Food bank puts media on front lines of volunteering

North Texas Food Bank ran a campaign during National Volunteer Month in April to increase awareness of its volunteer program and show appreciation for dedicated volunteers.

Organization: North Texas Food Bank (Dallas, TX)
Campaign: National Volunteer Month
Duration: April 1- 30, 2013
Budget: about $7,500

North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) is a nonprofit hunger relief organization in Dallas. Last year it provided more than 47 million meals, and it relies heavily on volunteers.

The organization ran a campaign during National Volunteer Month in April to increase awareness of its volunteer program and show appreciation for dedicated volunteers.

"Volunteers play a huge role in our organization," explains communications and public affairs specialist Adrienne Hamilton. "We have more than 600 volunteers weekly and only about 150 staff members, so when word about our volunteer program doesn't get out it can affect our operations."

Strategy
To standout among other organizations clamoring for volunteer-related coverage, NTFB invited influential local media and bloggers to volunteer and then spread the word about their experience.

"We really wanted them to have the experience and give personal testament," Hamilton explains.

Instead of issuing a press release, long-time volunteers told their stories in letters to the editor pieces.

Tactics
Reporters and bloggers were encouraged to volunteer for two specific shifts ? one with volunteers from local high school St. Mark's School of Texas and the other with more than 50 volunteers from Dean Foods, a NTFB corporate partner and high-profile local company.

"We wanted to offer them shifts with engaging volunteer teams," Hamilton says.

During their shifts, reporters and bloggers helped sort and pack food for two NTFB Programs ? Food 4 Kids and Grocery Rescue. They also got interviews with volunteers from St. Mark's and Dean Foods, facility tours, information about the volunteer program, and a one-pager suggesting ways to share their personal experience via social media.

Hamilton helped two long-time volunteers write letters to the editor about their personal experiences with NTFB and sent them to key local media outlets. The letters were also displayed in NTFB's volunteer center, featured in its staff newsletter, and posted to its social media channels.

All messaging drove audiences to the volunteer page on ntfb.org.

Results
Volunteer inquires increased 12.2% between February and April.

Nine total influential local journalists and bloggers volunteered, beating the goal of eight.

Eight stories (1.3 million impressions) ran in outlets such as The Dallas Morning News, KXAS-TV/NBC, and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Three outlets also ran one of the letters (the goal was one placement).

Facebook results included 40,045 total impressions (three times NTFB's Facebook audience), 688 likes, and 59 shares.

Future
Given the success of this campaign, NTFB will invite media to spend less than $5 on food and beverages for five days in September, Hunger Action Month, as part of its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program campaign.

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