By: Adam Powell
Written by: Meg Mader, Account Executive, Digital Media-CDR Fundraising Group
The Montgomery Area Food Bank (MAFB), a nonprofit organization serving senior citizens in Alabama, recently put a “young” spin on an “old” program – and found gold: The MAFB was recognized with the 2014 IMAB Integrated Marketing Award.
The MAFB improves the lives of more than 330,000 people every year, providing free food to individuals and families in need by distributing groceries and other necessities, and partnering with more than 800 agencies. The Senior Supplement Program, one of MAFB’s many life-changing services, provides nourishing food to elderly citizens across Alabama. Each month, all participating seniors receive a box filled with 25 to 35 pounds of nutritious food carefully selected for the special needs of older citizens.
But at one point, this relied-up service was in jeopardy – the Senior Supplement program had been struggling, and with funding so low, any hopes of program expansion were put on hold indefinitely – MAFB has not been able to add any new seniors to the program in over a year.
Finding Gold in Something Old
The MAFB realized they had to make a change to achieve their goals of increased engagement and overall support for the Senior Supplement Program. In their new strategy, MAFB switched the focus of their marketing, to call attention to the program itself and allow supporters to get to know the seniors they serve. The MAFB did this by sharing personal stories from participants, a smart way to educate donors on how the Senior Supplement Program profoundly improves the lives of seniors in need. The MAFB also began showing program-specific donors results to acknowledge the impact of their gifts and foster an emotional connection between the donor and the seniors.
To share their stories and increase awareness of the Senior Supplement Program, the MAFB switched to social media. Typically known for its influence on a younger audience, the MAFB opted to use social media channels to put a young spin on an old program, with hopes of reaching new followers and growing support. Staff dedicated one month to using Facebook, Twitter, and the MAFB blog to promote stories, facts and information about the seniors they serve. On Facebook, MAFB posted compelling images with facts summarizing the serious health concerns facing seniors who are malnourished. On their blog, the MAFB posted persuasive stories, one of which was written about an 81-year-old woman whose medical conditions did not allow her to digest solid foods.
The social media strategy was complimented by a matching grant opportunity: all first-time donors or donors who increase their giving (by dedicating gifts to the Senior Supplement Program) had their donations matched with a $10,000 gift.
One Donor ‘Ensures’ Program Continues
The results of this “young” strategy proved very rewarding for the program. In response to the story about the elderly woman who can’t digest solids, the program received donations of Ensure meal replacement drinks. The MAFB also received monthly sustainer donations in response to the same story.
In addition to expanding their social reach, the MAFB saw increases in overall visitors to their website and click-throughs driven from social media posts. In June of 2014, the Senior Supplement program increased the number of participants served by 6%, and this growth is forecasted to continue. On social media, the MAFB saw a 5.6% increase in Facebook likes, and an impressive 33% increase in Twitter followers in May and June of this year.
Last, but perhaps the most meaningful, the organization saw growth in their monthly recurring donations, adding 7 new monthly donors in 2014, two of which contribute directly to the Senior Supplement program.
The MAFB showed that social media is a powerful platform and useful for integrated campaigns when part of a strategy. These initiatives proved that knowledge is power – when supporters know more about the program’s depth and true impact of their gift, they develop a stronger connection to the organization’s mission and are more likely to stay engaged and give again. And while the Senior Supplement Program caters to older citizens, it is in fact, young at heart.
This blog was written by Meg Mader, (Account Executive, Digital Media-CDR Fundraising Group) on behalf of the Montgomery Area Food Bank for their recognition of the Integrated Marketing Award presented by the Integrated Marketing Advisory Board.
“Many people believe that the problems associated with hunger are confined to small pockets of society, certain areas of the country, or certain neighborhoods, but the reality is much different. Right now, millions of Americans are at risk of hunger. These are often hard-working adults, children and seniors who simply cannot always make ends meet and may be forced to go without food.”
