Storytelling

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMV2jhIWYeU

I came across “New Faces of Hunger - Dan’s Story” posted by the Greater Boston Food Bank on YouTube. The story begins with a regular family in Boston, a father and his son are brushing their teeth together in the bathroom. The scene pans to the outside of their home and then to a school bus where the father drops his son off for a day of school. It’s a beautiful day outside. The music in the background is quiet but present. I am immediately interested in this family’s story. As it turns out, Dan was a chef who had to quit his job when he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. The Boston Food Bank was the family’s greatest resource while they were going through a difficult time. Toward the end the music is louder and more hopeful and we see images of Dan grocery shopping and cooking in his home. This video was a simple, emotional, and a real use of storytelling. The message is easy to understand and communicates to the audience the simple idea of donating to the food bank. I found it emotional because of the music’s tone and relatability of the story. You feel for the pain the family has had to endure because they represent thousands of families that experience these hardships every day. They could easily be my family, or yours. They show images of food to remind us that food is not a resource we all have access to.  And finally, the story is real. It doesn’t feel contrived or overdrawn, but rather an honest recounting of a man’s illness and the surrounding struggles of a family. I imagine a story such as this one would have gotten a positive response from donors to the Boston Food Bank.

What about the others?

The Mission Continues:

Strengths: The Mission Continues has a unique model and mission that sets themselves apart from other veterans organizations. The organization also has built relationships with influential figures in our media (Chris Hayes for example). Branding is recognizable to its audience and has a story behind it that resonates.

Weaknesses: They have had negative press in the last year surrounding their former founder which may make audience question credibility.

Opportunities: The Mission Continues can utilize video messaging and Social Media to connect with a wider audience and expand their operations to include active duty service members.

Threats: Having their audience continue to associate the organization with and tie them to their former founder.  

Rivals

Team Rubicon: Team Rubicon’s mission is to unite the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Their website features powerful images and a 3-minute-long video on their story at the top of the page, along with features on their veterans. The mission is immediately apparent the moment you click to their website and in the spirit of transparency, they offer key data points on the home page. They are more active than the Mission Continues on Social Media and link all of their accounts to their website. They actively encourage people to start a Facebook fundraiser on behalf of their organization. I had to click around for a bit to find their blog and I feel in terms of mission, The Mission Continues has the advantage of enticing members who are interested in a wider breadth of community projects, not just disaster relief.

Team Rubicon Logo

Team Rubicon Logo

The Tillman Foundation: The Mission is to empower military veterans and spouses as the next generation of public and private sector leaders. The Tillman Foundation may be a more recognizable nonprofit than the Mission Continues because of its name but when you click through to their website their mission is not apparent. I had to search for a bit before figuring out what they were all about. It appears they seldom engage with followers on Social Media, only posting every few weeks or months even though they have a host of important corporate and University sponsors.

Tillman Foundation

Tillman Foundation

Hire Heroes USA: Their logo is red, white, and blue, which is pretty much about as patriot as it gets visually, and their mission is essentially in their name leading me to figure out what they did before googling them at all. When I visited their website, their mission statement to empower veterans to succeed through career placement was sprawled across the top of the page. They also list key performance indicators here which gives them a heightened sense of credibility at first glance (even if you have nothing to compare it to). They engage regularly on Social Media but get very few likes and shares (similar to The Mission Continues).

Hire Heroes USA logo

Hire Heroes USA logo

Digital Face

When you Google “The Mission Continues,” the recognizable logo at the top of the page will immediately catch your attention. In terms of major search engines, they are well positioned and unmistakably easy to locate. Also impressive is the host of organized subheadings, complete with a donate button, available to click on (through Google) where you can be directed to the corresponding area of the site. I did all of this using my phone, by the way. The website itself is generally simple to navigate, although it does feature a lot of information on its homepage and might be a bit overwhelming at first glance. I’m immediately intrigued by the powerful images of volunteers at the top and as I scroll through the homepage (still on my phone) I see about 30% of the page is made up of images and the rest is text. I appreciate that they feature a full-length video about their organization right on the homepage of their website, however this is much easier to locate on my computer- on a mobile device the thumbnail videos completely disappear and its easy to scroll right past it.  Where the Mission Continues falls short is by not taking advantage of social media platforms to highlight their work. Their Instagram for example isn’t connected to their website at all and their Facebook and Twitter, while updated regularly, only have a few likes and a few reposts each. A nice feature of their homepage if you manage to make your way down to the bottom, is that you can access their blog and read stories about things like their service projects, partners, and mass deployment ambassadors.

Nonprofit Interview - Step 1!

