Sunday, February 14, 2016

Work Your Small—A Case Study: Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, Inc.

Here’s my top take away from my first six months on the job at Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, Inc.:
Smaller, more nimble nonprofits like ours typically know their audiences better—so are far more connected with them—than do most large, complex organizations.

That Was Then
In 2013, I was the Director of Marketing for an international humanitarian development nonprofit. The annual budget was nearly one billion dollars, with our $2.3 million marketing budget funding the work of three departments and 13 staff members. Sounds like a lot, right?

International travel was the norm, and that was how we kept in productive touch with our constituents overseas. So it was a surprise when the marketing department was moved from the Charitable Giving division to a USOPS (U.S. Operations), with our new mandate was to serve the international and U.S. constituencies.

The tension grew by the moment as my team struggled to serve both areas with the same resources. Then, soon after a new CEO came on board, my role was cut in a managerial shake-up.

This Is Now
Now, just over two years later, I find myself at a much different organization— Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, Inc.—working in a much different way. We have a great tagline, More than a meal, and we live it!

In just a few months, I’ve seen Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland’s extraordinary client dedication. Our team goes
beyond ringing the doorbell and handing over a meal to provide wellness evaluations and connections to related services. But there’s even more.

Every step forward we take depends on the strength of our relationship with the citizens of Central Maryland and their relationships with each other. Our volunteers, donors, and clients are linked in multiple ways—via family, business, and community. Together they make our organization strong and our impact significant!

I am working hard to develop a low-budget marketing program that engages each audience segment. But with our community supporters fully behind us, my passion, energy and confidence are high. And my plans are based on what I know works in our region—community events, not multi-million dollar ad budgets.
Thanks to this growing, caring organization, I’m at a new peak in my career. Can’t wait to see what’s next.    G.A.

The Case for a Creative Workflow

The Case for a Creative Work Flow

Many smaller nonprofits don’t always have a solid process for the creative workflow. Perhaps the smaller staff size creates the illusion that a process is not needed.

My career has been dependent on developing a solid process for the creative workflow. I have not experienced the push-back you sometimes get at larger organizations, in fact my colleagues like being involved in communications that feature their voice.

Document Your Media Outreach
For an event in which we participated last spring I wrote a Creative Brief, but I called it an Event Brief. This was new and everyone felt it helpful.

It saved me time explaining to partners and colleagues the what, why, when, and how of that outreach event.

A week later I created a Media Brief for a drive-time radio appearance that included our Executive Director and myself. That simple 3-page document gave the station DJ an overview of our organization and its mission, as well as listing talking points for our interview segment. The Executive Director, a dynamic, busy woman, was appreciative that we had a “script” going into the spot.

Be Ready to Pounce When Opportunity Knocks
Two weeks after that another media opportunity occurred. During Baltimore’s unrest in April of 2015 we made a carefully considered decision to suspend meal deliveries for safety’s sake. 

A group of staff and volunteers made their own decision to deliver meals, their commitment to clients trumped personal safety concerns. This was in the neighborhood that saw the most media attention in April’s unrest.

Paul Gessler from Fox45 News in Baltimore, heard about this and wanted to do a news story about the dedication of our volunteers and staff.

A Media Brief was issued in advance, an overview of the delivery route, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of pertinent contacts. That document saved me so much time and was a great way to get people up to speed on the filming effort.

It Takes as Long as Making a Cup of Joe
By creating a written document, you will not only have captured a history of the efforts, your contacts in the media will appreciate the added information. Remember, they are often in a scramble to shoot, interview and edit their piece on the tightest of deadlines.

It is really a team effort, don’t ask—What can this media contact do for us, but what can we accomplish together?

Here is the link to the news piece:

If you would like a copy of the Media Brief, drop me an e-mail at or leave a comment.