Junior League of Atlanta: Launching a Digital Strategy to Break Revenue Records

Organizational Challenge

The Junior League of Atlanta was entering the 17th year of its upscale “Tour of Kitchens” fundraiser, a two-day, self-guided tour of fine Atlanta Homes in Buckhead and surrounding neighborhoods. The annual springtime tradition features 14 of the city’s most prominent, innovative and creative kitchen designers and includes culinary and event demonstrations by Atlanta’s leading chefs and companies.

JLA’s 2013-2014 communications team leaders wanted to smash all previous revenue generating records with the tour and the fashionable pre-tour soiree, “Toast of the Tour.”

After all, JLA is one of 291 Junior Leagues internationally, part of a The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. It’s a revered the social and economic justice nonprofit founded by social reformer more than socialite, Mary Harimon Rumsy, in 1901 in New York City. The organization has chapters in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the U.K.

The Association of Junior Leagues International Inc. (AJLI) is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.The Association of Junior Leagues International Inc.

JLA got started in 1916 and, as is true internationally, its members are high profile leaders in every sphere of professional and charitable activity. Like the larger organization, it’s long shed its “ladies who lunch” WASP-y, homogeneous membership image becoming deliberately diverse. It welcomes women of all ethnicities, faiths, and sexual orientations as well as ages and political persuasions. Moreover, 70% of members work outside of home, many as entrepreneurs like me or in c-suite positions in global organizations.

Hence, observers expect the Atlanta chapter, with 4,000 members making it the fourth largest Junior League in America, to be exceptional in all it does.

It’s recognized for getting key state legislation against human trafficking enacted, which now is national model legislation. JLA transformed legal aid in Atlanta, started the Atlanta Speech School, a renowned school for deaf and hard of hearing and has provided significant support to Egleston Memorial Hospital for Children, a medical facility founded to serve Atlanta’s indigent children that’s now part of the nationally-recognized Children’s Hospital of Atlanta.

Nonetheless, the organization is at heart a business operation that’s required to achieve specific earnings goals like a profit-driven corporation to meet its charitable objectives.

For Tour of Kitchens, we had to maximize every opportunity during the 11-month campaign preceding the affair to achieve the League’s goal of yielding high proceeds while making the event’s communications strategy memorable.

We also were challenged to make the League’s mission-based programs exciting to potential high-dollar donors and prospective members while publicly acknowledging the support of current partners and financial contributors.

Approach

Working as Co-Public Relations and Digital Communications Committee Chair, I drew on my years of public relations and digital communications success achieving audience development goals for organizations.

I encouraged the six-member, racially and ethnically diverse, intergenerational digital communications team (which was supported by approximately six additional committee members) to create and execute a highly-themed calendar that focused on a different motif related to the event every week.

I developed the “10-days of Thanks” campaign that launched the digital communications calendar to honor partners, including the chefs, companies, and kitchen designers who’d “donated” their brand identity and the luxury homeowners where lent their newly-designed kitchens to our event.

The objective of that plan was to attract additional in-kind partners in all the areas where we still needed themfrom the Toast venue to food and upscale donations for the function’s silent auction.

We also found unique ways to highlight the League’s purpose-driven ideals like “Leadership” and “Training;” issue-based initiatives like “Early Childhood Education” and “Generational Poverty” and advocacy against “Commercial Sexual Exploitation/Human Trafficking Prevention.”

It was challenging integrating often sobering community activism seamlessly into communications marketing for an entertainment event. But, we achieved that using “Did you know…?” questions and historical images of events from early years of these causes.

Using these strategies, we educated the general public and League donors and partners about our successes in these areas. That included the effective lobbying at the Georgia State Capitol in continuing enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws the League’s lawyer and lobbyist members had gotten enacted.

We maintained this digital communications strategy across essential social platforms, customizing and revising it for each when necessary, non-stop through the event date to post-event recognition.

Outcome

Our communications activities got used to advance advertising, ticket sales, direct fundraising, state capitol lobbying, publicity, and other initiatives League committees and leaders engaged in during the League year.

By creating significant awareness of the League’s advocacy and mission-based programs, our campaign drew substantial additional interest in membership and financial support.

Most importantly, our digital communications campaign helped JLA raise over $250,000 with a well-attended Toast of the Tour held at an eclectic arts-area venue.

We also helped multiple highly-talented, but relatively unknown food vendors and entertainers gain exposure to affluent and wealthy fete patrons by featuring the diverse slate of small business owners and artists at the function.

Working With Me

I don’t offer these services by request on a volunteer basis to human services organizations. However, I’m available as a paid consultant to esteemed membership associations in the financial services and wealth management industries.

If that describes your organization, please contact me today. I offer a complimentary 15-minute introductory phone call about which you can learn by visiting “The Thrive Business Engagement Process.”