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Raising Local Awareness to Reach New Supporters, Increase Donations

Standing out in a local market with a sea of non-profits, here’s how one Austin-based organization jumped the charts to make itself known above its existing, loyal supporters

Background

Established in 1991, Art From the Streets (AFTS) is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization that provides a safe and encouraging environment for Austin’s homeless to create art. While the public is most familiar with the annual show and sale, the twice-weekly art classes are at the core of the program. People who are homeless, or are at-risk of being homeless, have the opportunity to participate in open studio art classes held twice a week. But artistic expression isn’t the only benefit. The classes give the participants a way to interact with others in a positive, supportive environment.

Every year AFTS hosts a show and sale event allowing the homeless artists to sell their work and interact with the public. Through the sales of their art, the artists are able to raise funds to pay for necessities such as food, medicine, clothing and housing. Many of the artists have sold enough paintings to afford rent and living expenses, while attracting a loyal following who purchases art year-round. Every participating artists has walked away with a new sense of themselves and a feeling of accomplishment.

Goals

After 17 years of existence and a steady number of loyal supporters, AFTS sought to elevate awareness of its core program, reach new supporters, and increase attendee traffic at the annual show & sale event beyond the average of attendees retained annually.

Plan of Action

In addition to implementing a complete integrated marketing campaign consisting of advertising/creative, Web design, traditional public relations, and direct marketing services, BuzzPR incorporated a social media element into the mix to directly engage with supporters locally, nationally and in Canada. Armed with traditional PR outreach, a Facebook group, Twitter profile and established relationships with influential bloggers in the art and creative communities, Art From the Streets generated a viral marketing campaign that exceeded expectations.

Results

In-depth coverage of AFTS’ program and annual event was secured in target local print and broadcast outlets, event calendars and community art blogs. The 2008 two-day show and sale event raised more than $90,000 for participating homeless artists, a thirty percent increase from the previous year, and drew more than 1,900 attendees – exceeding the previous year by seventy percent, officially setting an attendance record in the program’s history.

In addition, AFTS received requests to duplicate the program in local cities from around the U.S. and Canada, was invited to host a fundraising gallery showing at Austin’s Canvas studio, and held an annual Art From the Streets documentary screening at Alamo Drafthouse with a Q&A with artists featured in the film, creator/director Layton Blaylock of Inferno Films, and AFTS founders. Publicity campaigns were executed to support these initiatives.

BuzzPR continued working with AFTS through 2010 resulting in a 20% annual increase attendees and 30% increase in donations.The AFTS campaigns won a 2006 Silver ADDY Award and a 2007 President’s Impact Award for Public Service.