Promoting Connecticut’s Nonprofit Community
The Connecticut Association of Nonprofits — Advocating, supporting and strengthening nonprofit organizations in building and sustaining healthy communities in Connecticut.
During uncertain economic times, services and employment nonprofits provide become more crucial to the people of Connecticut, yet these same services and jobs become prime targets for state budget cuts. The Connecticut Association of Nonprofits (CAN) represents over 500 nonprofit organizations, 300 of which are state funded, that employ more than 20,000 people in the State of Connecticut. A hard-hitting advocacy campaign the prior year severely strained CAN’s relationship with top state political decision-makers, created divisiveness among its membership, and had a negative impact on new member recruitment. We were brought in to strengthen relationships, develop credibility and energize the membership.
Our planning team met with CAN senior staff, held two focus groups with its board of directors, and surveyed CAN membership to identify needs, get input and begin to build relationships through involvement and interaction. We determined we needed a highly visible, dramatic campaign launch to differentiate and distance CAN from the prior year’s highly negative campaign messaging. Objectives:
Energize CAN membership to be involved in the public relations effort and encourage other nonprofits to join. How: Provide members with tangible messages and materials to demonstrate CAN’s commitment to helping them and to show direct value that their investment in CAN and in a the campaign is worth the effort.
Strengthen relationships with Governor’s office, OPM and Legislative leadership based on trust and teamwork. How: Change the tone of the messaging from one of a political nature to one of a public policy commitment for the people in the State of Connecticut.
Cultivate more broad-based support from the general public, members, and other nonprofits. How: Involve CAN membership in a public communications campaign to give frontline testimony to make problems real to policymakers and the general public. (Involve new players, e.g., providers, clients)
Prevent and/or minimize state cuts for FY2002-03 and FY 2003-04. How: Facilitate grassroots lobbying efforts of CAN agency staff members, other nonprofit employees and concerned members of the public by effectively voicing their concern to State Legislative representatives.
To differentiate the campaign, we planned to go beyond numbers and statistics to put a face on nonprofits.
The Face of Nonprofits is a testament to the 11,000 Connecticut nonprofit organizations and the 150,000 people who serve the 3.3 million people of Connecticut. Through the use of visual interpretation, in the form of a 24” x 36” composite poster and supporting photo exhibit, CAN was able to present the unique characters, personalities, and stories of the people who serve and are served by nonprofits across the state. The spirit of nonprofits, the work they do and the lives they touch were captured in this compelling venue.
Posters were presented to state representatives at a State Capitol ceremony for the Governor’s proclamation of Connecticut Nonprofit Week in February 2003. That week, the poster was formally introduced to the public, media and key decision-makers during a photography exhibit opening held at First Experience Communications’ Creative Art Studio to celebrate the individuals featured on the poster. Enlarged individual photos of the nonprofit clients highlighted in the poster were displayed, along with personal quotes obtained in one-on-one interviews after each photo had been taken.
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The poster was hand delivered to all legislators at the State Capitol, along with nonprofit position paper, and presented during the proclamation of Connecticut’s Nonprofit week. The composite poster/photo exhibit was moved to the State Capitol for public display in mid-April. Creative content and information for the “Face of Nonprofits” poster became a springboard for multiple campaign initiatives, including localized feature stories, National Public Radio interview, white paper development. CAN members enthusiastically attended the exhibit opening, legislative session, and more than a year later continue to publicly display posters at over 1,000 sites across the state. CAN membership increased during the year by 15% with virtually no attrition. Positive relationships have been formed with state decision-makers at all levels. One senior congressman displayed the poster and the presentation photo on his website for more than a year (copy enclosed). On June 4th, nonprofits “won a sweet and hard-fought victory” on a legislative act concerning property tax exemptions for shelters, substance abuse facilities, short-term housing and orphanages (see enclosed client announcement to its membership).
CT Association of Non Profits Appreciation Award (Recognition for supporting Non Profit Organizations in CT) – 2003