This week in the Love Local spotlight, we talked about connection: a fundamental ingredient in cause marketing with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Waterloo Region. Get your #wrawesome non-profit love on with us!

Region Wide Reach

Big Brothers Big Sisters Waterloo Region offices are literally a hop away from The Marketing Multi-tool offices. I confess: this is my first visit, having just moved to this Hespeler ‘hood about a month ago. Jessica Sproat, BBBSWR's Communications and Marketing Coordinator, and Mallory Boyer, their Resource Development Manager, explained that they moved to their headquarters location on Pinebush Road in 2012: soon after their 2010 merger with Big Brothers Big Sisters Kitchener-Waterloo and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cambridge. Though there is still frequent confusion about the change (“we still get called Big Brothers Big Sisters Cambridge,” Mallory said), the merger has meant great things for the agency. “In terms of funding, the standpoint hasn’t changed, but the opportunities for funding, and for impact, are much broader,” Jessica said. I asked if it was difficult over a number of staff and locations (with a satellite office in the Volunteer Action Centre KW) to maintain a consistency of voice and brand. “Not at all,” Jessica said. “Everything flows through me, so that helps. I think the staff are happy to have it off their plates so they can focus on delivering programs to youth!”

Local Brotherly Love

Though Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada is a National Brand and a federated model (meaning all agencies are organized under shared standards, policies and insurance), each member agency’s programs differ quite a lot contingent on the needs of the community. BBBSWR runs 7 programs in school and in the community, with an emphasis on physical literacy and free form movement. “National supports our work with materials for key volunteer recruitment campaigns for example” said Jessica, adding that nearby member agencies support each other in a number of ways with resource development, and with advertising and fundraising campaigns. “Our Go Girls program is a great example. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph was really generous and happy to share their curriculum. We both benefit from that exposure and brand recognition.”

Custom Fit Contribution

Another example of the partnership with BBBSG is a recent volunteer recruitment campaign called Help a Brother Out. “We were both in need of more male volunteers. So we pooled our resources and were able to secure funding from Manulife for a cross-community campaign,” Mallory said. She explained they were extremely lucky to find a sponsor to cover the costs of an advertising campaign. This is an area a lot of non-profits struggle with, I mentioned: finding sponsors, keeping sponsors… so what have they found to be crucial in building a strong stewardship program? “It has to be the right fit,” Mallory said, stressing the importance of aligning the right opportunity with the right company’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy. “We make sure sponsors understand they’re investing in people in their community, so they feel more connected. It’s a partnership, and there’s shared value in that.”


A Distinct Impact

Though there is great benefit to having other BBBS agencies so close, there’s an obvious challenge to clarifying how the work and impact varies from region to region. So how do they actively work to set themselves apart: not only from fellow BBBS agencies, but other charities as well? I asked. “It is hard: the non-profit world is heavily saturated with so many needs, and with donor fatigue,” said Mallory. “You have to make the impact tangible.” She underscored BBBSWR’s long history as a results-focused agency, and that their work is always evaluative and measurable. “We can demonstrate that we’ve done the research to help [sponsors] achieve their goals and ours.”

Staying in Touch and On Point

The idea of meaningful and consistent engagement comes up often over the course of my conversation with Jessica and Mallory. This is especially true in regards to BBBSWR’s social media strategy: which Jessica told me is continually evolving to incorporate evaluation findings, and to meet the needs of their audience. After reviewing Facebook insights, for example, Jessica found their audience was engaging mostly at night: so she started using Facebook’s scheduling feature to publish content at night and saw a dramatic increase in engagement. PRO TIP from Jessica, listen up! “We also schedule our posts at a few minutes to the hour. That’s when people are in between shows and looking to their social accounts, so it’s the perfect time to get their attention.”

Social with a Smile

When asked what would be a key piece of advice for non-profits to find success in their marketing, Jessica emphasized the word creativity, and how useful a tool social media can be in this regard. She told me about a recent campaign called 100 Smiles, which celebrated BBBS’s 100-year anniversary, which successfully involved donors, volunteers, and staff, and featured 100 different reasons worth celebrating. The campaign provided 100 days of content, and allowed Jessica to accomplish a number of goals simultaneously: from sharing personal impact stories and video to establish face-to-face connection, to fulfilling donor and volunteer recognition and appreciation. “[Social media] has been a great tool for sponsors, donors, and participants, so they can let their networks know what they’re interested in and involved in,” Jessica said.

Reviving Snail Mail

I’m glad to hear about the success of their 2015 holiday campaign over $8,000 and confessedly, a little surprised when they tell me they did so through a direct mail campaign! Does it really work, I asked: and would they recommend it for other non-profits? “It can,” Mallory said, “but it has to be piece of a larger puzzle.” Jessica used multi-channel touch points and communication tools such as an e-newsletter and social media to build engagement, so that when people received a direct mail ask, it was more like “a culminating effort” than an organic request for support.

Big Picture Planning

Often short on resources and time, non-profits struggle to keep up: with funding, with volunteer recruitment, with marketing and so on. I asked Mallory and Jessica what last words of advice they could offer about how to be responsive and current and to have vision for the future in the midst of the day-to-day demands. Mallory talked about quarterly check ins as a necessary time to look at what’s been working but more importantly, as a team, to discuss where plans need to be changed in order to reach impact and financial goals. Jessica echoed the same idea in regards to that weekly and monthly evaluation when it comes to marketing. Coming back to engagement and connection, Jessica added that you should never underestimate your network. “You have to make sure you aren’t creating silos, as the needs of a client might cross over. Our volunteers and participants are some of our best ambassadors. They might know someone that could become our next volunteer, or could connect us with the right person in a company we wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with.”

Keeping it all connected: well, that sounds like a great place to end!

Looking to help Big Brothers Big Sisters Waterloo Region make an impact? Find out more about their upcoming events and volunteer opportunities!


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