Nonprofit Marketing (MKT 332) was a newly added class to Saint Leo university's Spring 2019 course list. Prof. John Lax, an assistant professor of marketing, wanted to create a new and different class with the intent for his students to gain practical experience working with real clients and to have good resume content that students can recall in job interviews.

Thus, with feedback at the end of the semester from the pilot class, "we can then better formulize the course and eventually develop it for our Education Centers and online," says Lax, "in order to get it standardized so other faculty members can teach it in the future."

This semester, local nonprofits such as The Thomas Promise Foundation, Sunrise of Pasco Thrift Shop, Restored Hope, Make a Difference and Wildlands Conservation were asked to participate as clients for the semester-long marketing project.

My Group's Chosen Nonprofit for the Saint Leo Marketing Class

As a current student of the Saint Leo marketing class, at the beginning of the semester, my group decided to work with the Thomas Promise Foundation- more specifically, working on a marketing plan for their annual Rattlesnake Festival.

The Thomas Promise Foundation was founded in order to provide valuable resources to Pasco County students. On a weekly basis, the foundation, along with its volunteers, all pack over 1,100 backpacks with non-perishable and nutritious food items for students in order to help get them through the weekend.

As a fundraising tool, the foundation manages the Rattlesnake festival - packed with a weekend full of fun activities, live entertainment, food and educational opportunities. All proceeds go toward the continued operation of the foundation. In 2017, the proceeds alone were able to provide 43,000 meals to underprivileged children.

As a part of our assignment for the Saint Leo marketing class, my group was tasked with analyzing the marketing needs for our chosen nonprofit and to provide an effective marketing plan. My group believed the foundation's drawback is the lack of marketing expertise, more specifically, a social media presence.

Thus, our proposed plans included our main objective - to attract more people to the Rattlesnake Festival. Some of our plans included creating other social media accounts to increase visibility to a wider target audience (e.g., Instagram and Twitter), creating promotional materials to be added to those social media platforms, creating a social media posting schedule, increasing the number of followers on each platform, creating promotional print materials, and coming up with creative ideas to attract a younger crowd.

Testimonials from Students and Nonprofit Directors

Another student talks about what she and her group were doing in the course.

"My group and I are working with a nonprofit called Wildlands Conservation that specializes in conservation planning, land management, land protection, research, banking, education and outreach for Florida's wildlands," says Elizabeth Ottati, a graduating Saint Leo marketing senior with a minor in economics. "Our professor for the class, Dr. Lax, is on the board of directors for this nonprofit, so it's a special project for all of us."

Ottati explains what her group has done in terms of developing a plan of action.

"We are focusing on event marketing and press relations for the grand opening, strategy to utilize the early attendees as future marketing material, and an intern plan so that one day, hopefully, a Saint Leo marketing intern will be brought on by the organization to execute our plans. So far, we've completed a lot of the research and strategizing, outlined our target markets, created a press plan and a media kit for our press event, and we will be working on the intern plan and tactical elements very soon," says Ottati.

The Thomas Promise Foundation has been quite happy with the work they have received from the students.

"We at the Thomas Promise Foundation feel very fortunate to have been selected to collaborate with the Saint Leo Marketing Class," says Gary Hatrick, the media/marketing manager for the Thomas Promise Foundation. "We entered into the project hoping to find a way to increase attendance to the local Rattlesnake Festival. The team of students assigned to work with us has been energetic, motivated, creative, communicative and pleasant with which to spend time. They have come to our packing pantry and helped pack bags to get a feel for what we do and accompanied us to the fairgrounds where we put on the festival to discuss ideas about increasing attendance."

Expectations Moving Forward

Lax is pretty pleased with the way the course is going. At the end of the semester, he hopes students will learn something new about nonprofits that they didn't know before, as well as refining and building their marketing skills and storytelling abilities.

"The partnership between Wildlands Conservation and Saint Leo University is full of mutual benefits. They receive knowledge, guidance and a physical plan of action for their marketing needs and we get real-world marketing experience, a new facet to our portfolios and (if all goes well) an A for the class," says Ottati.

It is in hopes that the students can make a contribution to the community by making an impression and building a long lasting relationship in order to develop ongoing internship initiatives for the future.

"It would delight us to have an ongoing relationship with Saint Leo University. It would be wonderful if we could find ways to be mutually beneficial to one another in class collaborations such as the one we are currently involved in, or if were in such areas as providing volunteer opportunities and providing copy for the university newsletters," says Hatrick.

Author bio: Rebecca Hugh is a recent graduate of Saint Leo University who majored in marketing. She has visited over 10 countries in her lifetime, including Brazil, Suriname, and Curacao. She also has an extra pair of ribs and was nicknamed "spare ribs." In the future, she'd like to pursue a career in content writing and hopes to own and produce her own online publication.