building for Change-specific branding used throughout the 125 days.
The campaign then rolled out across multiple media channels: print, digital and social media, direct response, outdoor and guerilla advertising, event marketing, radio and TV, and a video in which Wheeler’s most prominent supporters of this campaign embraced a personal call to action, affirming: “I’m building for change!”
For example, Brewer Direct took the message to the streets with a set of printable sidewalk-adhesive decals. With original photography of homeless women and children sleeping on the streets, and a variety of Call to Action messages, the sidewalk clings stopped people walking along familiar city streets in their tracks.
A street-level guerilla tactic like this can break through on a whole different level. When consumers are approached outside of the normal channels, they pause and take notice.“Guerrilla Marketing is all about the element of surprise,” Lolly says. “There is nothing like the power of the unexpected!”
Not only did the guerrilla placements garner the interest of passers-by, but also became a sensation covered by local news outlets like the IndyStar News and even NPR. All this created an estimated 8 to 10 million impressions just from the sidewalk clings. “And,” Lolly adds, “the most exciting thing is that the conversation hasn’t stopped!”
These powerful images moved seamlessly from sidewalk to online media, causing just as much stir on Facebook and Twitter as they did on Indy’s streets. In just 125 days, Wheeler had results that included over 8 million digital media impressions, an ROI of over 3.0 on Facebook ads, and year-over-year increase of 89% in website traffic. (To read more about the results, download our case study below.)
Multiple impressions lead to multiplied results!
Every nonprofit is different and has their own unique vision with their own unique goals. But every unique vision can be brought to life with the right strategic partner.
Brewer Direct’s commitment to creating evocative multimedia garnered a maximized response for Wheeler Mission’s Building for Change campaign. It moved hearts powerfully, transforming Indianapolis residents from unaware to engaged, from concerned to passionate, from inactive to participants throughout the 125 days of this campaign. It had locals buzzing (online and IRL!) about the challenges of homelessness in their city and gave them real, actionable ways to get involved on behalf of women and children.
The best news of all is that it not only created buzz – but also, generated incredible results. Thanks to Brewer Direct’s leadership and strategic vision on this project, Wheeler’s campaign greatly exceeded their $1.25 million goal in under 125 days!
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