The Long-Lasting Impact of an Awareness Campaign

How to reach your immediate goals & exceed expectations

By Lolly Colombo, EVP Client Services

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of an early morning walk, hike or run. Now, I know it’s not for everyone… getting up before the sun (and before pouring your morning coffee)! But getting outside to stretch my legs and wake up my body with fresh air can really set the course for the entire day.

I get it… some mornings, getting up early may feel like a sacrifice, but the endorphin boost makes it worth it – and getting moving early has long-lasting health benefits! Isn’t it awesome how life is full of metaphors? In the marketing and fundraising space, awareness campaigns are much like an early morning outing. These city-wide fundraising and awareness campaigns don’t just have immediate benefits, they also enjoy long-lasting impact and results!

Awareness campaigns are complex and they are an investment to be sure – of time, money and energy. But the record-breaking results provide a significant return on your investment! Let’s take a look at two campaigns that blew projections out of the water and see what lessons we can learn…

Example #1: Wheeler Mission’s Wheeler 125 Campaign

As they approached their 125th anniversary, BDI client partner Wheeler Mission in Indianapolis was facing a huge challenge. Their Center for Women & Children was getting more than 700 requests for shelter and care each month… and they were running out of space in their existing facility to care for everyone who was coming to them for help.

Wheeler Mission needed funds to cover the cost of expanding their Center and also wanted to commemorate their 125th anniversary. So in 2018, BDI developed and implemented a 125-day, omni-channel awareness campaign to launch and provide support to Wheeler Mission’s Center for Women & Children. 

The goal: Raise $1.25 million in 125 days to celebrate their 125th anniversary and expand their Center for Women & Children.

This media blitz strategy featured a series of unique marketing components that contributed dramatically to the overall success and long-lasting impact of the awareness campaign:

  • Sidewalk clings, an innovative ad form using life-size sidewalk stickers placed in high-traffic areas, literally stopped people in their tracks and invited them to give. These ads were so captivating, they created tremendous earned media opportunities for the Mission. 
  • Endorsements from notable public figures, such as the Governor of Indiana, the former Second Lady of the United States, Indianapolis’s mayor and congressman, and state and local sport figures created a snowball effect. Once these leaders showed their support, others wanted to get on board too.

These notable features of the campaign – in addition to out-of-home advertising, broadcast media advertisements and integrated print, email and digital media appeals – were key to helping Wheeler Mission not just meet but exceed their fundraising goals.

The Results: $11.7 million… and counting!

When Wheeler Mission introduced their capital campaign in mid-2018, raising $1.25 million in 125 days (in the middle of the summer) seemed like an ambitious goal. BDI was up for the challenge, and the long-lasting impact of this awareness campaign is proof of its success, even after the initial 125 days were over.

$1.25 million goal

$2.3 million raised in 125 days

$4.2 million raised in 6 months

$11.7 million raised in 12 months

Beyond these multiplying results, the timing of the Wheeler 125 campaign in 2018 could not have been better, helping to position the organization within the community and boost brand name recognition. This meant Wheeler Mission was prepared to maximize the local fundraising opportunity created by COVID-19… and donors were eager to help.

Wheeler 125’s long-lasting impact

A 2021 donor performance analysis (completed earlier this year) shows the impact the Wheeler 125 campaign had on the Mission’s overall giving from 2018-2019 – and then in 2020 and 2021, we see the effect of the COVID-19 bump. (Note: While Wheeler Mission’s results in 2020 definitely benefited from the brand name recognition brought about by Wheeler 125, the lion’s share of the boost should be attributed to generous giving during the pandemic.)

Not only did revenue increase thanks to the Wheeler 125 campaign, but so did Wheeler Mission’s number of active donors (0-12 month). In 2018, this group was up 4% year-over-year. Today the number of active donors (0-12 month, with gifts under $10,000) is up 7.2% over pre-pandemic numbers. Donors with gifts over $10,000 are up 22% over the same time period. Granted, the pandemic provided a tremendous boost, but even as the market adjusts, the long-lasting impact of the awareness campaign is still evident.

