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When a creative marketing firm offers its skills to area nonprofits on a pro bono basis, everyone wins.
That is the idea behind CreateAthon, a national effort where businesses give their time and expertise to groups over a 24-hour period. Williamsburg area-based Proximo Marketing Strategies took on the project for the second year this past week.
Will Melton, co-founder of Proximo Marketing, praised CreateAthon for providing him the chance to do what he loves for a worthy purpose with enduring results.
“I think the thing about it that I love the most is the opportunity to be creative, and to really commit to and pack so much into a short period of time,” he said. “It’s rewarding to be able to say and to know that you made this commitment, and to know that is actually going to have an impact.”
In addition to building relationships with nonprofits, CreateAthon puts Proximo Marketing in the public eye.
“It’s definitely an opportunity for us to let the community know what we do. Like every organization we rely on publicity to become a successful organization,” Melton said.
After an application process, Proximo Marketing selected six groups to receive assistance this year: First Night Williamsburg, Bacon Street, Proclaiming Grace Outreach, the Woman’s Club of Williamsburg, NATASHA House and Feed a Friend.
All are registered nonprofits except for Feed A Friend, started by a junior at Norfolk Academy to fight local hunger. Part of Proximo Marketing’s work for the project will be to complete an application for nonprofit status.
“The biggest thing, I think, is for us to select organizations that don’t have the resources that some organizations do,” Melton said.
Melton estimated last year’s services were worth almost $8,000, and with eight people working diligently since Thursday — and planning to continue with the projects through their completion — he expects this year’s work to top that.
Members of the firm huddle with each organization to assess their needs and the best way to put resources toward their benefit. By designating a chunk of time and working as a team, Melton said they are able to make a bigger difference than traditional volunteer efforts.
For the women’s transitional home NATASHA House, the need was a website for the organization’s new business venture Seed to Table. The Community Supported Agriculture program allows NATASHA House clients to learn business skills while providing area consumers a share in local produce on a regular basis.
The goal is for NATASHA House to earn enough through Seed to Table to sustain itself and not rely on grants and outside donations, as it receives no state or federal funds.
Proximo Marketing knew about a Google grant opportunity, and applied on the NATASHA House’s behalf. The organization will likely receive $10,000 in advertising monthly through Google search ads, connecting the cause with users who search for crop sharing programs in the area.
Although NATASHA House has a team of students from Christopher Newport University who are helping to expand the Seed to Table program, Executive Director Karen Brown said the organization does not have the time or resources to accomplish what Proximo Marketing can in a short stretch.
“It would take us much longer,” Brown said.
For the Woman’s Club of Williamsburg, CreateAthon bridges the gap between what their vision is and how they can accomplish it.
Member Lori Grygalonis pushed to form a marketing committee to raise awareness and combat dwindling membership. Although the club is 65 years old, she said there remain residents who are not familiar with the group and its philanthropic efforts through scholarships and support of area causes.
But Grygalonis hit resistance when trying to reach younger crowd than the club’s current membership through social media and the web.
“We have a Facebook presence, but it’s not going too far because a lot of the members are not on Facebook or they don’t know how to do it,” she said.
The club needs the professional know-how to get started a new track, Grygalonis said, and with Proximo Marketing’s guidance can continue its implementation into the future.
At Bacon Street, a center for youth with substance abuse or mental health issues, CreateAthon offered the chance to inform the community about its mission in a fresh way.
“Being around for 40 years, some of the stuff’s a little dated,” said Alyson Wright, director of development, about Bacon Street’s brochures and posters.
While Wright handles outreach and marketing, the center does not have a full-time position devoted to those creative projects. Bacon Street turned to Proximo Marketing for help along those lines, along with a strategy for reaching citizens through social media.
At a time when nonprofits struggle for funding, Wright said individuals or companies willing to pledge their skills provide a much-needed lifeline.
“A lot of times it is the answer to having something or nothing at all,” Wright said.
CreateAthon may be billed as a short blitz of innovative effort, but Melton said it is likely the project will stretch into next month, or as long as it takes to get all of the promised projects completed.
One, a video for Proclaiming Grace Outreach — a Barhamsville-based organization that serves the area with a thrift store, food pantry, home repairs and scholarships — took a day just to complete the script.
The effects of such work will extend long after the tasks are completed. Proclaiming Grace Outreach’s video will share its mission in engaging way with the community, marketing plans will guide how the Woman’s Club of Williamsburg seeks out new members and the NATASHA House will take strides down the road to self-sufficiency with every new visitor to its Seed to Table website.
For more information about Proximo Marketing, visit its website.