Search form

What have some real organizations done that's been successful? You've seen some examples above ("A Piece of the Pie," Bridge Over Troubled Waters, CASAE the Alien), and you undoubtedly know of some personally. Here are a few more that are creative, reflect the philosophies of the organizations that developed them, and have had the desired effect in the community.

Example #1: Progressive Story

The Literacy Project, an adult literacy provider, for several years ran an annual promotion that centered around a progressive story. The organization would recruit several prominent members of the community writers, college presidents, politicians, etc. as well as several adult learners, and ask each of them to write one installment of a story. The first piece would be written, passed on to the second person who would add her piece based on the first, then these two would be passed on to the third writer, and so on. No one wrote until they saw what those before them had written, and no one knew where the story would end up. The most difficult task fell to the last writer, who had to take what was by that point a whole story and put an end to it that tied it all up and made sense of it.

During the writing of the story, members of the organization's Board and staff created PSA's for it, largely advertising an event at which the story would be read by its authors, and at which local businesses provided goods and services which were auctioned off. A local newspaper ran "teasers" for the story short quotes from parts already written and eventually ran the whole story the day after the reading. The writing and the event were fun the stories were often very funny, and almost always decidedly odd emphasized that everyone's a writer, focused on literacy in an inclusive and participatory way, and raised a good deal of money. After the first year, large numbers of people looked forward to the story and to the event, and it came to be identified with the organization, and served it as a public relations tool.

Example #2: Writers' Consortium Book

This Wood Sang Out. The same organization, after being involved in the progressive story for two years, decided to make a closer connection to writers in the area. The organization published a call for short pieces of prose and poetry, aimed at both professional writers and at Literacy Project students. The Associate Director, with the help of a volunteer who was a published poet, assembled a panel of professional writers and adult learners to choose a set number of the submitted pieces to be part of a book. The eventual volume, titled This Wood Sang Out, designed by a professional working as a volunteer, printed at cost by a local printer, and distributed by local bookstores, contained writing from both professional writers and adult literacy students. It was inclusive, participatory, and totally in keeping with the philosophy and mission of The Literacy Project, and emphasized again that everyone is a writer. And the first printing of 1,500 copies sold out.

Example #3: Corporate Spelling Bee

The Boston Adult Literacy Fund, a consortium of representatives of business, non -profit organizations, and city government, runs an annual Spelling Bee to support literacy programs. The contestants are corporations, each of which pays an entrance fee to field a team. The winning team gets a prize, the losers pay into the BALF according to the number of their mistakes, and Boston literacy programs are the beneficiaries. Everyone gets great publicity, literacy is highlighted as an issue, and the event is fun as well.

Example #4: The Walk for Hunger

Walks for various causes have become cliches, but there was a first one. The Project Bread Walk for Hunger began in 1969 with a 20-mile course around Boston and its suburbs. Walkers obtained sponsors who would pay them a certain amount (typically one or two dollars) for every mile they walked, and the money would then go to support soup kitchens and emergency food distribution in the Boston area.

At the beginning, a few hundred people marched, and raised a few thousand dollars. Now, more than 20 years later, the Walk held on the first Sunday in May, in what is usually the nicest time of year, draws tens of thousands of walkers, and raises many millions of dollars each year. The event has become a tradition, with many walkers having completed it 10, 15, or even 20 years in a row. There is enormous media coverage, and the event draws attention to the issue of hunger for weeks before and after it. In addition, everyone who raises at least a certain amount gets a T-shirt free publicity for the Walk, for Project Bread, and for the issue of hunger throughout the year.

A twist on the Walk for Hunger and there are many is a marathon (run or walk) to benefit leukemia research. Each marathoner is paired with a leukemia patient, who also runs or walks, if he's physically able to, and provides support if he's not. Marathoners also find sponsors, and many send their sponsors ongoing reports of their training, the progress of their partners, and the marathon itself. The event raises a great deal of money every year.

