RWU Magazine - Fall 2013 / Issue #9 - page 16

RWU {Fall 2013}
Mission Critical
CPC project partners students across academic disciplines with the East Bay Coalition
for the Homeless in an effort to raise the nonprofit’s profile
By Lesley Riva
mith knows
firsthand how
years have been on
. As director of the East Bay Coalition
for the Homeless, she works with some of the
state’s most vulnerable residents as they
struggle to find (or keep) safe, affordable
housing – and a modicum of economic
stability – for their families.
Unfortunately, many other Rhode
know about the Coalition’s
work, and donations have not kept pace with
need. With limited resources and a small staff,
creating any sort of marketing campaign to
promote the Coalition and its services was
proving to be an overwhelming challenge. But
a cohort of Roger Williams students and staff
were waiting in the wings to serve as a de
facto marketing firm via the Community
Partnerships Center and create a new brand
and website for the Coalition.
The idea of branding and actively
marketing a resource center for the homeless
may seem strange, but the RWU team quickly
understood that from determining an
audience to developing a message, it would be
critical to tell the Coalition’s story
authentically and memorably.
With Professor of Marketing Kathy
Micken at the helm, a team of marketing, web
design, graphic design and Honors Program
students dedicated two semesters to
conducting research and creating a marketing
plan to relaunch the Coalition’s presence in
the East Bay and the Ocean State.
“The students were interested in the issues
that surround families facing homelessness,
and really digging into perceptions regarding
the population we serve and community
knowledge about our program,” Smith says.
“Working with them was like working with
a professional marketing firm – we were
their client, they gave us plans based on real
research and listened to our comments
and concerns.”
In the fall, Micken’s marketing students
developed and conducted a survey aimed at
the organization’s board members, and
presented the results. In tandem, the Honors
Program focused on messaging, unearthing
narratives that could debunk stereotypical
perceptions of the homeless and illuminate
the Coalition’s efforts to support this
underserved population. For instance, few
people realize that many of Rhode Island’s
homeless are working families with children,
Smith says, and that the state’s high incidence
of lead paint in older homes is a contributing
factor to displaced families.
The following spring, students surveyed
donors and community members, and created
fresh brand strategies, partnering with
Professor Alan Cutting’s web design class to
create a new logo and website. If effective,
this marketing collateral – including the
stories that shed light on the Coalition’s
contributions to the community, and the
impact on families and children – will help
to increase donations and public support.
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