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Case Study: How OfficeMax Helped an Education-Focused Charity Increase Funding and Classroom Adoptions

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Company: OfficeMax
Contact: Bob Thacker, SVP of Advertising and Marketing at OfficeMa
Location: Naperville, IL
Industry: Retail, Office Supplies
Annual revenue: $9,082,000,000
Number of employees: 40000

Quick Read

When a group of OfficeMax associates started discussing how the office supply company might give back to the community, Bob Thacker, SVP of Advertising and Marketing for OfficeMax, remembered a personal experience: his wife's retirement from teaching—and the sight of her old, broken classroom desk chair propped up on one side with a dictionary, as it had been for three years, because the school had not been able to afford a new one.

After some research, the company found that due to budget shortfalls many schools lack the resources necessary to properly supply their classrooms. Consequently, teachers spend out of their own pockets—each on average $1,200 annually, according to a National Education Association survey—to supplement what the schools cannot afford.

OfficeMax teamed with nonprofit Adopt-A-Classroom to create an annual event called "A Day Made Better" to recognize and reward standout teachers for their dedication and sacrifice. On the day of the event, employees from the company's field stores and corporate offices surprised selected teachers with over $1,000 in supplies for each, including a printer, a digital camera—and a brand new, fully functional desk chair


A successful inaugural event in 2007 convinced OfficeMax to try for "bigger, deeper, and richer" in 2008 by taking it outside the company, marketing the event and creating national awareness. As a result, Adopt-A-Classroom reports that classroom adoptions increased over 800% this year.

Challenge

"A Day Made Better" is an annual event created by OfficeMax in partnership with Adopt-A-Classroom, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that matches donors with classrooms in an attempt to supplement—and eventually end—the personal expense that teachers incur to ensure basic supplies for their classrooms.

Event goals include the following:

  • Recognizing and rewarding teachers who go above-and-beyond the call of duty to provide children with the best possible education
  • Generating widespread awareness of teacher out-of-pocket spending that takes place because of budget shortfalls
  • Motivating community action and encouraging people to partner with teachers in their community through Adopt-A-Classroom

The maiden event took place on October 2, 2007, when 1,000 teachers across the nation were surprised by OfficeMax associates who honored each teacher with a large gift box filled with $1,000 worth of classroom materials.

"It was extremely gratifying for everyone involved," said Bob Thacker, SVP of Advertising and Marketing for OfficeMax. "At the end of the day, there wasn't one person who said 'let's not do that again.'"

That success set the stage for OfficeMax to achieve even more in the second year. While much of the focus in planning the 2007 event had been about initiation and achieving internal buy-in, planning for the October 1, 2008 event concerned how OfficeMax might take it outside the company, generate broader awareness about the issue, and turn this into a true national cause.

Campaign

The 2008 event honored 1,300 teachers—300 more than the first year—with gifts and supplies totaling over $1.3 million. More than 3,500 OfficeMax associates from around the nation participated.

This time, however, associates were accompanied by Hollywood celebrities, including Cindy Crawford, Dustin Hoffman, Ashton Kutcher, Penny Marshall, Julianne Moore, Jimmy Fallon, Jeremy Piven, Dennis Quaid, Jessica Simpson, Dakota Fanning, Molly Sims, Jeff Probst, and more.

OfficeMax also aggressively engaged in PR outreach this year to spread word of the event.

In addition, in the weeks leading up to the event, the company launched two online resources: ADayMadeBetter.com and a Facebook "Cause."

ADayMadeBetter.com

An interactive Web site was developed to inform consumers, employees and the media. Content included...

  • General event and cause-related information
  • Videos featuring Adopt-A-Classroom and OfficeMax executives who provided additional insight on both the cause and event
  • Videos and photos of honored teachers
  • An event fact sheet
  • A list of the products included in each gift
  • Links to the Adopt-A-Classroom Web site
  • Information on some of the other ways that OfficeMax supports teachers

The site also allowed users to upload their own event-related photos and videos, and encouraged all visitors to get involved in the cause.

"The intent of the Web site was to create something that would be jam-packed with information and stories that would move people, and to give the sense that this is a national need," said Thacker.

A Facebook "Cause"

The "cause" was set up on Facebook to generate broader awareness and to provide those with similar beliefs a place to connect and share stories.

 The cause page enabled members, who were recruited through personal invitations, to donate, make pledges to raise funds, invite/recruit their friends, and contribute to the message boards.

Results

Some 120 major news networks, 60 print publication (including The Washington Post, Miami Herald, San Jose Mercury News, and New York Post) and 145 online publications picked up the story, delivering approximately 11.3 million audience impressions.

During the first month after launch, the ADayMadeBetter.com site received 16,000 visits—79% of which were unique visits—and 34,000 pageviews. The Facebook cause page garnered more than 200 members in the first month.

Thanks in large part to these efforts, classroom adoptions are up 832% in 2008, and funds raised by Adopt-A-Classroom to benefit teachers have increased 161% from 2007 levels.

Lessons Learned

  • Find a cause that your organization can embrace, and involve as many employees or members as possible.
  • Spread the word with effective PR outreach and informational resources, such as the ADayMadeBetter.com site and Facebook cause page.
  • Find celebrities who also support your cause to help generate national attention.

Related Links

"A Day Made Better" site http://www.adaymadebetter.com/

"A Day Made Better" Facebook cause page http://apps.new.facebook.com/causes/116541?m=a988d

OfficeMax site http://www.officemax.com/

Adopt-A-Classroom site http://www.adoptaclassroom.com/

 


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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via kims@marketingprofs.com.

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