This week, UMD AMA is honored to be joined by Amy Javaid, President and CEO of A Wider Circle, for our community service event on how to market a mission! What started out as Amy chaperoning her daughter’s field trip to A Wider Circle many years ago turned into her volunteering there once a week, and now serving as the President and CEO of the DC-based nonprofit. Here is her story and her advice on how to market a mission.
When it comes to both nonprofits and businesses, names matter. The origin of the name “A Wider Circle” comes from a quote by Albert Einstein that states “our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion.” Even so, this name doesn’t tell us much about what the organization does, who it serves, and what its goals are. As Amy said, for nonprofits the question always boils down to how do we tell our story? The core philosophy of A Wider Circle is that the power of human connection and the actions of each one of us, working together, can create tremendous change.
Yet this still leaves key questions unanswered. Much like a business, nonprofits have to answer the who, what, where, why, and how of their service model. While businesses use a value proposition to answer these questions, nonprofits use core statements which include a vision and a mission. A Wider Circle’s vision is a world without poverty, where people have what they need to thrive. This answers the question of why. Their mission statement is to advance equity in the greater Washington DC region by fostering the exchange of goods, skills, and connections from neighbor to neighbor, and by engaging in advocacy to address the root causes of poverty. This addresses where, what, and how.
The only missing piece is who. A Wider Circle has two key segments. One is their clients who are those needing the social services and another is donors or those who make providing the services possible. Marketing a mission requires attention and strategies for both segments. The product for clients are social services which serve a need due to the high cost of living in the DC area. Clients become aware about A Wider Circle mostly through referrals and word of mouth. When clients feel dignified, welcome, and human throughout their experience with A Wider Circle, they spread the word throughout their community. For donors, the product is social investment due to a high need in the expensive area. Again, donors become aware of the organization through other donors so positive word of mouth is key for A Wider Circle.
As business school students, we all know that a business needs a sustainable competitive advantage over competitors in order to survive. This is true for nonprofits as well. For clients, the competitive advantages of A Wider Circle are that there is no referral required, no eligibility requirements, no proof of identity, residence, or income required, and no long term commitment for additional services. For donors, A Wider Circle has diverse funding streams, limited government funding, two decades of service experience, a strong community reputation, and a multitude of ways to give. For both segments, the organization offers unique services, easy access, and strong core values.
One of these values includes ethical storytelling, which means that A Wider Circle does not take the pain and trauma of the clients they serve, but rather focus on client improvement and support in their marketing and communication efforts. Showcasing direct services is a straightforward task. A Wider Circle can use imagery to showcase the furniture and clothing they provide for their clients. As Amy says, marketing a product-based mission is simple, clear, and tangible. The organization can clearly show a client receiving a bed to sleep in or picking out a suit for a job interview.
Service provision, however, can be less clear and harder to market. It’s often easier to indicate what you don’t do for clients. In terms of career support, A Wider Circle makes it clear that they do not offer job placement or technical and vocational training. What they do offer is akin to a college counseling center. Clients are trained in networking, interviewing, and building soft skills and emotional intelligence. A Wider Circle also partakes in place-based programming, meaning they do services where people are, rather than making people come to them. Some of these programs include one-on-one work, working with families, Zoom training, and giving away goods.
No matter the channel, A Wider Circle’s impact goals remain the same: to be a good neighbor to those they serve directly, to build and sustain community through those they serve indirectly, and to co-create a better future with organizations in the region and beyond. As with all types of marketing, engagement is key. When marketing a mission, you must clearly outline to your audience how they can engage. Next steps must be apparent and easy to take. So what are the next steps for you reading this? Share information about A Wider Circle and their work, support the organization through volunteering, and invest by underwriting their work.
A very special thank you goes out to Amy Javaid for taking the time to speak to UMD AMA members about what it takes to market a mission! We also want to thank all members who donated non-food items at the event to be distributed among families in the DC area this month!
- Rumi Petrova