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July 4: Time to Celebrate Veterans, The Bob Woodruff Foundation and Big Data Marketing
We’re all looking forward to the parades, barbecues and fireworks that typically commemorate the Fourth of July. But, before leaving the office for a well-earned long weekend, let’s take a minute to recognize and celebrate our nation’s service members and the marketers –yes, the marketers –who work with nonprofits to help veterans get the services they need.
Specifically, I’d like to highlight the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
Woodruff’s recovery has been nothing short of miraculous (read more details here), and the experience inspired him to create the Bob Woodruff Foundation, a national nonprofit to help injured service members, veterans and their families navigate the 40,000+ organizations that provide services to them. The Foundation finds, funds and shapes innovative programs –and holds these programs accountable for results. To sum up its mission . . .
The Bob Woodruff Foundation helps veterans heal the physical and psychological wounds of war.
Anne Marie Dougherty is the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s executive director, and last July the American Marketing Association (AMA) and the American Marketing Association Foundation (AMAF) presented her with the 2012 AMA/AMAF Nonprofit Marketer of the Year Award, which recognizes extraordinary leadership and achievement in the field of nonprofit marketing.
“I just celebrated my 5-year anniversary with the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and my journey has been alongside my active duty Marine Corps husband,” Dougherty told me. “Working to care for service members who come home injured and those who care for them is my way of serving and supporting our military men and women who signed up to protect our country. The Woodruff’s spirit of generosity and good will has made building this organization an honor.”
To Dougherty, the goals of for-profit and non-profit marketing are the same. “People need to understand who we are, and know that what we provide has value,” she said.
But, the product the Bob Woodruff Foundation provides is quite unique. Since there are more than 40,000 nonprofits that in some way benefit veterans, donors count on the Bob Woodruff Foundation to find the charities that will do the most good.
“We navigate that maze so donors (our customers) don’t have to, and raise funds so the charities don’t have to,” Dougherty explained. “That way they can focus on the issues, like preventing veteran suicide and helping veterans find jobs and reintegrate successfully.”
Ultimately, the goal is to build multi-layered communities all over the country where service members who come home are welcome and have the opportunity to thrive.
“The product we deliver is peace of mind,” Dougherty said.
“We provide the knowledge that donor money is going to those who need it most, and that those we are serving are getting what they need,” she added.
That’s not an easy mission. The first step is to find the charities that are tackling the most pressing issues facing the injured veteran community. Then, the Foundation has to demonstrate past success, growth, relevance and transparency of these charities.
“When a donor considers investing in us, it is important that they can distinguish why we are the best stewards of their dollars,” Dougherty explained. “For example, last year 85 cents of every dollar went toward funding a high impact program. Those numbers are transparent; you can find our tax returns on our website. We use information like that to show value and be accountable to our customer.”
Clearly, the Bob Woodruff Foundation has mastered the art of giving. Now, the organization is working on injecting more science into its processes. Which is why . . .
“With the help of Booz Allen Hamilton, who has graciously donated their time and talents to evaluate our past and present work we are quantifying our direct and indirect impact and reach to give ourselves a roadmap leading to future success based on past success, lessons learned and interpreting trends,” Dougherty said.
Short-term, the Foundation is focused on fixing the most pressing issues facing veterans, like the high rates of veteran suicide and unemployment. But Dougherty is well aware the needs of veterans will change over time.
“Our long-term vision is to be here for the long haul, to adapt to the changing needs of our veterans and to provide the highest level of care and support for as long as they need it,” she said.
Community-based relationships are key.
To help ensure its longevity, Dougherty stressed that the Foundation targets time and effort into developing community-based relationships. The organization leverages its networks, partners, and national voice to galvanize pro bono resources, social media and in-kind donations.
“At the Bob Woodruff Foundation, we scrutinize every dollar spent on building our business so that we can maintain those stellar ratios of low overhead and high program delivery (budgets, budgets, budgets),” she explained. “It’s a delicate balance between growing our brand and deploying dollars to programs that can help injured vets and their families.”
But those collaborations and partnerships can result in huge dividends. In fact, Dougherty’s one piece of advice for marketers would be to utilize pro-bono support as much as possible and leverage the board of directors for expert advice, donor networking and high-level participation.
“We’ve found the return on investment of loyal relationship based business is second to none,” she concluded. “Our board of directors is one of our richest resources for both community relations and marketing. We have global leaders, philanthropists, business, news and media minds aligning for a common cause. We make a point to invest our dollars in communities across the country and one of our goals is always to leverage human capital and the indomitable spirit to do more with less.”
As the Bob Foundation says on its website: “’Support our Troops’ is no longer a slogan. It’s an action.” And remember: It’s action we need to take not only on July 4, but throughout the year, as well.