When Social Media Breakfast Madison announced the Digital Dream Grant last spring we knew that we would have a chance to help local small businesses and non-profit organizations in need of a digital boost. But we had no idea the scope of demand in our community.
It was overwhelming.
Social Media Breakfast Madison Board President Josh Klemons explains, “The pandemic has caused a tremendous strain as organizations have been forced to pivot their marketing and community engagement strategies to digital platforms.”
In the month we collected applications for the Digital Dream Grant, just shy of 400 (4-0-0!) organizations submitted their request for consideration. Each project was worthy of funding. But alas, decisions had to be made.
Read more about the projects our first-ever recipients of the Digital Dream Grant have been working on.
Collaboration For Good
Collaboration for Good applied for the Dream Grant to jumpstart and pilot a new media campaign, ‘ACCELERATE!’. The ACCELERATE! Campaign was designed to promote Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) leaders and entrepreneurs in Dane County. American Family Insurance’s The Institute provided additional funding. Collaboration for Good highlights one founder/leader per month, providing ample time for people to note them and their work.
The organization started with preparation from July to October 2021. They released their first campaign in November 2021, highlighting Dr. Taysheedra Allen, the Founder of the Women’s Place and Resource Center. Afterwards, Dr. Allen told Collaboration for Good about people contacting her via LinkedIn, Facebook, and calls. She gained volunteers and potential new partners. One of the Women’s Place & Resource Center projects received donations, potential sponsors, and more. The campaign raised her stature in the community.
In December 2021, State Representative and co-founder of Morris Ramen, Francesca Hong was the next campaign for ACCELERATE!. Rep. Hong is interested in the campaign’s potential to align more restaurants’ values with her give-back project, Community Kitchens. Collaboration for Good is working on their next three campaign spotlights.
“The grant from SMB Madison and Dreambank was just what was needed to get this project off the ground,” said Collaboration for Good’s Alnisa Algood. “We are already learning and adapting it for more impact. We’ve worked with many women, Black, brown, Indigenous, people of color, in our day-to-day work on economic equity.”
Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired
This organization that promotes the dignity and empowerment of people in Wisconsin who live with vision loss, upgraded its e-commerce website, creating a more welcoming and informative experience for its clients and customers. Here are some of the accessible and user-friendly improvements made:
- Added products from in-store inventory (including braille-related items and magnification products).
- Added Spanish translation and added alt text in Spanish as an option.
- Updated the e-commerce check out process.
- Using PayPal’s latest API, incorporated credit card fields directly into the Store’s check-out page. This has the added benefit of being a more secure process.
- Created a volunteer role dedicated to the store website.
“Being able to make these improvements to our website has made a positive difference for our on-line customers,” said Lori Werbeckes. “Thank you so much for making them possible.”
Badger Prairie Needs Network
This Verona-based volunteer-run food pantry funded digital ads on Facebook and Instagram to promote their fundraising effort. BPNN ran two separate Facebook ad campaigns during its Annual Campaign push from November to December 2021. In 2020, they expanded service to include all of Dane County. By implementing a paid social media campaign, they were able to cast a wider net beyond current followers. It resulted in a 15% increase in the number of followers.
BPNN is a 100% volunteer run organization and says every dollar goes toward its mission of fighting poverty and ending hunger. With the grant, they expanded their reach, brought on new donors and followers. All of this helps them deliver on their promise to guests and the greater community in need. In 2021, BPNN served 5,500 households and distributed 936,000 lbs. of food. They also broke ground on a new training center and community room which is set to open later this year.
Beth Skogen Photography
Beth Skogen paid it forward one image at a time with her grant. Skogen gifted photography to four local businesses. Working with a panel of small business owners, Skogen collected submissions of organizations and businesses, reviewed them and narrowed it down to four they believed could benefit from having photos taken.
Skogen spent two hours photographing each of the four non-profits in the fall and gave them around 50-75 files to use in the marketing of their organization. The non-profits chosen were Colonial Club of Sun Prairie, Operation H.E.E.L, Midwest Mujeres Collective, and The Sewing Machine Project. “It was an excellent opportunity to not only gift them photos but to get to know 4 organizations I hadn’t worked with before or knew about,” said Skogen. “Im just happy to give back to the community. I hope I had a little bit in helping them market their business more to followers, donors, clients, etc. Each of these organizations is doing amazing things and I just want the absolute best for them.”
