I know: I talk incessantly about mobile programs--especially in the fall when we do our key programs. But I blather for good reason: mobile programs are simply the easiest and most lucrative cause marketing program to execute.
Mobiles remind me of another great program I did in the early 90's when I started my fundraising career at MDA. A big part of my first job was visiting fire houses and setting up fundraising programs with local firefighters. They could choose from a host of fundraisers--golf tournaments, athons, dances, jail 'n bails--but most chose to do a simple boot drive. You've seen 'em: firefighters stand outside a supermarket or intersection and ask people to fill a big, ugly, smelly fire boot. Pretty. No. Easy? Yes. Lucrative? Very. You could raise thousands of dollars in a matter of hours. The same is true of a well executed mobile program. If you have a store with lots of foot traffic and employees motivated to ask every customer for a buck or more at the register, you can raise a lot of money.
Making a lot of money--and spreading the word of the importance of safety-net health care to every community--is one of the reasons we've always wanted to extend our mobile program beyond Massachusetts. If we can make hundreds of thousands of dollars locally, how much could we make with a national program? Folks like Children's Miracle Network and St. Jude's and Komen make millions off of their national mobile programs. But how could a Boston-based hospital join the ranks of these elite nonprofits?
Flatter someone. The hospital I work for has pretty low visibility even here in Massachusetts, so our brand would never sell nationally. Besides, "Boston" is in our name, and that just isn't going to sell in other major markets. We needed to create a new brand that represented a coalition of public hospitals. Thankfully, it had all been done before by another organization: Children's Miracle Network. Even powerhouses like Children's Hospital Boston knew they could never forge national partnerships alone so they joined an upstart organization started by a future fainter on Dancing with the Stars. Yep, Marie Osmond. Since then, CMN has been helping Children's Hospitals across the country create national cause marketing programs with retailers like Walmart and Kroger and CVS to name a few.
Choose a name and logo you can live with. I couldn't believe how hard this was. We enlisted the help of Boston-based Kelley Habib John, which has worked on St. Jude's Thanks and Giving. I couldn't believe the number of names that had already been trademarked and how few domain names we had to chose from. Healthy Promise Fund wasn't my first choice, but it was a name I could live with. I tried not to get too hung up on getting the name just right. Meaning is in people, not in words. If we did our part in creating a great brand for donors, our name would have the same powerful meaning as names like Project Red--and Starbucks on the for profit side--has come to have in a very short time. I just need to find my "Bono."
Reach out to your friends. Fortunately, here in Mass. a number of national companies are locally based. An early supporter of HPF has been Staples. Staples has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for us here in New England have interest in expanding the program to other markets. They've joined us in meetings with national companies and have definitely given our new initiative a jolt of credibility.
Gather your assets. A great thing about a coalition is that most members can add value by having a local contact or partnership that can get you in the door. Who has sponsored your events? What companies have their headquarters in your area? Who do you live next to, play cards with, can pick up the phone and call? These are some of the questions we're asking the development directors at 144 public hospitals in 34 states.
Be patient. National cause marketing programs don't happen overnight. CMN has been around for 25 years! It takes time to build a brand and relationships. But unlike some of the things I do to raise money, HPF is definitely worth doing. It will be good for my hospital, public hospitals in general and has the potential to raise millions and millions of dollars--with more than just a little skill and luck. How many golf tournaments, dances, athons and jail 'n bails can you say that about?