How VOA Illinois (Volunteers of America – Illinois) collaborated with Prosper Strategies to create transformative messaging and an updated brand identity to propel their marketing and fundraising.
VOA Illinois is a 134-year old organization that, despite its age, is constantly innovating. However, its brand, messaging and marketing had not kept pace. This was coupled with the fact that many people still mistook Volunteers of America for a volunteer-based organization that served primarily veterans, when in fact it serves people of all ages and walks of life and is made up of a staff of full-time professionals in social work, mental health, child welfare, housing and more.
The organization wanted to transform its image and its message to accurately reflect the work it was doing and to highlight their stories of impact across all of their service areas. Additionally, they wanted to amplify their marketing and fundraising efforts to reach new donor audiences.
Prosper Strategies leveraged elements of the Nonprofit Impact System ™ to help VOA Illinois reach their goals. We started by identifying the organization’s reason for being, and updating their mission to more accurately reflect their work today. We identified new potential donors who would be excited about VOA Illinois’s great work, and developed messaging to help the nonprofit reach those audiences. Finally, we developed a marketing and fundraising plan to bring their new messaging to life, attract new audiences and convert more prospects to donors.
During our research process, our goal was to uncover information about VOA Illinois that would inform our messaging, marketing and fundraising strategies. We conducted an organization assessment where we reviewed the organization’s current messaging, marketing and fundraising materials. Then we conducted an ecosystem assessment, where we looked into other human services organizations to identify areas where VOA Illinois could differentiate itself in the minds of its stakeholders. Finally, we conducted a stakeholder assessment, which included an audit of VOA’s donor database along with interviews with other VOA programs across the country. Our goal here was to understand VOA’s current donors more intimately, so we could identify new potential donor audiences.
VOA Illinois supports veterans, older adults, foster children and people living with disabilities. Because of the organization’s wide range of services for people of all ages, we found they lacked a cohesive message that tied each one of their efforts to the nonprofit’s overall vision. We also identified an opportunity for VOA Illinois to differentiate itself from other human services organizations by emphasizing its longevity and dedication to ongoing innovation. Finally, we found that the donors VOA Illinois was looking to attract were interested in giving to nonprofits that address immediate, local needs, but they also wanted to be contributing to a larger, more visionary goal.
We used these findings to develop VOA Illinois’s reason for being statement, along with an updated mission and vision for the organization. We also identified new donor groups the organization could focus on reaching and engaging with their new marketing and fundraising strategy. We used this research to develop their donor profiles, key messages and key messages by donor audience that could be used across all of VOA Illinois’s various marketing and fundraising materials.
Once messaging was developed, we shifted our focus to helping VOA Illinois bring it to life. This started with the creation of a campaign concept, “More than a Home.” Across all of the organization’s service areas, VOA was a home for many, but it was also so much more – it was “A New Beginning,” “A Bright Future,” “A Better Quality of Life,” and “A Community that Cares.”
We used this unifying campaign concept as the cornerstone of our marketing and fundraising strategy, which focused on bringing their new messaging to life using real stories about the people they work with. It also included strategies to help them reach new audiences with paid advertising, build their donor database with new contacts, and nurture leads from prospects to donors.
Throughout our work with VOA Illinois, Prosper worked closely with leadership, staff and the board of directors, meeting at strategic checkpoints throughout the process for inputs. We also had the opportunity to leverage insights from VOA development directors at chapters across the country who shared data and information about their own donors and what motivated them to support their VOA chapters.
As we worked to bring the organization’s campaign concept to life, we collaborated closely with VOA Illinois’s marketing leadership to gather client stories, ensuring they would be portrayed accurately, respectfully and from a place of strength.
Finally, we provided inputs to VOA Illinois on areas where internal staff would easily be able to bring elements of the marketing and fundraising plan to life versus where outside support would be necessary for the most successful outcomes.
In addition to the development of a realistic marketing budget that would be used to execute the marketing plan, we created a dashboard with key performance indicators VOA Illinois could use to track and measure the success of their efforts. To ensure accountability, we developed a calendar that detailed all of the suggested activities in the plan, along with associated roles and responsibilities. We then trained the VOA Illinois team on the implementation of the plan.
VOA Illinois and Prosper presented the body of work to the organization’s board and they were all very excited about the potential for growth the new brand strategy, marketing plan and fundraising plan would bring to the organization. Shortly after the marketing and fundraising plan was complete, VOA Illinois introduced their “More Than a Home” campaign, releasing a video, an updated brochure, donor lead generation content and end of year campaign, where they doubled their fundraising over the year prior.
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