Case Study: Nonprofit Uses Hyperlocal Content to Reach Families

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CFKCOrganization: Cookies for Kids’ Cancer
Market: Supporters in 4,500+ cities
Platform: Macaroni Kid, Facebook
Bottom Line: Hyperlocal networks give national non-profits a way to integrate into communities and connect with potential donors on a local level.

What started out as an online cookie sale in 2007 turned into much more for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, when the pediatric cancer research nonprofit formed a partnership with hyperlocal content network Macaroni Kid to promote its local bake sales across the country in 2010.

“We realized we were on to something after selling out of 96,000 cookies in just a matter of days in December 2007,” said Gretchen Holt Witt, founder of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. “The thousands of individuals who bought holiday cookies came back and wanted to do more. In September 2008, we launched Cookies for Kids’ Cancer as a national nonprofit with a focus on inspiring individuals to host grassroots events.”

To promote these local fundraising events, the organization turned to Macaroni Kid, a national network of hyperlocal sites and e-newsletters aimed at people with children. “Macaroni Kid newsletters are a great way to spread the word about upcoming events. Plus, each local edition’s ‘publisher mom’ and readers are potential candidates to host Cookies for Kids’ Cancer events, making the relationship a natural fit.”

Each week, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer sends a list of upcoming events to Macaroni Kid’s national team. The national team then distributes that list to its publishers nationwide, and those events get added to local Macaroni Kids newsletters and websites at no charge. If there is a fundraising event coming up in Ames, Iowa, for example, then the publisher of Macaroni Kid’s Boones-Ames, Iowa, edition would include information about that event in the weekly newsletter she sends to subscribers.

In addition to publishing information about local fundraisers, Witt says local Macaroni Kid publishers have begun hosting their own events, as well. “The publisher moms of Macaroni Kid are personally invested in Cookies for Kids’ Cancer by encouraging readers to attend events and often by hosting successful, community building events. In three years, publisher moms have hosted more than three dozen events, raising over $50,000.”

To spur interest and increase community support beyond current levels, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer has gotten creative in the ways it reaches out to Macaroni Kid publishers. When special opportunities come up — such as, when a brand partner is giving away products or coupons — the organization gives Macaroni Kid publishers first dibs, encouraging them to run promotions (like giveaways) on their sites.

While Macaroni Kid plays a key role in how Cookies for Kids’ Cancer promotes its local bake sale events, the nonprofit’s promotional efforts don’t stop with pitching ideas to hyperlocal publishers. “We have passionate supporters in over 4,500 cities nationwide.” The group uses e-newsletters, an online blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to spread the word about its work and inspire followers to take action and get involved.

Among the various platforms that Cookies for Kids’ Cancer uses in its marketing efforts, Witt says Facebook is by far the most active. “We have over 42,000 followers on Facebook, and we make it a priority to talk [to them] every single day.”

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer encourages supporters to create their own Facebook groups, where they can post their community events and updates. “Top supporters in cities like Charlotte, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia, have created their own Facebook pages to keep local supporters updated on fundraising efforts, and to share pictures and stories from events.”

The Takeaway
Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a national nonprofit organization, with supporters in more than 4,500 cities. However, that doesn’t mean a national advertising campaign would necessarily be effective in promoting the charity’s local events. (People don’t open up national magazines looking for event listings in their communities.) On the other hand, from a logistical perspective, it would be challenging for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer to send weekly event announcements to every daily newspaper and news website in each of the cities where its events are held. So hyperlocal blog networks provide an effective solution for a national group looking to promote local events.

Macaroni Kid, in particular, is well suited for the partnership because of the topics it covers. By partnering with the niche network, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is able to ensure that its messages are being broadcast specifically to the readers most likely to be interested in its events. The partnership ends up being a win/win for both organizations. Macaroni Kid gets relevant content for its publishers on a weekly basis, and Cookies for Kids’ Cancer gets to promote its events on a local level.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.