In addition to multi-year giving received through the Wheeler 125 campaign, this media blitz brought in thousands of new supporters – who are still being cultivated and will be for years to come. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Wheeler 125’s impact yet! 

Example #2: Helping Up Mission’s Public Outreach Campaign

This next example is perhaps one of the most important, life-saving projects BDI has ever had the privilege to work on. In 2021, Helping Up Mission (HUM) in Baltimore faced an opioid crisis of epic proportions in their city. 

The number of people struggling with homelessness and addiction in Baltimore is the highest in the U.S. And during the pandemic, overdose deaths skyrocketed and yet fewer people sought treatment. HUM, under grant and in partnership with the The Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC) set out to launch a public awareness campaign to:

  1. alleviate the public’s fears about the safety of care facilities like HUM following pandemic stay-at-home orders.
  2. overcome any barriers to those in need seeking practical and critical help.
  3. inform individuals directly affected by the opioid crisis that help is available and how to access that life-saving assistance.

Getting the message to those in need

HUM partnered with BDI to address this growing crisis through an omni-channel campaign that included broadcast, transit, outdoor and digital marketing efforts such as:

  • Bus shelter advertisements to reach out to those struggling on the streets
  • Display and geofencing ads targeting at-risk audiences
  • Radio ads on popular Baltimore stations
  • Social media, including Facebook, Instagram and Google search ads

The Results: More people helped than ever before

A key feature of this awareness campaign was a new 24-hour hotline HUM advertised to call for help and to learn more about the addiction recovery programs at their facilities. In the first 3 months of its use, more than 850 calls were made to the hotline for help, and it continues to receive a large number of calls each month from people inquiring about HUM’s addiction recovery program.

HUM has also seen more than a 1,000% increase in visits to their “Get Help” landing page on their website over the previous year – showing that more people are seeking assistance than ever before. And people are not only researching recovery programs, but they’re joining them! Today, HUM’s Spiritual Recovery Program for men is nearly at capacity. 

Not only are these results impressive, but they are creating opportunities for greater impact: HUM’s grant from the OOCC has been renewed for 2022! This grant will allow HUM to continue their successful public outreach, this year with a focus on helping women and children.  

To learn more about this creative campaign, read our FREE case study that tells more of the story behind HUM’s outreach. Read it now >>

Lasting impact

As direct marketers, we know that a limited-time offer can really “move the needle” on results performance for a specific campaign. The life-cycle of a solid, well-executed, multi-channel awareness campaign, on the other hand, has no time limitations.  

It can and does lift the tides and provide an overall sustained period of file growth and financial bounty – providing a notable increase across any campaigns that may be in market during the event. Innovative, multi-channel campaigns like these have the power to reach donors and your community in ways that truly speak to their hearts, captivate their attention and inspire action. 

Scripture promises that “The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty… to bless all the work of your hands” (Deuteronomy 28:12, NIV). Through these two campaigns, and the amazing work of our ministry partners, collectively the works of our hands have truly been blessed, and more lives have truly been impacted for good as a result. This is what makes what we do entirely worthwhile! It’s like that early morning run or summiting that peak at dawn. Invigorating, exhilarating, rewarding! 

To learn more about how BDI can help you achieve lasting growth with your campaigns, please feel free to email me today. Our team would love to help you reach your best results yet!

Learn more about how HUM’s wide-reaching public awareness campaign is helping bring an answer to the opioid crisis in Baltimore. Watch our latest webinar, “Saving Lives: Reaching More People Who Need Your Ministry’s Help,” with Helping Up Mission’s Chief Philanthropy Officer, Jennifer Bodon! Watch now >>  

  • Lolly Colombo, Exec VP Client Services

    Lolly Colombo, Exec Vice President, Client Services

    Lolly has been in the trenches with compassion work on both the program side and the agency side for thirty years serving some of the world’s most beloved charities and faith-based organizations including The Salvation Army, Operation Blessing International, Food for the Hungry, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, CBN, In Touch Ministries, and others.

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