Meals on Wheels of Greenville recently celebrated 50 years of delivering hot meals, hope, and a higher quality of life to the homebound in the Upstate.
Meals on Wheels began working with The Brand Leader in 2012 as part of a 5-year strategic plan to invest in their organization and increase their footprint in the community. Over the past 6 years, the partnership has helped both organizations grow, learn, and serve clients better.
Preparing for the Future
“The search for a marketing agency really started out as a smaller piece of a much bigger project. We were tasked with developing a 5-year strategic plan,” said Catriona Carlisle, Executive Director at Meals on Wheels. “I was part of that decision-making team, and we conducted an in-depth study of the entire organization, every department, every area, to understand our processes and the work we were doing—and what changes we needed to make to prepare for the future.”
One of the steps that the team decided to take as a result of the study was taking the brand to the next level.
“We realized that we had name recognition because of our history and work in the community, and we had built up our reputation locally, but we needed to connect more meaningfully to the community and establish brand consistency,” Catriona said. “It was an investment in ourselves, making us better so that we could serve our clients better.”
Catriona and the decision-making team did their research and reached out to other nonprofit partners in the community for recommendations, looking for an agency that had experience in the nonprofit world.
“The first need that came up, and the first project we did with The Brand Leader, was our website redo,” said Catriona. “Chris was our main contact and played a huge role in that project’s success. From the beginning, it seemed he intuitively understood what we do and was able to translate that well into a visual language and the functionality of our site.”
The Ongoing Relationship:
Creating Branding Consistency
“From that relationship, that project, our goals extended, and we started looking at how to make the partnership more substantial and continue to grow the pieces to create a consistent and meaningful look, a unique look in everything we do,” said Catriona.
According to Catriona, creating this consistency in branding was one of the main reasons Meals on Wheels reached out to The Brand Leader for advice and guidance.
“We’ve been a client for 6 years now, since 2012, when I was Director of Development,” said Catriona. “Partnering with a branding agency has helped us achieve that consistency. The Brand Leader was able to bring everything we do under one umbrella from bigger pieces like the logo and website to smaller touches like nametags, direct mail, newsletters, and our letterhead.”
Consistent branding isn’t something that Meals on Wheels wanted for its own sake, however. The development team was far more interested in the effect that branding could have on their overall mission as an organization.
“What makes me the most excited about our branding, and about our new site, which is on its second refresh since we first engaged the agency, is how it’s transformed how we communicate and engage the public,” Catriona said.
Partnering with an Agency
“The biggest and best change we’ve seen is our focus when we present ourselves. Prior to The Brand Leader, our website was purely informational and transactional rather than relational. Here’s more about us and our staff, here’s what we do, volunteer and donate here,” said Catriona. “The new website gives us the ability to be much more interactive, more client-focused, as we deliver our story and the stories of the people we serve with compassionate messaging. Similarly, our marketing outreach before this partnership was mostly event-driven, through direct mail pieces, that came strictly from a development and fundraising perspective. Fundraising is important, of course, but through our relationship with The Brand Leader, we now understand that all of our print collateral and other materials need to share our message, who we serve, and why we exist.”
The Meals on Wheels team has also noticed the impact that their look and branding is having on the national level.
“We’re part of a national membership organization. They represent about 5,000 smaller organizations who may not all have the same resources that the national group has, and they offer support by allowing them to use their branding,” said Catriona. “To me, that’s been one of the biggest successes of partnering with The Brand Leader. For many years, at the annual conference, the national group has been extremely complimentary about our look. We’re very proud of our local brand we’ve built.”
The ongoing relationship with The Brand Leader has also allowed Meals on Wheels to grow and streamline their operations.
“The partnership has been a lifesaver in terms of increasing our capabilities and allowing us to do other things as an organization,” said Virginia Vanvick, Communications Coordinator. “For example, the new website includes online forms that were not available to us previously, and we’ve seen a significant increase in people submitting their volunteer information online, signing up for orientation, and rescheduling or finding replacement drivers for their route. The automation of these forms has freed up time for our staff internally and had a big impact on our day-to-day operations.”
Always Willing to Listen
“If there ever is a problem, the team is eager to step in and fix it, and they’re always willing to listen,” said Virginia. “There’s a desire to make it right, even if that requires structural changes. For instance, they transitioned to a model where they provide one consistent project manager, and that longevity has been a huge help for us. Since Kate (Boylan, Project Manager) took ownership of our account and our brand leadership, I’ve noticed better communication, more clear expectations, and a better ability to meet deadlines.”
Catriona added: “I completely second that. They want to make it right and make the relationship work. Kate and Chris are both wonderful, and I know I can always call Geoff (Wasserman, CEO/Chief Brand Officer) and get an answer when I need one.”
Looking to the Future
Now that Meals on Wheels is a year past their 5-year strategic plan and has hit a major milestone anniversary, they’ve turned their attention to the next 5 years.
“We have some impressive goals for the next 5 years that will help us support our clients better. The daily meals, check-ins, and personal conversations we get to have are a tremendous step, but those living alone with little to no support system have other needs, and we feel we can be a bigger and better resource for them,” said Catriona. “We have the ability to serve more, and we know that there are more people in the community who need our help. We plan to expand our footprint in the community by connecting our existing clients to other resources, and we plan to expand our referral service so we get more clients. We also have big goals for volunteer recruitment. Within 5 years, we want 98.5% of our routes to be delivered by volunteers and we want to set up an even more automated system. More than anything, this volunteer push will move the financial needle for us and enable us to support more people and enhance our services.”