Going Local and Making Noise with Grassroots Marketing – Over the Edge for Beatitude House!


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If you have a great project, determination, and value relationships, grassroots marketing still has its place. There was no better example of this than the Over the Edge for Beatitude House urban rappelling event help last September in Youngstown.

For those that don’t know, Beatitude House opened in 1991 to fulfill a dream of Sister Margaret Scheetz, an Ursuline Sister.  Her vision was to provide assistance to the recognizable needs of homeless single mothers in Youngstown, and she did so by designing a program that combined housing stability and supportive services to help residents escape the cycle of poverty.  With the support of the Ursuline Sisters and faithful donors throughout the community, the program has grown from serving 4 families in Youngstown to 75 families daily throughout Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula Counties.   In 25 years, Beatitude House has opened its doors to more than 4,000 women and children and has greatly expanded its services.

While the donor base has sustained Beatitude House for these 25 years, this base has also aged.  To continue for generations to come, and with government funding only accounting for 50% of the agency budget, Beatitude House must continually find creative ways to reach new supporters that can grow alongside the agency.  In 2015, Beatitude House brought an event called Over the Edge for Beatitude House to Youngstown to do just this.

What was Over the Edge for Beatitude House? 

It was an urban rappelling event held in downtown Youngstown in September 2015 at the 18 story Metropolitan Building, thanks to our gracious host, the NYO Group and services contracted with Over the Edge USA.  Beatitude House offered rappels to individuals and teams that fundraised for the women and children served by Beatitude House in Mahoning, Trumbull, and Ashtabula counties.  Why Over the Edge??  Because it was new, exciting, and unique!  It was a safe, once in a lifetime opportunity!  It was an amazing event that promised to bring awareness to the mission of Beatitude House – to serve homeless women and children that are willing to go over the edge to recreate themselves and break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.  The connection to the mission was continually revisited.

During the initial planning phases we realized that this event had the potential to be bigger than originally perceived, but we also had to carefully plan according to staffing and fundraising goals.  The event had to drive the mission of sustaining services for the homeless and every dollar would be critical. While the old adage of “it takes money to make money” has application, what if you don’t have the money yourself? The answer:  a great idea, a willingness to succeed, and grassroots marketing.

The adopted strategy was simple –ask corporate and business sponsors to underwrite event costs which would allow for every rappelling dollar to go to the charitable mission.  By asking each rappeller to raise a minimum of $1000 to rappel in the historic event, the potential to raise at least $76,000 was determined.  But the most daunting idea was to spend ZERO dollars on traditional advertising.  We would rely on a traditional grassroots marketing approach using public service announcements, point of sale flyers, handouts, foot traffic, pizza box flyers, and of course, all linking to a growing digital community.

From the beginning, Beatitude House strategically set out to highlight Youngstown as well.  While Youngstown certainly has its needs, it is the community that first opened itself up to Beatitude House and continues to support the mission today.  The families that we serve live here, they want to work here, and they want to raise their families here.  What better way to continue to partner with the city than to showcase one of its most beautiful buildings, and the tallest, for a huge event like Over the Edge?  And with the City in renaissance, what better way to attract curiosity and conversation?

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On September 25th and 26th Beatitude House hosted 86 rappellers that raised funds to benefit the women and children of Beatitude House.  Participants included State Senator Joe Schiavoni, Youngstown Mayor John McNally, Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, Troy Loney (retired Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguin), local media personalities, business people, students, and some superheroes.  Thousands of others participated through their donations to the 86 rappellers and by taking to the streets in downtown Youngstown to support every one of them as they made the historic descent down the 18 story building.

During the rappels, the street was lined with local vendors and entertainers including the Youngstown Phantom USHL Hockey Team, the Lil Steel Derby Girls, food vendors, the Chess is Life organization, Tommy Christmas from the Fat & the Furious, a rock wall, a local reptile preservation group, businesses including General Motors Lordstown, a DJ, and Video Game Express.  One of the most exciting attractions beyond the rappelling was the partnership with Oh Wow! Children’s Museum that opened its doors for free to all attending Over the Edge for Beatitude House.

