Innovation + Integration = Impact
Tom Harrison: Many people talk about integrated marketing or multichannel marketing, but when you dig deeper you find out they mean direct mail and outbound telemarketing.
Kyla Shawyer: There was a time when Operation Smile was using very few channels to communicate with our donors. We had to acknowledge that people wanted diversity and demanded choices. The more ways we communicated with them, the more likely they were to receive our message and respond.
Tom: We believe that successful nonprofits need a truly diversified fundraising program. Two reasons: (1) Just as we all need a diversified investment strategy for our retirement, nonprofits shouldn't put all their eggs into one fundraising basket, and (2) a strong, diversified fundraising program is one in which various channels will actually strengthen each other. The results are larger than the sum of the parts.
Kyla: At least that's what we all believed … and so we set about to prove it in the marketplace. Operation Smile and Russ Reid had already developed a strong acquisition and cultivation program, a robust monthly giving program, and a brand refresh. We were working across [various] channels such as digital, television, mail, phone and events.
In five years, our new marketing partnership and strategies helped Operation Smile revenue grow by 1,000 percent, and we were honored to be named Nonprofit of the Year by the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation. But there's a difference between using a full array of tools and true integration. We had momentum going for us — with senior management and our board. With everything working — despite the economy — now was the time to invest new marketing dollars to test what would happen if we truly integrated the efforts through consistent messaging and a layered approach to media.
Tom: We responded by proposing a strategy called a City Campaign that Russ Reid had pioneered for World Vision in Canada. We thought a version of the City Campaign could work for Operation Smile in the U.S.
Kyla: We're big believers in integration. We've worked to break down the silos internally, and we wanted to test the impact of a truly integrated campaign across far more than traditional mail/phone. A City Campaign is a full-on, fully integrated, citywide blitz in a small- to medium-size market using virtually all media. We believed that the whole could greatly exceed the value of the sum of the parts. And we wanted an opportunity to rally the whole organization and put our new, integrated structure to the test.
Tom: Our launch city for Oper- ation Smile's first City Campaign was Salt Lake City. We chose this market because of its size, the media channels available and — perhaps most importantly — because of its active Operation Smile volunteer base. More than 700 people from the area have gone overseas as medical volunteers for Operation Smile. We knew that we would have a strong grassroots partnership supporting our efforts.
Our first step was to secure a media partnership with KSL TV — the leading TV station covering Salt Lake City and most of Utah. Without a sponsoring TV station, we would not proceed with a campaign. Fortunately, [the folks at KSL TV] were eager to partner with us.
Kyla: We called our campaign the 1,000 Smiles Campaign. First, we wanted to honor the people in the local community who had supported us in the past. We could not do what we do without our incredible volunteers who so generously donate their time and talents to helping children around the world. Some have been involved since we started — more than 25 years ago — so it was a wonderful opportunity to publicly recognize them for their support.
And second, we saw the campaign as a way to inspire others in the community to rise to the challenge of giving 1,000 surgeries to children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate. Our offer? We asked local folks to "Be a Hero" and help give a surgery for a gift of $240 or $20 per month. We had a clear plan to blitz the market over a six-week time period. All creative needed to be integrated, and included TV spots, radio spots, direct mail, an e-mail campaign to our donors in the area, bus boards, billboards, print, direct mail and face-to-face. It also included banner ads on both the TV and radio websites, which linked to our special landing pages.
Tom: Our spokesperson and "chief hero" was Brooke Walker — the host of a popular morning magazine show and anchor of the evening news. We like to look for the equivalent of the local rock star to be the spokesperson for a campaign. In many markets, that's the local weatherperson. Someone who is known and loved throughout the community.
Usually, we take the spokesperson to see the work in person and produce spots on location. Because of the economic situation in the region, the station asked us to produce the spots in its studio and incorporate footage we shot overseas. Brooke hosted the spots. She also invited Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee (Operation Smile's co-founders) and actress Roma Downey (a member of Operation Smile's board of governors and host of four DRTV shows) to appear on her daily show and talk about the campaign.
Through the six-week period, our strategy was to maximize the impressions throughout the community for the Operation Smile 1,000 Smiles Campaign. Everywhere you looked, that's what you saw.
Kyla: In addition to Brooke Walker, the heroes featured in our campaign were volunteers who had been on Operation Smile medical missions around the world and supporters in the local community, including a member of the Osmond family (country singer Nathan Osmond) with his quote: "As little as $240 provides not only a smile, but changes a life." We involved them in a photo shoot; asked them to give us a quote; and featured them in bus boards, billboards and in online banners targeted at the Salt Lake City area.
Tom: Through our partnership with the local TV station, we featured online banners and calls to action on its website. Radio ads featured Access Hollywood's Billy Bush, one of Operation Smile's celebratory ambassadors, and ran during heavy traffic times, driving folks online. And, Brooke also invited folks to go online to learn more about Operation Smile's work almost daily during the campaign.
This was a layered approach to media. In addition to running 30- and 15-second promotional spots, we ran our existing 60-minute Operation Smile long-form DRTV program in the market (hosted by Downey, who filmed her "Touched by an Angel" show in Salt Lake City for 10 years) — and included the 30-second localized City Cam- paign spot at the top, at 30 minutes and at the close of the show. We also did a zip walk acquisition direct-mail package, which incorporated the campaign theme.
Kyla: Face-to-face strategies are essential for a successful city blitz — whether in the mall, door to door or, in this case, at a banquet in Salt Lake City where some 500 people gathered to rally support for Operation Smile. The banquet was hosted by Walker, and co-founders Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee were the featured guests of honor.
The call to action was for a single surgery or a monthly donation of $20 per month to help provide a surgery. Our brochure allowed people to donate on the spot and give a surgery.
Tom: We exceeded our goal of giving 1,000 smile surgeries and generated tremendous good will throughout the community. But that's not the end of the story.
Kyla: When the campaign ended, Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee flew to Salt Lake City and sat down to lunch with a gentleman who was interested in giving to Operation Smile. He had a story to tell them — and they wanted to listen.
As he spoke, tears began streaming down his face. He talked about how he had lost a son a few years ago and was struggling to recover from his tremendous loss. He was immobilized with grief and despair — until he saw our Operation Smile City Campaign.
He literally pulled our brochure out of his pocket and said that, finally, he found something he wanted to channel his energies into. He said he and his friends would raise an additional 1,000 smiles ($240,000) in memory of his son.
Bill and Kathy agreed to dedicate a future Operation Smile medical mission to his son, and invited the new donor and his friends to volunteer on the trip and experience firsthand what their generosity would accomplish.
This campaign didn't just transform the lives of thousands of children overseas; it transformed the lives of countless families in the community and introduced many new supporters to our cause, including major-donor prospects and new medical volunteers.
And it also was a brilliant display of teamwork across our organization, banding together direct response, development, marketing and communications, student programs, chapters, and volunteers. Every department had something it wished to contribute and in return was able to see the value in participating.
Tom: We learned that smart integration of message, use of multiple channels and a layered approach to media could yield big results.
Kyla: And pave the way for greater internal collaboration. We're already in the planning stages for our next integrated campaign! FS