Example #5: The Hunger Meal

A tradition that a number of organizations devoted to the alleviation of world hunger have adopted is a meal on a day designated as World Hunger Day. Diners all of whom pay the same amount per person are divided, at random upon their arrival, into three groups. One group receives a gourmet meal prepared by well-known local chefs. The second, much larger, group receives an ordinary, but nutritionally-balanced meal. And the third, largest, group receives a small bowl of rice, the equivalent of a whole day's food for more than half the world's population. The event points up the inequality of food distribution and the prevalence of hunger around the world, as well as the difficulty of sitting at the table with your bowl of rice while your neighbor feasts from a plate piled high with delicacies. The facts that all diners pay the same amount, and that their level of nutrition is chosen at random emphasize that all citizens of the world contribute to its prosperity through their labor, but that whether or not they will get enough to eat is often an accident of birth. As with the Walk for Hunger, there is always plenty of media coverage for this event, and stories for several weeks before and after keep the public focus on world hunger.

Example #6: Homeless Newspaper

Begun in New York, this idea has spread to several other cities as well. With some help from a community based organization, a group of homeless people who slept in Grand Central Station started writing and distributing their own newspaper. The paper was meant to change the perception of the homeless, give its distributors some income, and provide information to the public about the actual concerns of those who wrote its articles. It has been successful on all counts, and homeless people selling the paper on the street for a dollar have become a familiar sight in many cities around the country.

Example #7: Cop Cards

Originated in Portland, Maine, and used in Boston, among other places, these consist of a full deck of cards, each with a color photo of a police officer on the front. On the back (except for the K-9 officers, i.e. police dogs, which are generally favorites) is a message from the officer, geared to youth ("Stay in school; it will pay off in later life."). To get a card, a kid has to show up at the police station on a given day each week, when there's a brief activity or talk on some aspect of police work. When he's collected the whole set, the kid can turn the cards in for a serious prize a bike, for instance donated by local merchants. In the meantime, the kid has gotten to know the local police, ideally developed a rapport with some officers, and perhaps changed both his and the cops' perceptions about the relationships between youth and the police in the community.

Example #8: Fotonovella Shopping Bags

A health center in Worcester, Massachusetts has designed plastic shopping bags that are used at markets in neighborhoods with large Hispanic populations. The bilingual bags have fotonovella (comic strip) health messages in Spanish and English. They focus on such concerns of the community as responsible fatherhood ("Hey, Raul, let 's go shoot some hoop." "Later, man, I've got to take care of my kid."), and reach a large audience.

Example #9: Neighborhood Hunt

A Tool Box editor helped to organize a scavenger hunt in his neighborhood, where the objects to be found were information on historical markers, inscriptions on interesting buildings, and hunters were guided by a neighborhood map. The successful hunters ended up with a list of words, each letter numbered, that then could be used to decode a puzzle answer. The first correct answer to the puzzle won $100.

Posters went up around the neighborhood, then 900 flyers were distributed door -to-door. Over 100 people turned out, learned about the neighborhood, met one another, had a good time, and raised a few hundred dollars for a community newsletter. More important, the event helped to create a sense of community in an urban neighborhood.

Example #10: Cowley County’s Data Walk: Mobilizing Community Members to Improve Health

Ed O'Malley speaks at County Data Walk.

Improving health and well-being is a top priority for communities across Kansas. One innovative example of how Kansas counties can mobilize community members to improve health comes from Cowley County.

On November 29, 2022, Legacy, A Regional Community Foundation in Cowley County, in collaboration with RISE Cowley and USD 470 Early Literacy Initiative, hosted an innovative and groundbreaking Data Walk event to engage community partners, including frontline service providers, nonprofit directors, city/county/state officials, school district officials, private philanthropies and passionate community leaders, in a meaningful conversation about improving the health of children in their community.

Read more about Cowley County’s Data Walk, or learn more about organizing Data Walks by visiting: Data Walks: An Innovative Way to Share Data with Communities, a resource from the Urban Institute.