Beatitude House also highlighted downtown restaurants throughout it all.  While pre-event planning meetings and public sessions were held at restaurants throughout the Valley, the event welcome reception, a volunteer orientation, and two rappeller informational sessions were all held in downtown Youngstown.  In addition, street vendors were specifically chosen based on the criteria that they would not compete with downtown restaurants.  This intent was appreciated by restaurant owners and many offered specials during the weekend geared towards the event.  It also established new relationships.

The grassroots effort worked.  Every rappeller soliciting donations spread the word.  Businesses advertised to their employees and clients.  Appearances, meetings in the community, and foot traffic generated personal interest.  The media was excited to talk about something new and unique.  Old relationships were invigorated by something new and new relationships were established that can provide support for years to come.

Quick facts:

  • 86 Participants – (70%  represented our target demographic for new supporters/men & women ages 30-50)
  • 21 Sponsors
  • 70 volunteers
  • 3000+ participants
  • Estimated 5 million media impressions
  • Advertising Costs:  $559 (excluding staff creative hours)
  • Gross Income:  $160,000
  • Net Profit:  $110,000

In addition, the Youngstown Vindicator Editor was quoted as saying, “this event brought Beatitude House unprecedented media coverage”.  The far-reaching, significant, and FREE media coverage included numerous full-length articles in the Youngstown Vindicator, both online and in print that culminated in front page coverage with color photos the weekend of the event.  Over the Edge for Beatitude House was promoted on all major television news outlets both during the planning stages and during the weekend of the event, including live broadcasts from the ropes.  Thirty second and ten second commercials were produced by local media and ran all summer long.  PSAs and broadcast interviews were run through IHeartRadio, Cumulus Radio, and Living Bread Radio that covered multiple counties in Northeast Ohio.

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Finally, a social media presence was built that included video production pieces by the Business Journal and the Chamber of Commerce.  Social media cross-promotion was key as was a push to online resources on all print materials.  A unique URL was created that tied to Facebook and a hashtag campaign.  In fact, our social media development was praised as among the best nationally by the Over the Edge USA corporate office.  Based on circulation rates of all media (print, online, television, radio) as well as consultation with Over the Edge USA marketing experts, an estimated 5 million media impressions were made.  These impressions not only promoted the message of the Beatitude House mission to serve homeless women and children, but the capacity of Youngstown to host a community event of this scope.

Positive experiences leave positive impressions that are drawn on by consumers.  Over the Edge for Beatitude House not only tapped into the philanthropic generosity of the community, but also reinforced that Youngstown can be a fun and engaging place to visit.  Great restaurants are open, museums and galleries are open and growing, entertainment venues are engaging diverse audiences, etc.  Over the Edge for Beatitude House wasn’t just an event – it was a destination for the weekend.  The positive experiences will not only lay the groundwork for more sizable events to come to the City, but also for the smaller and more routine visits.  Sustaining interest is a catalyst for growth and expansion.

Designing an event to mutually benefit a non-profit and highlight an urban area is the ultimate win-win, especially when the non-profit focuses on overcoming homelessness.  When people can get an education, overcome poverty, and gain permanent housing, they become contributors to the future successes of the community.  This has far-reaching impact on the health of the community and region.

If you are interested in rappelling in Over the Edge for Beatitude House 2016, please visit www.overtheedgeytown.com or like us on Facebook.  This year we have new and exciting features, including being the first in the United States to do a night rappel!

ABOUT DOYO Live

DOYO Live is an education resource for marketing, business, sales and design professionals. We are dedicated to not only educating professionals on marketing strategy, but also giving back to the community. Whether with our time, help on marketing strategy or donations. If you did want to build awareness for your business, Over the Edge Youngstown is an awesome event. It’s a win-win, by supporting a great organization and generate some interest for you business. There’s a lot of really cool ways you can pre-during-post event tell a very cool story about your participation.

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