Be thoughtful about expanding your audience
While it’s great to have attendees return year after year, it’s also important for organizations to attract new attendees — something that SickKids has done a lot of thinking about recently, McGuire notes. “Families are important. We’re a children’s hospital. We need to keep that family component but we needed to broaden our horizons and also make it interesting for millennials, make it interesting for people without children.”
Recently, SickKids has made the effort to target new patrons in that demographic. “We want to shake things up, we want to break through the noise, but we don’t want to alienate our current donor base either. It’s that kind of delicate balance to make sure that everybody’s happy,” McGuire says.
For McGuire and her team, that has meant thinking outside of the box when planning new events to reach a new audience. New events like a ball hockey tournament target a predominantly male audience, one that SickKids was struggling to reach previously.
And those moves have made an impact. “Our demographic has maybe not shifted. It think we’ve kept the core contingent quite well, which is great. But it has opened to, let’s say the 17 to 30 year olds that we weren’t getting before. And that was to answer a need,” McGuire notes.
SickKids’ Scrubs in the City event. Photo: SickKids Foundation
Be willing to shake things up
That desire to reach a new audience and the brainstorming around it generated a lot of creative buzz within SickKids just as they were thinking about a new goal. McGuire says, “We knew the need was there to build a new hospital. But we knew our message, it was working but it wasn’t breaking through to markets beyond those that we were already reaching. Truly what we needed was to shake things up.”
The team did just that: they began the Versus campaign, which represented a departure from the tone of past events. “It was a very different message. It’s not pulling at your heartstrings. It wasn’t making you cry, which a lot of our messaging before really had done.”
Instead, the team tried something new. “This was about joining a movement and inviting those who listened and saw to join us in this epic campaign. From a marketing standpoint, the Versus platform really allowed us to get down to a personal level, a sick kid versus the greatest childhood illnesses and how we battle those.”
“It allowed us that flexibility to be able to speak to people on this level that they’d not really been able to connect to before. It made it personal.”
Want to hear more from Erin? Listen to her full podcast interview with David Adler from BizBash and Alex Carter from zkipster.