Teresa Coles

With a heart for social good and a brain for marketing strategy, Teresa combines the two to provide counsel to nonprofits around the country. She has been a lead strategist at RP since 1992. - See more at:
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posted by Teresa Coles Jun 17,2014 @ 08:13AM

CreateAthon Case Study: District 5 Foundation

When we concocted the idea of CreateAthon all those years ago, we were careful to identify the kinds of organizations we believed would be best suited for our 24-hour pro bono model. That list was pretty simple: a candidate had to be a private, 501© 3 organization, as opposed to a governmental agency, church or school. So when we got an application from the District Five Foundation last year, we weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Wasn’t it a school district program? Wouldn’t that break the rules? Upon closer inspection, we learned the Foundation was indeed a private, nonprofit organization in good standing, comprised of parents who were dedicated to raising money for all manner of important educational initiatives that otherwise would not be publicly funded.

Color us intrigued.

We learned that in just a few short years, the group had raised upwards of $60,000 annually to deliver some really impressive programming, resources and experiences to District 5 faculty and students. Their goal was to up their game, reaching the $100,000 fundraising mark annually.

The communications issue was two-fold:

1. Nobody understands why a Foundation is necessary in the public school system (aka “I pay taxes, enough already”).

2. Nobody understands why a gap in public school funding is everyone’s issue, and what’s at stake if we don’t fill that gap (more well educated students yield a better workforce, better leaders, and a stronger community).

We understood the intellectual value of what these folks were trying to do, but we knew the message could be a real yawner. What absolutely set us on fire, however, was the passion of the parents who were in involved in this gig. So we got our 24-hour game on.

Here’s a quick look at how we addressed their objectives.

Nomenclature and identity: After the necessary research, we determined the organization needed to be called what it was. No time or budget for cutesy conceptual names. The ever-magnificent Maria Fabrizio developed an identity that put FIVE front and center.

Brand strategy: We developed a comprehensive message platform based on the thesis that District Five Foundation is the only organization that can move beyond the confines of public education budgets and deliver the kinds of advanced learning experiences students and teachers deserve. It’s all about getting past barriers and making things happen.

Website: Our fellow Weconians, truematter, rose to the challenge yet again and led the way toward a web site that distinguishes the Foundation’s work and makes it imminently clear how people can get involved.

Development strategy: We helped the Foundation diversify its development plan by developing engagement opportunities for four different giving audiences. We also outlined tiered giving levels, with engagement opportunities for specific audiences and initiatives.

Social media: Keely Saye and team worked their digital marketing magic, delivering a buyer persona study, content strategy, keyword research and editorial calendar to fuel social media growth and web site traffic/engagement.

A year later, we’re told the CreateAthon work has significantly helped the organization raise its profile within the community and attract new levels of support. Specifically, the Foundation is on track to exceed its fundraising performance from last year, which will allow it to bring more, different, and better educational opportunities to students and faculty.

We think that deserves a high Five.

posted by Teresa Coles Feb 03,2014 @ 04:30AM

In Pursuit of Purpose

We had to see it coming: Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot Foundation and the guru of the pro bono movement, has moved beyond inspiring us to share our professional skills as a means to social good to building an entire economic sector around doing work that matters.

Aaron’s new gig is CEO of Imperative, a cadre of social entrepreneurs, product developers, economists and all-around brilliant creative minds. They’re on a mission to create a fully functioning Purpose Economy by 2020. The bottom line? Helping people and organizations uncover, activate, and monetize work that leaves a mark on this world — and making a good living doing it.

I got a preview of this big fat idea last winter, when I attended the first-ever Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted in NYC by Taproot. Our last exercise was to figure out – in 15 minutes, no less — how to transform the pro bono marketplace into a $20 billion economy by 2020. We burned up some post-it notes on that, let me tell you.

Those close to Aaron knew he was already at work on the Purpose Economy, writing a book while making the transition to Imperative. Ever watchful for news of the book release, I noted the announcement by Imperative just this past week of the Purpose 100, a compilation of people throughout the world who are deemed to be “transforming our innate need for meaning into the organizing principle for innovation and growth in the American economy.”

In a culture obsessed with the “awards season,” it’s refreshing to see people recognized for their bravery, creativity and tenacity in pursuing something larger than themselves.

I encourage you to spend a few moments with this list and consider the ways in which these remarkable human beings have channeled the talents, experiences and relationships they’ve cultivated in their lives into a force for good.

Then get out a sheet of paper and start looking for your purpose. It’s there, just under the surface, waiting for you.

posted by Teresa Coles Sep 17,2013 @ 11:04AM

We Must Have Done Something Good

I exclaimed to Cathy on that bright and shiny Monday morning, channeling the joy of that perfect Julie Andrews moment as we welcomed the newest member of the Riggs family. The object of our affection? One practically-perfect-in-every-way Courtney Melendez.

