By Maria Smith
Many service organizations take great pride in the personal relationships they have developed with their clients, volunteers, donors and community partners. Clients take the bus to the office, sit down with an experienced advisor, go through program information together and get their questions answered. For first-time homebuyers looking for assistance, this one-on-one experience is invaluable. Anyone who owns a home remembers how overwhelming that process of buying your first home can be!
Chester Community Improvement Project (CCIP) is a nonprofit that offers comprehensive pre- and post-purchase homeownership counseling programs. The community-based housing development organization also fosters housing rehabilitation and new construction. But COVID-19 and the pandemic crisis put an end to the personal one-on-one experience they could offer clients.
While CCIP has been operating for 41 years, the onset of COVID-19 presented a significant communication challenge to an organization that primarily connected face to face with occasional emails.
When in-person visits stopped, a resilient Annette Pyatt, executive director, and her organization turned this sudden disadvantage into a digital marketing opportunity.
She did some digital homework and learned how to strengthen CCIP’s connection with their communities – remotely.
Annette called in the experts at The Foundation for Delaware County and SCORE for help.
The ability to shift to virtual communication with first time home buyers and community service organizations and foundations presented a whole new experience for CCIP.
Fortunately, because of the connection between CCIP, The Foundation for Delaware County, and a prior relationship with SCORE, Annette was able to engage with Bill Pearce, former mentor at SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties.
Bill brought together SCORE experts in marketing and nonprofit organizations to help.
There were immediate needs to get a social media program up and running, review website messaging and website management, and quickly develop an email platform to update first-time buyers on financial literacy and housing on a state, county and local level.
Len Feehan, SCORE volunteer and digital marketing expert, advised CCIP on how to rebuild their website, improve their content marketing, and recommend email communications platform options.
With the new marketing approaches and posting capabilities, CCIP will now reach a broader target audience more effectively, including both the general public in the local area as well as the foundations that support nonprofit organizations.
Annette advised other nonprofit groups to invest in a proper marketing set up and organization governance.
At the same time, with guidance from Mike DiLeo, SCORE mentor and nonprofit expert, Annette is exploring the idea of a Trustee Group with her board of directors which will leverage getting CCIP’s message into the broader community and reach more potential donors.
“Working with SCORE and the support of The Foundation of Delaware County, we found ways to change our daily operations due to the COVID crisis,” Annette said. “Now, we are in a better place to operate remotely and provide virtual counseling and services to our clients!”
Annette described her SCORE mentoring experience as “worth its weight in gold!”
“Getting an outside-in perspective to evaluate your current operation is so helpful,” she said.
She continues her education about operating in a remote world and has been attending SCORE live webinars, especially those focusing on social media and creating a reopening and recovery strategy.
Learn more about CCIP at: https://www.cciphousing.org/
Request a SCORE mentor
Check out the SCORE Reopening Toolkit for Nonprofits
Check out the SCORE Action Plan for Nonprofits
SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer business experts, is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals.
Since 1964, they have provided education and mentorship to more than 11 million entrepreneurs nationwide.
SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties has been operating since 1985, with 120 dedicated volunteers today who provide confidential mentoring at no charge and offer business seminars, workshops and webinars to benefit the local community.
SCORE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Find out more about SCORE by clicking here.
Maria Smith is a SCORE volunteer and executive vice chairman at SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties.