AMA Awards Nonprofit Marketer Of The Year

July 31, 2009       Michele Donohue      

Eric Overman, director of online communities and social media at Operation Smile, received the 2009 Nonprofit Marketer of the Year Award from American Marketing Association (AMA) and the American Marketing Association Foundation (AMAF) at the Nonprofit Marketing Conference in Chicago, Ill, earlier this month.

Overman said he was excited to receive the award for his online marketing efforts with Operation Smile, a nonprofit dedicated to life-changing surgeries on cleft palates and other facial deformities in underdeveloped countries. “For me, it was validation for how important it is to start putting efforts in that direction,” he said.

Overman joined the Norfolk, Va.-headquartered organization in 2006 and launched its first online and interactive department. He helped build the organization’s online and new media strategies with measurable results – including a 30 percent annual increase in online revenue and 500 percent email list growth in a 24-month period.

Overman said recently the organization has ramped up focus on online communities, such as the 140 Smiles campaign, fundraising and spreading the organization’s cleft palate surgery mission on Twitter. ”We are really empowering people themselves to carry on our message for us and be our supporters, to be our fundraisers,” he said.

Overman explained that nonprofits should conceive a social media strategy that incorporates traditional and measurable return on investment channels, such as direct mail, and social media, such as Twitter.

He said “social media is a part of a larger marketing mix” and nonprofits shouldn’t jump on the newest online trends just for social media’s sake. Overman cautioned that while the Internet tools may be free, nonprofits still have to dedicate resources, such as staff time, toward the upkeep of these channels.

Anne Bergquist, vice president of brand management and marketing for the YMCA of Metro Chicago, received the Special Marketing Initiatives subcategory award. She joined the organization in 2002 and worked toward unifying the brand image across 19 branches with more than 120,000 members.

Bergquist centralized the brand, arming the 19 branches with a consistent graphical and copy template system that each could use in individual efforts. From 2003 to 2006, the YMCA of Metro Chicago increased membership revenue by $6 million and increased retention rates by 11 percent. The image and brand awareness culminated in 2008 with the organization’s 150th anniversary, with a black-tie gala raising more than $1.2 million.

David J. Neff, director of web, film and interactive strategy for the American Cancer Society’s High Plains division, received the Social Media subcategory award for his interactive strategies and online efforts across a six-state region.

In 2008, the organization launched a user-generated online community at www.sharinghope.tv, where those affected by cancer could share their stories. Neff is also the executive director of Lights. Camera. Help, the first nonprofit-centric film festival held July 31 to August 2.

The AMA/AMAF Nonprofit Marketer of the Year Award received almost 100 nominations, which were all evaluated based on leadership, strategy and results. A six-person committee, comprised of 2009 AMA Nonprofit Marketing Conference Committee and Advisory Council members, AMA Foundation board members, and John McIlquham, president of The NonProfit Times, selected the winners.