Most everyone has an idea of what Ronald McDonald is all about—the McDonald’s mascot chases the Hamburglar around, right?
But a lot of people don’t know what the Ronald McDonald House nonprofit charity does, and that’s a shame, which is why Oliver Russell was brought in—to tame that shame and spread the word about all the good that happens within the walls of this fantastic place.
The Opportunity for a Game Changer
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Idaho (RMHC) knew it could help far more families if it could just increase new awareness and understanding for its services across its market area in Idaho and Eastern Oregon. Like many nonprofits, most of its budget goes into carrying out its mission. But when Regence BlueShield of Idaho tapped RMHC on its shoulder with a magic wand—a $100,000 Community Partner grant, Executive Director Mindy Plumlee saw the added resources as a potential game changer.
“To an organization of our size in the nonprofit world, golden opportunities like this might only come along once, so you have to make the most of them,” she said. “It’s been exciting to reach out in directions we never imagined having the funds and ability to do."
The Grant is a Problem?
Interestingly enough, we saw the first problem in our assignment as the incredibly generous gift from Regence BlueShield of Idaho. One-hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money, but it’s challenging to make it a game changer while stretching it across an audience that reaches across two time zones and large swaths of two states. How could we truly turn it into a game changer rather than a one-shot deal?
Then there were the awareness and perception issues. In addition to lack of understanding about its mission, there’s a misconception that Ronald McDonald House is a part of McDonalds (it isn’t) and receives direct support from the company (it doesn’t, though franchise owners often do). This combination hinders fundraising—if you don’t know the “why” of the cause, and you think it has financial support wired, well, then, “why” would you contribute?
Teach Them How To Fish
Funny that digital channels and Google AdWords can be equated to a biblical proverb. But that’s what we did—in order to make this a game changer, we devised a plan to help RMHC build its long-term network and give staff tools they could cost-efficiently use in the future when they didn’t have the benefit of a large grant.
These tools included social media message planning and activation, implementing a YouTube donation channel, and perhaps most importantly, acquiring a Google AdWords grant.
Many nonprofits completely overlook, or don’t fully understand, the power of Search Engine Marketing and how it can help their efforts. We helped RMHC apply for and secure a Google Ad Grant. This is the nonprofit version of AdWords, Google's online advertising tool. Recipients of these grants receive $10,000 per month in in-kind AdWords™ advertising they can use to promote their missions and initiatives on Google search result pages.
Helping Families Stay Together
Next up were the message and perception issues. Weighing the opportunities, we decided the best route was to focus on the mission message first, with the intent that it could create the space for broadened understanding that RMHC is wholly independent and responsible for all its funding needs.
That basic mission message is this: When families experience a life-threatening disease or injury to a child that requires travel to another city for urgent medical care, the Ronald McDonald House provides a home-away-from-home that eases stress and financial burden by helping families to stay together.
We decided early that our storytellers wouldn’t be professional actors or staff—and that it wouldn’t be “our” story, but theirs. This provided our best shot at delivering a genuinely powerful message by letting parents and grandparents tell their own compelling stories.
We devised a multiple-channel integrated campaign, the type of which nonprofits typically can’t pursue because they either lack the understanding or funds to do so.