This quote, provided by Feeding America, perfectly describes the assumptions that go along with hunger and those that receive food assistance. The perception of a hungry person is this: “they must be hungry because they are homeless”, “they must be hungry because they use their money on drugs and alcohol”, “they must be hungry because they aren’t responsible with their money”. This is a gross misrepresentation of the people we strive to serve. The truth is, “it is a silent epidemic that affects over 50 million Americans” or 1 out of every 6 people.
The term “working poor” was created just to define these groups- families that have at least one working adult in the home, seniors that have extreme medical expenses and live on a fixed income, or children that suffer because their parents are struggling to make ends meet. Wikipedia describes the working poor as this, “The wages the working poor receive are insufficient to provide basic necessities and lead to people making choices between having food on the table or having a table. Largely because they earning such low wages, the working poor face numerous obstacles that make it difficult for many of them to find and keep a job, save up money, and maintain a sense of self-worth.” It surprised me that Wikipedia’s definition included maintaining “ a sense of self-worth”; this is an all too important aspect of human nature that gets lost in the politics of providing relief to those that are in need.
Most of us are one hardship away from becoming one of our clients. Over 40% of those that we serve have at least one working adult in the home. All it takes is a job loss, a serious medical issue or a natural disaster and you could lose the ability to provide food for yourself or your family. If you have ever been in that situation, or helped a family that has, you can imagine how it feels. You have always been able to provide, it may not have been much, but you had food on the table, a roof over your head and basic necessities like laundry detergent and deodorant. If you lose everything, the small amount of money you do have has to be used carefully. Do you pay the rent and utilities or buy food for your children? Will you even have enough food to feed yourself? What if your car is need of repair? Can you afford to fix it? Could you even afford to put gas in it to take your children to school or to find a job? Can you afford to give your children money for lunch? Can you pay for your cell phone or your wireless internet? The answer is, no, some things will fall to the wayside and a decision has to be made for what is necessary and what is a luxury.
Calling and asking for help seems like a simple solution but this is where the ‘sense of self-worth’ comes in. It’s a difficult thing to do. It is human nature to have pride in yourself and for some; it comes down to how you were raised. You may not even have a phone to call and if you do, you may not even be able to talk to a real person. In this day and age, everything is automated, so imagine trying to get in touch with someone to help you and all you receive is an answering machine or a number to select. At this point, you are exhausted, desperate and frustrated because all you want is a solution. You have been shuffled through forms and requirements and have called numbers again and again, just to make sure you and your children can eat. “The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is less than $1.50 per person, per meal” and this doesn’t cover basic household necessities like dish and laundry detergent, soap or diapers. This is hunger in America.
In a survey conducted by the United States Conference of Mayors, 88.5% of cities participating in the survey cited unemployment as one of three major causes of hunger in their city. That is a staggering majority. We all know that the economic recession had an impact on job security, benefits and retirement, but some know it all too well. Minimum wage jobs were considered a God-send to those that realized unemployment after years of service, to those that were let go because their company could not afford to pay them any longer or because their benefits were too much of an expense. They are not in some faraway third-world country- they are your neighbors, they are your church members, they are your friends.
This is where the Montgomery Area Food Bank comes in. Since 1986, we have strived to serve our neighbors in need. In 1987, we distributed over 1.9 million pounds of food and other necessities and today, we distribute over 20 million across 35 counties within the state of Alabama. While it is a success to increase our distribution to serve even more hungry people, it is a failure to not serve even more. Hunger is a consistent and national problem. It extends to our grandparents, our parents and our children. It is not going away.
This is where you come in. Without your support, we would be unable to provide relief to those that need it most. Without you, we would be unable to sort and distribute product through tireless volunteer hours. Without you, we would be unable to expand our programs and educate others on being self-sufficient. Our mission is impossible without you. You are as necessary to hunger relief as we are, and together we can help “Feed Hope Across Alabama”.