Box of Balloons
Box of Balloons used Digital Dream Grant funds for their annual fundraising event, the Birthday Bash. The Birthday Bash is usually an in-person event with many people. However, due to COVID, the past two years the organization turned it into an “At Home Event”.
Guests purchased a themed party kit filled with hands-on activities, games, party favors, decorations and treats, and enjoyed the fun at their home. They also offered a virtual presentation from a local scientist (birthday bash was science themed in 2021). They sent out digital fliers made with grant funds to all past business sponsors and potential business sponsors. They used funds to purchase graphics and designs to make the event logo, save the dates, social media graphics, and event promotional fliers. They purchased print materials for inside the party kits explaining the event, the activities, games and thanking sponsors.
The Birthday Bash had 408 guests attend (purchase party kits) which was more than last year! They raised more $13,000 for the organization and had $8,400 in business sponsorship. Each birthday box given to a child in need costs about $100. Currently the organization is celebrating about 200 children per month, these children would otherwise not have a birthday celebration. The Birthday Bash doesn’t only provide a family friendly event, it is the fundraiser that allows Box of Balloons to continue on and keep going as a small nonprofit.
Little John’s Kitchens
Little John’s community kitchen used the grant to produce a mission focused video, “How is Little John’s Different?” The video highlights the barriers to food access that many in the community face and showed what sets Little John’s apart in tackling the issues. Little John’s currently serves 30 local schools, senior centers, and other community organizations nutritious and delicious meals through it’s sliding scale meal contracts. The organization also used footage from the project to kick off its Feel Good Food campaign. The capital campaign aims to raise funds to continue work on Little John’s permanent facility in Fitchburg.
“We are very appreciative of SMBMad’s Digital Dream Grant,” says Dave Heide, Little John’s chef/executive director. “Having funds that directly support our digital and social media strategies is crucial in helping to get the word out about how Little John’s is feeding feel-good food to everyone, regardless of their means.”
Madison’s Central Business Improvement District (Downtown Madison/BID)
Look for BID’s Who Do You Know digital ad campaign, as downtown rebuilds from the pandemic and social unrest that impacted many businesses along State Street. This new social media initiative focuses on telling the stories of small businesses owners and connects people with their stories. BID used the Digital Dream Grant for a video, QR codes and promos for Spring. They said the impact of the grant would be awareness and support for downtown businesses.
“Being selected for this grant means so much to our downtown businesses,” says Tiffany Kenney, BID Executive Director. “After this year struggling through the pandemic and challenges related to civil unrest it’s important for us to be able to tell the stories of our downtown business and their unique and diverse ownership. We plan to use this grant to tell those stories.”
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Olbrich Gardens piloted a digital map project through its grant. Staff started a non-budgeted, major upgrade project, to a more than 20-year outdated map design of the entire grounds at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. In-person and virtual visitors now have a mobile-friendly, accurate, and accessible way to navigate and reference the grounds, to recall and reference memories and visits to the Gardens, and to plan-ahead for future visits.
The Digital Dream Grant achieved its goals of expanding environmentally friendliness and cost effectiveness by drastically reducing the mass-printing of one-time use maps, and making it digitally available on the Gardens’ website. The “Olbrich experience” also expanded beyond a physical presence. As the Gardens continue returning to pre-pandemic visitor levels (335,000+ annual visitors), visitors and friends near and far use the new digital map across the organization’s programs and exhibits, and events (for navigation and education).
The impact of the Digital Dream Grant will be seen well into the future as staff can use design aspects of the map to support navigation for programs and exhibits.
We’re so excited to watch the ripple effect that each of these new programs will have, as they get implemented and ultimately benefit all of us in the greater Madison area and beyond.
There would of course be no grants without the partnership of our longtime supporter, American Family Insurance — DreamBank. We’re deeply grateful for DreamBank who provided the sponsorship funding to make the Digital Dream Grant happen. DreamBank believes communities are stronger and the future is brighter when people are actively pursuing their dreams. And we are seeing that belief in action through these grant awards.
How cool is that?