My non-profits are small and like all young organizations we are short on time, manpower and most of all – money. That doesn’t stop me from spending it on brandraising or awareness, though. You can have the best cause in the world and be doing incredible work but if nobody knows you exist, or worse – that your cause does, you won’t get very far.
I try to think out of the box when it comes to raising awareness for my cause and my brands, with the most important objectives always being reaching as many people from as many different places as possible who aren’t already in my cause community without breaking the proverbial bank.
This past February my non-profit, Big Love Little Hearts, launched The Global Geocoin Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Campaign. It not only achieved all of those objectives – it has become one of the most emotional projects I’ve ever created.
Geocoins are trackable items used in geocaching, a sort of high tech treasure hunt. There are more than one million geocaches hidden around the world by approximately 100,000 active geocachers. Geocoins can be minted to look like most anything and have a trackable number on the back which directs the finder to a specific website where they can read and contribute to that coins log, as well as find out what they should do next.
My son and I are avid geocachers and the first time I found a geocoin a light-bulb went off in my head. People who geocache come from all walks of life, are active all over the world and have no connection to the congenital heart defect community – a perfect opportunity to raise awareness and build our brand!
I set about having 200 geocoins minted to look like our logo, complete with trackable item numbers and google-map icons (this cost approximately $1800). While they were being processed I made a post on the geocaching forums requesting volunteers to help hide the coins. Not two hours later I had volunteers for all 200 coins from 37 states and 18 countries.
Once they arrived my brother and I customized the log website for each of the 200 coins with information about heart defects, the campaign and how they could donate.
If it doesn’t seem like 200 is enough to make much of a difference let me point out that on average each geocoin is moved once or twice a week. This means that those 200 coins will be found 10,000 – 20,000 times per year. That’s an average of 15,000 new people who’ll see our logo, read about heart defects and what we do. Per year. Perpetually.
We shipped the coins along with this letter to our volunteer “hiders” who released them during Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, February 7-14, 2010. I can’t tell you how blown away I was by their passion – this log represents a typical sentiment. Because heart defects are common – 1 in 100 – it’s not surprising that one of our hiders was personally affected by them. A volunteer in Japan even translated our message and made a spiffy holder for this one!
Since then they have been moved and found over and over and over again. I receive hundreds of log notifications a week. Some have moved through several countries and traveled more than 10,000 miles from their original release. They have done their job of raising awareness and continue to touch people personally. One family lost their daughter to a heart defect and they put our coin in a cache near her grave. They took a picture of it cradled in the arms of an angel overlooking her headstone – it is one of the most moving pictures I’ve ever seen. I cry every time I look at it.
It has raised money – not very much, but that wasn’t the point. Our $1,800 got us 15,000 new eyes and ears a year, every year. It also got us a whole lot of SEO power. Each one of those 200 coins has its own webpage and every time a new log entry is registered it caches separately. I don’t think we could have gotten more bang for our brandraising buck with this campaign if we tried!
Start thinking more creatively about how you can do more with less and how you can make the money you do spend on brand building and awareness as impactful as possible. Even small things like placing your logo/website on the back of your t-shirts can make a big difference when someone’s behind one of your supporters on a running path or at the gym.
Being a small non-profit with a small budget doesn’t mean you have to forgo brandraising or awareness campaigns – it just means you have to be smart about it and think a little more outside the box.
Before I end this post I want to include this geocoin log because it’s the greatest ROI I’ve gotten from this project on a personal level. To know that I made someone want to give more – do more – love more, is an immeasurable gift.