We became Courtney fans several years ago when we worked with her during her service as marketing director for The Cooperative Ministry. From the very first encounters, we recognized the gifts this exceptional young woman brought to bear while dissecting strategy, discerning brand truths, and managing marketing programs. Then there was her spirit: one of grace, passion and enthusiasm for all things good in the world.

So we couldn’t have been more pleased when Courtney accepted our invitation to join the firm as an account manager. She’ll work closely with clients to frame the context of their marketing objectives, then serve alongside the entire RP team to deliver marketing programs that move business needles and create social impact.

We think it’s a great time to be a Riggs Partners client. One meeting with Courtney, and you’ll see just what we mean.

posted by Teresa Coles Aug 06,2013 @ 11:44AM

CreateAthon Global: Flights Departing Daily.

What began as that we’ll-never-be-able-to-pull-this-off idea on Lady Street has routed itself to some pretty interesting destinations this year. It began with the addition of several new CreateAthon partner agencies:

Oceanic Communications, Suva, Fiji
My sunscreen is packed. Don't even think about getting in front of me on this one.

Orchid Communications, Jersey, Channel Islands
An archipelago of British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. Royalty and flags are involved, which may motivate Kevin to travel.

Fleishman Hillard, Toronto, Canada
This powerhouse PR firm will launch its first CreateAthon in Toronto, which we understand to be an epicenter of social consciousness. Perhaps the next RP office location?

If this isn’t enough to get your pro bono mojo on, take a gander at the two newest marathon programs in Europe, which are cousins to CreateAthon.

KreativMarathon, Hamburg
A pro bono marathon program formed earlier this year as a collaborative effort among two pro bono intermediary programs, Talent Spender and ReFrame, and advertising agencies in the Hamburg market. We had the honor of being approached by these organizations to offer support and encouragement for the first-ever pro bono marketing marathon in Germany. We were delighted to be listed alongside our friends at Pro Bono Labs (see below) and the BMW Foundation as leaders in the pro bono movement and active supporters of KreativMarathon.

So exciting, and even more so if we knew German. Feel free to let us know what it says.

Pro Bono Lab, Paris
We met these wonderful folks about two years ago, when they were in the midst of founding an organization to help companies in France learn how to create and manage skills-based, pro bono programs. They adopted the marathon marketing model as part of their portfolio (and are always kind enough to note it’s based on CreateAthon) and now offer a student model (thanks to CreateAthon on Campus).

See? Marathon? That’s us!

As exciting as it is for us to see CreateAthon attracting global partners and inspiring other marathon programs, what’s more important is the greater context of this news: That pro bono is moving, growing and reaching areas of the world in which the practice of “giving away your skills” has been a foreign concept, to say the very least. If CreateAthon can be part of overturning that paradigm and fostering new attitudes around the notion of what it means to serve, we’ll consider that a good day (and night).

posted by Teresa Coles Jul 02,2013 @ 09:58AM

Service Unites: A New Perspective

Points of Light Conference

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Points of Light Foundation’s Conference on Volunteering and Service in Washington, DC. I knew it was a big conference with a big agenda and big-time speakers. (It took me DAYS to figure out what I would attend and when).

What I didn’t expect was the huge impact it would have on me, and on my perspective of what it means to serve.

I came to DC with the mindset of making connections on behalf on CreateAthon, spreading the message of our pro bono marketing program to anyone who was kind enough to listen. I knew I would meet people from nonprofit organizations and CSR minded companies who were great supporters of employees’ community service efforts.

The conference’s theme of Service Unites was clearly demonstrated as an agent for bringing people from various political, racial, religious, age and geographic boundaries together. But when I walked into the opening session and found myself in a sea of 5,000 people dedicated to service in one form or another, I was quickly overtaken by the real essence of this gathering.


For three days, I walked in and out of inspiring conversations, thoughtful roundtable discussions and brainstorming exercises. Whether those conversations centered on the work of nonprofits, corporate social responsibility efforts, or national service programs, everything came to rest on the possibilities that exist when we look past our personal perspectives and through the broader lens of humanity.

It was a powerful reminder to me that CreateAthon is really about expressing our humanity. By sharing the talents we’ve been given as creative professionals, we can grow as human beings while making an impact on the lives of people in our local communities. Given the momentum behind CreateAthon, we now know our work can have an impact around the globe (more to come on that).

Chris Jarvis of Realized Worth put it best during what can only be described as a three-minute homily at the end of a luncheon. “All of the work we’ve been talking about,” he said, “all boils down to creating better people.”

My thanks to Points of Light for an amazing experience and for their leadership in making better people of us all.

I encourage you check out the conference highlights and to learn more about these and many other incredible service initiatives that are happening across America. There’s a place for your gifts, here.




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