Nonprofit Marketing Hits the Streets—Boys Town in Omaha’s Old Market

Fresh from a wild and rollicking trip to the Old Market in Omaha. Ok, not so wild, but wonderful still. Have you been? If not, I paraphrase The Bard when I say, “Get thee to Omaha!” I’m also fresh from the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival’s performance of Hamlet, but I’ll spare you more horrible Shakespeare puns. It was so good…

 Back to Omaha.

Walking around Omaha’s Old Market, I noticed the life-sized, graduate-shaped placards that Boys Town had all over the place. Now, I work in the nonprofit world. I know who Boys Town is. And perhaps most people in Omaha do as well.

But this particular weekend, there were about ten zillion visitors in Omaha for some NCAA college baseball jam. Also, this year is apparently Boys Town’s 100th anniversary. Do you think there are now many more people in this world who know what Boys Town is and what they do?

What a completely brilliant tactic. Good on you, Boys Town.

These signs do three big things in support of Boys Town's marketing mojo worth mentioning:

Disrupt. You are going to stop and look at them. They’re literally in your path on the sidewalk. The copy was brief, but incredibly powerful.

Intrigue. About that copy…No more than two or three sentences, but when you’re reading something like “Witnessed her father shoot at her mother. Now she serves others…” you don’t need to embellish. There was a single line with a web address as a call to action.

Legitimize. Should some of these good people receive a direct mail package from Boys Town, they’ll remember that moment in the Old Market when they saw those life-sized placards. They’ll remember the gripping stories of the “students” they met on the street.

And someone just drew that heart on the picture of the student you see here. A really lovely ongoing conversation IRL. Long live IRL.

I Want You to Join a Board

I’ve had an amazing first year in the "real" world. But I realize that I’m still quite green. I have a lot to learn about my chosen career field, as well as what it takes to build a successful career in general.

I also know I’m not the only young professional to worry whether I’m qualified to be on the board of a professional association. However, when the opportunity to serve as Newsletter Chair for the board of the Kansas City Data-Driven Marketing Association (KCDMA) came about, I took the leap.

Now that I’m a few months in, I feel silly for worrying so much. I’ve been having a fantastic time, and have especially enjoyed the opportunities to expand my circle, plan programming, and draft content for the association.

So without further ado, here are the reasons I think you, young professional or mid-career individual, ought to join the board of a professional association.

You will learn about your surrounding community. I’ve learned a lot about the marketing/communications community in Kansas City since joining a board, and have been pleasantly surprised to find so much collaboration and mentoring amongst professionals at a variety of companies and agencies. (I’ve also learned that Tannin in the Crossroads District has a wine club… I didn’t say all knowledge was marketing-related).

You will help to enrich the association. It feels great to know your efforts are helping an association you're passionate about. Using your skills to help the association accomplish its goals is the best way to be of service.

You will gain new knowledge. Being on a board allows you to take risks and try on different hats. If you’ve wanted to learn about a certain area (event planning, fundraising, managing a website), joining a board is the perfect way to dip your toes in and find out what it’s really like.

You will make new friends and connections. I’ve gotten to know some incredible people who have similar interests and goals ever since I joined the board of the KCDMA. But honestly, I had trouble forming these relationships when I was only attending lunch-and-learns once a month.

One of the most amazing things about being a board member for a professional association has been the opportunity to have fun, and continue expanding my post-college group of friends and mentors. And friends and mentors just make life better.

M&C is a proud sponsor of YNPNkc, which provides diverse opportunities for networking around Kansas City, and partners with Nonprofit Connect to offer professional development programming for young professionals in the nonprofit sector. 

Checking the Pulse of our "Culture of Giving"

More people donate every year than vote for president.”


That was just one of the pithy observations Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D, offered to the roomful of nonprofit executives as Nonprofit Connect hosted its annual presentation of Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. Published since 1956, this is the longest running annual report on U.S. charitable giving. 

But, is this comparison more a positive indicator of our philanthropic commitment or a negative reflection of our political connection?

Overall, the tone of the presentation was upbeat as Dr. Rooney reported that total giving increased 2.7% from 2015 to 2016. With this, the third consecutive year of growth, total giving has finally regained virtually all of the 15% drop experienced during the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

The increase was spread across giving from Individuals (72% of total), Foundations (15%) and Corporations (5%), while giving through Bequests (8% of total) experienced a decline of 9%.  Dr. Rooney was quick to point out that this category, often driven by one or two of the wealthiest estates, is typically more volatile than the other three.

All nine subsectors saw an increase in revenue. While Religion continues to be the largest of category, accounting for 32% of all giving, it saw the slowest rate of growth (3%). This trend is contributing to an overall decline in share of giving; the sector represented 33% of total revenue just 10 years ago and 58% in 1985. 

The three fastest growing subsectors are:
• Environment/Animals - up 7.2%
• Arts/Humanities - up 6.4%
• Health - up 5.7%

For the skeptics among us, there's ample room for concern about the overall health of our “culture of giving.”

  • While total giving is up slightly, it still remains at about 2.1% of Gross Domestic Product. This has ranged from 1.7% to 2.2% over the past 50 years, but has not been able to move beyond.
  • The total number of 501(c)3 organizations continues to grow and has also now reached pre-recession levels. 
  • Both the number of volunteers and volunteer hours are up, but not enough to have kept pace with overall population growth.
  • While overall corporate giving was up, much of the increase was from increased marketing spending (sponsorships, etc.) rather than “pure” philanthropy.

So, what can we do to keep our culture fit?

I think objective assessments like this are critically important and I applaud Nonprofit Connect for their ongoing commitment to providing such perspectives. I’m also grateful for Jeffry Byrne’s connection, which allows Kansas City to be one of the first markets in which the study is unveiled.   

But we obviously have to do more than simply watch the numbers. Engagement. Encouragement. Empowerment. What role do you play?