Results of the LIVE United launch

United Way's flash mob June 2009

United Way's flash mob June 2009

In yesterday’s post, I wondered how well United Way of California Capital Region’s LIVE United launch achieved its ambitious goals.  I think the team — Amber Murry (VP, Marketing and Communications), Gabrielle Stevenson, PR/Communications Manager, and Allison Fuller, Marketing and Events Manager — pulled off a Herculean effort to do what they did in less than six months.  Was it all worth it?

The results:  According to Gabrielle, the goal of engaging at least 300 new volunteers was achieved, and many were younger than United Way’s traditionally older demographic, as hoped.  She reports, “We had people from 16 to 66 at each of the [Toilet Paper drive] sites, and even involved with the street teams and flash mobs.  A majority of the new people who had never done anything with United Way before were in that sub-30 category. We had a lot of sub-20s too. It was very exciting and amped the energy level quite a bit.”

According to Steve Heath, executive director, most of the donations received came through workplaces rather than directly from individuals.  More people were engaged in the TP drive than in the flash mob or other activities.

United Way did secure emails from many of the volunteers, although the number isn’t available yet.  (The staff is still entering some of the registration data that came in paper form.)  As the UWCCR staff and committee weighed tactics a few months back, it asked the age-old (and everlastingly useful) question:  What’s volunteers’ WIFM?  Why would someone give their email address?  Besides t-shirts, volunteers were given free tickets to a River Cats baseball game.  Baseball and United Way, how American is that?

I was skeptical about two things:  how well a flash mob would work in Sacramento, and how likely UWCCR could pull off a pretty major website overhaul within its 6 week project plan timeframe.

Happily, I was wrong to be such a curmudgeon.  Gabrielle notes, “The flash mob went VERY well! Lots of fun, lots of people showed up to participate and lots of people watched.”  Seventy people turned out at Arden Fair, the local retail hotspot; this youtube video tells the story of how the team put the flash mob together, and then shows the final result.  Lots of fun, indeed, but I don’t think most of the gang is quite ready for “You Think You Can Dance.”

And the website worked and didn’t crash!

According to Steve, the most successful part of Launch Week was the TP drive (and what’s not to love about something that quirky).  It attracted coverage from the Sacramento Bee, regional Business Journals, the major television news stations and local daytime programs, and Newstalk Radio KFBK.

Gabrielle personally rigged up what PR folks like to call a 3-D media kit, and she delivered it about 30 places.  “Does that still work?” I asked.  Delivering a celephane covered roll of toilet paper along with a few other goodies and a fact sheet was just quirky enough to get past the front desk and into the news room.

Even though thousands of hours (staff and volunteer) went into making the events last week a success, the toughest part may be still ahead.  OK, guys, you got the intro to some new folks who want to play with you, now how are you going to continue to build the relationship?

Toward that end, it’s important that UWCCR keep at it with social media.  They were just getting started by the time the launch arrived.  Gabrielle took a shot at Twitter (@gabstevenson) but she acknowledges it fell lower on the priority list compared to traditional media and organizing volunteers for events (plus, wrapping all of those rolls of TP for the news media!).  Facebook Causes was down when I wrote this post, but I know UWCCR quickly attracted 400 supporters after establishing the page 4-6 weeks ago.  Presumably the numbers climbed quite a bit after that. 

Energizing these new relationships — whether through social media or other means — will be important.  Gabrielle notes:  “Yep, we’re planning and fine-tuning [things] now, based on the launch week. Our goal from the beginning has been to keep this group of volunteers engaged. There was a lot of energy last week and we don’t want to lose that momentum.”

I enjoyed the chance to work with my fellow volunteer advisors:  Terry Halleck, Chair, President and CEO, Golden 1 Credit Union; Lori Aldrete, ACS Quantum Strategies; Jim Caster, Vice President, Eyefinity; Sara McKinley, Sara McKinley Market Research; Dick Colvin; and Doug Kim.

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