A trio of beaming kids, each holding up a book in front of a colorful red van, rolls past your social media feed. Even if you don’t know much about Madison Reading Project, it’s hard to miss its posts.
Rowan Childs, founder of the 8-year-old nonprofit, shared the story of how this organization spread its message, gained a following of thousands and is fulfilling its mission with a small budget, a big passion and lots of hard work. A replay of this virtual #SMBMad November event on our Facebook page.
Madison Reading Project (MRP) has a mission of improving literacy rates by getting books into the hands of kids who need them. The nonprofit started with a $1,000 donation and passion to boost reading rates in Dane County. It operated a pilot for a year and a half through the Salvation Army of Dane County after school program and has expanded to open a Book Center early this year. MRP also runs a number of programs including the Big Red Reading Bus mobile book distribution and has a staff of 10.
Learning what works
“Social Media was a huge part of how we were able to grow our impact in providing books, funding the book bus, gaining volunteers and book donations,” said Childs. “We started out slowly experimenting and were able to grow our name and brand and continue to refine it.”
Photos showing children, staff and teachers holding up books proved key to the organization’s branding. These images delivered a message of pride and joy in book ownership and reading that resonated with patterns, donors and volunteers. That connection has led MRP to provide 67,000 books last year, up from 300 in its first year.
Among Childs’ tips on using social media marketing to grow a new nonprofit:
- Use your own photography, even if you don’t think you’re creative. Look at what others are doing to promote their causes or businesses on social media to get ideas.
- Find a voice and tone that speaks to your audience and share that with volunteers and staff to create a consistent message.
- Use your social channels to ask for help and recruit volunteers, board members and more. People will respond if you let them know what you need.
- Start a newsletter to connect with volunteers and donors, and get people current information. The content can be repurposed on social media.
- Make use of resources available to nonprofits such as SMBMad, Ad2Madison and Design Like Mad.
MRP’s success continues, and it is poised to break its 2020 book record. The organization is in the midst of a Community Book Drive through mid-December which aims to provide 12,000 kids new books this holiday season. Learn more on the organization’s website.
Nonprofit Spotlight: Little John’s
Founded by Chef Dave Heide, Little John’s takes an innovative approach to increasing food security using efficiencies of scale and turning food excess into food access. The organization saves hundreds of thousands of pounds of food, donated rather than going to local landfills, and transforms the excess into delicious and nutritious meals at little to no cost. Little John’s currently serves 6,000 meals a week to people of all ages throughout Dane County and is working to become a pay-what-you-can restaurant, commissary kitchen and military veteran culinary training program. Learn more on Little John’s website (littlejohnskitchens.org) or find them on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter.