Wagons Ho Ho Ho: Grassroots Marketing Efforts Mean Expansion for Ohio-Based Nonprofit
Nine years ago, RMD Advertising dreamed big. The agency’s team members took the first step in what would become the company’s largest charitable initiative. It all stemmed from a simple desire: to give their clients a holiday gift that would stand out from the typical corporate gift.
So, the agency took the money earmarked for client gifts and bought 25 red wagons, filled each with food and distributed them throughout the community to local Columbus families in dire need.
Wagons Ho Ho Ho began with that simple mission in mind. We’ve grown since that first year. Last year, our Wagoneers donated 4,300 pounds of food to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and built a total of 800 wagons. This year, we’ll call on the Central Ohio community to help us build and distribute 1,000 sturdy wagons – our largest initiative to date. But we’ll also fill each one with enough food to feed a family of four Christmas dinner. 1,000 wagons and 2,400 Christmas dinners all assembled in one day. Over 600 volunteers make this possible.
How does one 501(c)3 organization mobilize a group of over 600 volunteers and inspire the Columbus community to donate enough nonperishable food to feed nearly 4,000 Ohioans in need? Powerful marketing, lean, targeted messaging, smart event marketing and word of mouth certainly play a critical role.
Marketing to the head and the heart
Wagons Ho Ho Ho is an enormous responsibility, and without the support of our volunteers and the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, it wouldn’t be possible. With strategic and targeted marketing efforts, our grassroots initiatives have fostered a giving and selfless community that has made Wagons Ho Ho Ho’s annual Build Day more than simply eight hours during which we assemble wagons.
Build Day is now an event that epitomizes the spirit of the holidays. It reminds volunteers that what they contribute is unique. On that day, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank turns into Santa’s workshop and strangers work side by side, working towards one goal and becoming friends in the process.
We’re proud of this accomplishment. We realize that providing a gift and a meal on Christmas is important, but what is really important to us is what each wagon represents to its recipients … hope. It’s our way of showing these children that there is a community of people who care about them during the biggest holiday of the year.
Each local radio interview, television segment, printed story and event Wagons Ho Ho Ho participates in is an opportunity to make an emotional connection with the next potential Wagoneer. While we share the harrowing facts of Ohio’s food insecurity and the daunting need of families in the area, we are also keenly aware of our story.
Marketing Wagons Ho Ho Ho as a brand has required us to approach each piece of content created as a vehicle for communicating our story, celebrating the people behind our strong but mighty nonprofit and our hopes for the future. By concentrating our media opportunities to the months leading up to the annual Build Day, we have been able to saturate the local airwaves with our story … and in return, have continued to inspire volunteers to proudly step forward and call themselves Wagoneers.
Can a wagon really change a child’s life? We think so. And it takes just one voice to help a family know they have a supportive community of caring neighbors behind them.
Today, the face of the hunger has changed. 1 in 6 in Ohio experience food insecurity, meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from. These are your neighbors and your co-workers. Sometimes, it is a matter of having to sacrifice dinner one day a week. It may even mean having to choose between buying food or medicine for a sick child. If they are struggling to buy food, how can they buy Christmas gifts for their children?
On Build Day this Saturday, December 3rd, we’ll once again open the doors to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and invite over 600 hard working Wagoneers to bag food, build wagons and send each delivery off with our dedicated distribution partners. With music, plenty of food and laughter filling each corner of the room, it’s plain to see – this is a special event not only for the recipients of the wagons, but also for the builders themselves.
Wagons Ho Ho Ho has two major needs:
Donations. Wagons Ho Ho Ho is a one hundred percent volunteer-run charity. All money raised purchases wagons and food to fill those wagons. Corporate sponsorships, matching programs and, of course, individual support helps with our mission. Without the love of the Columbus community, Wagons Ho Ho Ho certainly would not be where it is today.
Food. Our hope is to fill each wagon with all the ingredients needed to feed local families in need Christmas dinner. However, the hunger doesn’t stop there. We would like to invite the community to donate to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank year-round.
Every volunteer who touches Wagons Ho Ho Ho, whether by donating food, funds or their time, is an important part of the Wagons team. Won’t you consider becoming a full-fledged Wagoneer? Visit WagonsHoHoHo.org to learn more, and help to give a child HOPE for today and the future.