New training raises awareness and empathy.
Words: Barry Strader
Photos: Meals on Wheels, SAGE
With the challenges of raising money and providing needed services in a sluggish economy, time to think is something many charitable and non-profit organizations in Alberta simply don’t have.
ATB Financial hopes to help change that with the Time to Think grant, awarded to two Alberta non-profit organizations for the purpose of increasing their organization’s impact or effectiveness through specific projects.
Meals on Wheels—which provides ready-to-eat meals for seniors in Edmonton—applied for the grant hoping to develop a mobile-friendly website, ending the frustrating experience for those using their mobile device to register loved ones or volunteer.
“Right now, anyone who wants to volunteer with us has to fill out a two-page, online volunteer application form,” said Caitlin Fleming, Meals on Wheels’ Community Engagement & Fund Development Manager. “As you can imagine, this would be pretty hard to do on your phone. If you don’t have a mobile friendly website now, you’re definitely behind the times”
SAGE, on the other hand, applied for the Time to Think grant to execute on a marketing plan for its SAGE Savories frozen meals program. University of Alberta MBA students developed the plan, but SAGE needed funding to put the plan into motion.
“The Time to Think grant allows us to tap into new markets, increase brand awareness of the product and develop updated marketing materials,” said Karen McDonald, SAGE’s assistant executive director. “It also allowed us to support a summer student position to work on marketing over the summer.”
The Time to Think grant will help both organizations achieve their business goals through more than just funding. What makes this grant different is that it includes advice from ATB business experts.
For Meals on Wheels, that meant meeting with ATB’s web team to learn how to put together a request for proposals (RFP) for its mobile-friendly website project. ATB helped Meals on Wheels put together the RFP and develop criteria for ranking and evaluating proposals.
“The web team at ATB has been awesome,” said Fleming. “They had the expertise to help me. Putting together a multi-page request for proposals on something that you’re not super confident on is pretty intimidating. To have their help was great. I never knew they were going to be that helpful.”
SAGE met with ATB’s marketing team for brainstorming sessions which helped develop key words to be used in marketing materials and create a narrative to use as the cornerstone of SAGE Savories’ brand development. SAGE has since put out an RFP to marketing firms and has started developing new content.
“We can’t say enough about it, really,” said McDonald. “It’s unusual to work so closely with the funder in terms of the support we’ve received from the ATB team. They check in regularly to determine what support we need to ensure the volunteer time ATB has put in is meaningful and that it supports the work we’re doing. It’s not just lip service. The investment of time from the ATB team and the support they’ve been giving us really augments our organization. It’s not just about the funding.”