One Good Idea: Overnight Sensations
If you’re a nonprofit fundraiser, you could have your wildest dreams come true. Well, at least your wildest marketing concepts. For free.
CreateAthon is an annual, 24-hour creative blitz in which ad agencies and design firms across the nation work pro bono for nonprofit organizations, providing them with professional marketing services that they otherwise might not be able to afford.
The program — celebrating its 10th anniversary this year — was founded by Cathy Monetti, president and creative director of RIGGS, a Columbia, S.C.-based ad agency, and the agency’s vice president, Teresa Coles. Coles says the idea grew out of a joke she made one night when she and Monetti were working late.
“I made the off-hand comment to her that evening that perhaps if we would stay up all night one night, and work through the night, that perhaps we would get caught up on our work,” Coles says.
They laughed about the idea, but that night Coles kept thinking about it. “The next morning I went into her office and I said, ‘I’m really serious about staying up all night and working … the catch is I think we should do it for charity.’”
And so CreateAthon was born. RIGGS reviewed all the pro bono requests it had received that year and completed as many projects as it could in 24 hours.
The program went national in 2002 and, since then, as many as 38 agencies have been CreateAthon partners, helping more than 830 nonprofits and delivering 275 marketing projects valued at more than $7 million.
Souper Bowl of Caring, a nationwide, youth-led effort that encourages donations on Super Bowl Sunday to help fight hunger and poverty in local communities, was involved with CreateAthon two years ago. Director of Public Relations Tracy Bender says her organization originally played it safe and asked for a brochure describing the basics of Souper Bowl of Caring.
“They said, ‘Well, you know, that sounds like a great project. But — pie in the sky — if you could have anything in the world, what would it be?’” Bender says.
She changed her request to a new TV public service announcement, and the agency created it, literally, overnight. SBC has been using the PSA for the past two years and plans to continue using it. Needless to say, Bender’s a huge fan of the program.
“Here are agencies across the country willing to give of their time and their wonderful talent to help move all of these different, individual organizations forward; and the fact that they’ve offered that, I think, is absolutely an opportunity that nonprofits should take advantage of,” Bender says. Instead of nonprofits trying to get the most for the least amount of money, these agencies are offering up services for free, she remarks.
The program also is a win for agencies. Hypno, a marketing and advertising firm in New Jersey, has a staff of three. But during CreateAthon, which it’s done for five years now, it’s brought in as many as 26 volunteers from ad and marketing agencies throughout the region to help 44 local and national nonprofits. Creative Director Richard Cardona, calls CreateAthon a “soul-cleansing experience.”
“This is the way to re-energize the soul, and it really makes you feel good that you’re doing things for organizations that are helping our com-
munities so much,” Cardona says.
“We can help out more organizations in one night enlisting the help of our CreateAthon squad than we could throughout the rest of the year just as a small agency,” he adds.
This year’s national CreateAthon is scheduled for the week of Sept. 10. Agencies and design firms interested in participating should sign up via the CreateAthon Web site as soon as possible, and nonprofit organizations are encouraged to submit requests for services.
For more, www.createathon.org.