Micromarketing helps a charity feed hungry children, nourish donors

publication date: Mar 7, 2012
author/source: Peter Baker
As Canadian charities go, Breakfast for Learning is rarely counted among the heavyweights. Its staff of 12 is scattered across Canada and it reports revenues of about $5 million. But Breakfast for Learning has managed to make an outsized impact. Its 3,100 nutrition programs feed 250,000 hungry schoolchildren.

CEO Wendy Wong concedes that for many years the group knew little about the population it fed. "We grew so fast in order to feed children that we lacked the infrastructure to adequately support the organization and understand the communities we were serving," she says.

New data aligned business donors with areas served

With corporate donors preferring to fund programs in communities where they had customers, Breakfast for Learning found itself stranded in an information gap, unable to provide data on its programs. "We needed a better handle on the families we actually were touching," says Wong.

After hearing about micromarketing tools offered by Environics Analytics (EA), Wong approached the Toronto-based marketing and analytics company to learn how she could gain a more complete picture of Breakfast for Learning communities.

EA analysts supplied two tools: Envision, the company's online platform that analyzes markets and customers with demographic data and PRIZMC2, its segmentation system that classifies Canadians into 66 lifestyle types based on geodemographics and social values. They quickly produced 3,100 demographic reports detailing the service area for each of the charity's nutrition programs.

Data boosted programs, fundraising

Right away, the charity found ways to use the profiles. In some cases, staff noted the ethnic makeup of each school's population and devised menus that reflected cultural nuances: rice and kimchi for breakfast for a school with a large Korean population, or gelatin-free yogurt to respect Muslim dietary restrictions.

But beyond meal planning, the group discovered the marketing analytics could benefit its fundraising. Wong recalls a corporate funding proposal that featured a series of Envision-generated maps displaying all the locations of Breakfast for Learning's nutrition programs. Then the group overlaid those maps with all the locations of the corporation's outlets, highlighting the shared areas of service.

"When we finished the presentation, several of the donors just stepped back and went, ‘Wow!'" says Wong. "The data demonstrated how much we had in common. It let us make a very strong case for support."

Not surprisingly, Wong and her staff have used such information to establish partnerships with grocery chains like Longo's in Ontario, Sobey's in Atlantic Canada and Loblaws nationwide through its President's Choice Children's Charity.

Because these corporations provide both cash and gift cards, Breakfast for Learning relies on Envision-produced maps to identify the partner grocer stores closest to each of its school programs. "The analysis helps us allocate our gift card resources," says Wong, "and helps us better serve our communities."

Sharpening media strategy

Breakfast for Learning's media strategy has significantly changed as well. With more information about its small-town supporters, the charity now considers community newspapers essential for promoting its programs. It regularly contributes health-related articles and nutritious recipes to community papers around the country.

Envision's data on donors' strong scores for empathy and community involvement altered the group's approach to its PSAs on TV. Where previous spots featured children playing in a schoolyard accompanied by a voiceover, newer ads offer a more realistic perspective - a youngster wakes up, runs to school and joins her friends for a nutritious breakfast. "We're a lot more descriptive about the typical scene," Wong observes, "because we better understand who we're serving."

Lately, the group has turned to new media to promote its marketing messages. Staffers now use Facebook and Twitter to encourage young people to eat a healthy breakfast. And Breakfast for Learning plans to link its website to the service area maps of every nutrition program, with photographs and data illustrating each community. "The goal is to make our work more tangible to donors," says Wong. "The data is helping us answer questions we couldn't answer before."

Data wins new corporate partnership

Earlier this year, Breakfast for Learning received a call from Moxie's Classic Grill, a Calgary-based chain of premium casual restaurants looking to adopt a corporate charity that would be meaningful for customers, staff and suppliers. What sealed the deal, says Wong, was her group's use of Envision maps to illustrate the proximity of the company's restaurants to her group's nutrition programs.

Now when a diner orders one of Moxie's feature dishes, the company donates a percentage of the proceeds to Breakfast for Learning while educating customers about the charity's work. And company staffers have asked to do more, offering to prepare snacks that they can deliver to area schools affiliated with Breakfast for Learning.

"This isn't just a win-win fundraising opportunity," says Wong. "With our great volunteers and the right information, the sky's the limit."

Peter Baker is vice president and practice leader, overseeing the fundraising, packaged goods and municipal government sectors at Environics Analytics. This article about the work of Environics Analytics first appeared in Direct Marketing magazine. Used with permission. www.environicsanalytics.ca.

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