I had a conversation with Spencer Kympton, President of The Mission Continues, an organization that empowers veterans to find purpose through community impact. We touched upon various aspects of the organization’s goals and I got the sense that he is leading a forward-thinking organization that has evolved over the duration of its lifespan to strengthen its operations and impact more veterans and communities. The salient points of our conversation are detailed below:

1.     Top 3 organizational goals

Spencer noted that The Mission Continues is in the middle of a three year planning process and recently held a board meeting to lay the groundwork for their long-term goals which are as follows:

a.     Deepen impact

The Mission continues currently operates in 40 metro areas. While they are proud of the work they do, they want to deepen the impact they have in these areas by supporting more veterans and strengthening the positive influence on the communities they serve.

b.     Organizational influence

Other veterans-focused nonprofit (like Wounded Warriors for example) have more traction in terms of advocacy and presence on the hill. The Mission Continues would like to start building capacity to frame and lead discussions around pressing veteran’s issues and become thought leaders in this space.

c.     Long-term sustainability

Improving fundraising operations, acquiring more multi-year gifts and planned gifts. The goal is to get people thinking about and investing in the future of the organization.

2.  Key overall and marketing challenges and opportunities

The Mission Continues does fantastic work, with 17 thousand volunteers involved in projects on the ground in 40 cities.  However, they are not a recognizable house-hold name. I mentioned in our conversation that I was excited about the organization’s mission and was surprised that I had not heard of them until now.

Challenges: difficulty reaching veterans and acquiring their information, not being a household name among veterans, social media posts don’t get much traction

Opportunities: They are uniquely positioned in the Veteran’s nonprofit space

The organizations major players, participants, and stakeholders are veterans and their families. Spencer mentioned also swimming further upstream with the goal to market to active duty members, the reserves and the national guard.

The key marketing goals here are to heighten awareness of the organization, and develop it into a more recognizable brand, ultimately leading to an increase in the number of veterans involved in the program.

3. “Founder’s story”

The Mission Continues is a nonpartisan organization which was founded in 2007 by Eric Greitens. Suicide rates and PTSD among our service members skyrocketed during the Iraq war, and the Mission Continues was formed to help men and women adjust to life at home, put them in positions of purpose by providing them with a ‘mission’, and connect them to their communities. In its early years, the organization worked exclusively with individual post 9-11 veterans through a 6-month fellowship program. The program evolved over time to expand beyond 9-11 veterans to include families and groups of teams known as “service platoons.” They have taken on a city-based approach where they focus on tackling the most pressing problems within their local communities.

4.  Mission

The Mission Continues empowers veterans adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. By partnering veterans with community organizations, they are able to create transformational change for communities in need. Supporters are asked to serve the mission by taking a lead in their community through the 6-month  service leadership corps, by joining a “service platoon” or “deploying” with a team of volunteers to work on domestic community projects. The actions of volunteers inspire others to continue to serve their communities.

mission, inspire, unite, community, veterans, impact, purpose, strength, support

Empower veterans with purpose through community impact

tmc-logo-opengraph.jpg

Brand Identity

The Mission Continues is a storytelling organization. Visit the homepage of their website and you are greeted by the organization’s mission- to empower veterans to find purpose through community impact. On the left hand side of the page you will find ways to get involved. Phrases like “join a platoon” and “reporting for duty in your community” immediately jump out at me as strategic calls to action for those who connect and identify with these military phrases. The logo in the top left corner is a shield and patch encircling an eagle - familiar symbols of heritage, strength and resilience.  A few clicks down an inspirational video gets to the very heart of the message and highlights the veterans, the soul of the organization.

The video captures the sentiment in bold white letters, “our communities are facing deep challenges. Veterans possess the desire to serve again and are uniquely equipped with the skills to tackle these challenges” It’s simple concept to understand and because as humans we all live in communities that face a wide array of challenges, the message resonates easily across most audiences. Do you want to learn more about what the organization does? Because that too is an easy click away. Simply visit their blog which has regular updates on service projects being done. The most apparent feature of the Mission Continues is transparency and accountability through a heightened element of storytelling. The organization wants to know the people they work with, what impact they will have, and why they are involved. They encourage pictures and videos of the work their volunteers are doing and they thrive on the stories they learn from the people who take time out of their lives to serve. I am reminded of organizations like Charity: Water which is revered for their transparency and accountability through the use of visuals and impactful storytelling.  

WELCOME FRIENDS

Hi everyone and welcome to my page!

My name is Blaire Fraser and I am a student in the nonprofit management program at Columbia. I hail from New Jersey and along with being a birthday cake enthusiast, I have had a connection to nonprofits since childhood. I was introduced to the world of philanthropy by my parents who ensured I understood that giving back to our community was an important part of being a good neighbor and citizen. Emulating the lessons I was taught, and with a culture of giving at the foundation of my upbringing, I now engage in the nonprofit sector through my professional work at Columbia Law School, volunteering, and by contributing to the organizations that mean the most to me. 

I am interested in working with The Headstrong Project, an organization that provides free mental healthcare services to post 9-11 veterans. My connection to and passion for supporting our veterans is through my husband who is a an active duty service member, currently stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

Alternatively, I am interested in working with Stupid Cancer this semester.  We all have our own stories about how this disease has affected a loved one. My story is that my mom was diagnosed with cancer at a young age, and after 20 years of being cancer-free, currently battles the colon cancer she was diagnosed with a year ago. I would love to work with an organization like this one as my own way of aiding in the fight.