Marketing + Communications

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This section will include information on how to get the word out about your garden project and how to properly communicate with your supporters and volunteers. It is important to maintain a steady stream of marketing and communications to keep people interested in your organization, while being wary of over-communicating and generating annoyance. A general tip is to always keep in mind who you intend to market toward or who you are communicating with so that you can alter your message toward this specific group. Besides soil, seeds, and special expenditures, marketing and communications have constituted the bulk of our annual budget since the building of the garden. In this section, we will explain an array of opportunities for marketing and various forms of communication.

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1.

Events

  • Tabling. We tabled at several town events in the months leading up to the construction of our garden to promote our mission, fundraise, and gather volunteers for the construction. We continue to table at events as we are always searching for new contacts, supporters, and volunteers. For tabling events, we usually have basic information about the PCG on flyers or signs. We also have a few promotional items with our logo that we give out (see Section II (Promotional Items)). In addition, we have two or three clipboards with supporter and volunteer signup sheets [7.1] so that interested community members can put down their name, email, and general interest in the organization. For these tabling events, we usually have a few volunteers give a synopsis of our organization to passing community members before offering free promotional items and then asking if they want to sign up for our email list. Here is an event cheat sheet [7.2] we gave volunteers at an event with fast facts about our garden project that they could tell people walking by if the volunteer forgot them. Here is an event handout [7.3] and a similar event handout slip [7.4] (used for different events) that we had volunteers give out to people walking by. Here is a social media flyer [7.5] we would keep at the table so people could follow the PCG on their preferred social media. Here are a few events at which the PCG tables:

    • Local farmers market

    • Town day

    • Large events with an environmental, community service, gardening, or food justice focus (ex. Food Forum 2017 [7.6] held by Bedford 2020)

  • Creating an Event. The creation of an event for fundraising purposes has already been explained in this How-To Guide (see Chapter 2: Fundraiser). Besides fundraising, events are a great opportunity to promote your garden organization. If you can develop an event that will bring you a captive audience of potential supporters and volunteers, you can pitch your organization. Depending on the setup of this event, you can present information about your garden and your mission, asking people to put down their email or follow your social media. We have found that creating events that bring people to the garden itself are the most successful in generating support and volunteers. Supporters with special skills in various areas helped us to design and coordinate these events. Here are a few events that we have created with the main intention of marketing the garden to the community, promoting general interest, and obtaining volunteers (some of these were mentioned in Chapter 5: Volunteers):

    • Garden-Related Movie Showing (Here is our garden-related movie showing flyer [7.7]: admittance fee was fresh produce – the film was gardening-related)

    • Poetry at the Garden

    • Yoga at the Garden

    • Healthy Cooking Demo at the Garden

2.

Promotions

We utilize a wide variety of promotional items to raise awareness for the Pleasantville Community Garden. Promotional items that we sell have already been explained (see Chapter 2: Fundraising). In this section, we will delve into other free promotional items that we give out when tabling or at events. It is vital that you consider the target group for these promotional items and if and how often the target group would use the promotional item, as they can be expensive depending on the item (consider cost vs. benefit). We also suggest that you consider the visibility of these promotional items, how often they will be seen by others (ex. car magnets). We always put our organization name, Pleasantville Community Garden, on promotional items and often try to put our logo, website, and/or slogan (“Growing, Gathering, Giving”). Be cognizant of costs when selecting promotional items, as the costs can add up. There are many sites that sell promotional items, but the ones that we have used most often are 4imprint [7.8] and Vistaprint [7.9]. Here is an example marketing and communications budget [7.10] from a year when the PCG took special effort to push our message. Note that marketing and communications can be carried out much less expensively than this example, but we had the available funds, so we put them to use. Here are some of the promotional items that we have used and had success with:

  • Pens: inexpensive, good for both kids and adults

  • Business Cards (including a set of “Social Media Cards”): inexpensive, mainly for adults, great to connect with interested volunteers/contacts

  • Wristbands: inexpensive, mainly for kids but adults as well, high demand

  • Vegetable Tattoos: inexpensive, great for kids at events, may not be able to have your logo or contact info (here are the veggie tattoos [7.11] we buy)

  • Refrigerator Magnets: moderately priced, mainly for adults

  • Drawstring Bags: moderately priced, mainly for kids, high use, great marketing

  • Reusable Grocery Bags: fairly expensive, mainly for teens and adults, high use, great marketing Car Magnets: fairly expensive, mainly for volunteers

  • Hats: fairly expensive, mainly for volunteers T-Shirts: fairly expensive, mainly for volunteers

3.

Email

Email is the main form of communication that the Pleasantville Community Garden uses to stay in contact with our volunteers. At every tabling event, we collect emails of potential supporters and volunteers and add them to our email list. For a few examples of our email communications with Constant Contact, see our volunteer request for event email [7.12], successful event email [7.13], volunteer opportunities email [7.14], and 2019 PCG overview email [7.15]. Here are a few tips for communicating using email:

  • Manage Frequency. Using email, we attempt to provide our supporters and volunteers with fairly regular updates about the garden. Again, the key to effective communication is determining the correct spacing of communications. We generally send two to four emails per month, depending on the time of year and our events. Here is an email communication calendar [7.16] we made to organize our bimonthly emails.

  • Supporters vs. Volunteers. A large portion of the people you are emailing will likely be supporters of your mission and organization. Many of these supporters may not donate their money or time but still want to receive your email updates. Emailing supporters benefits your organization as you are spreading the word of your organization and possibly networking (see Chapter 5: Volunteers, Section I (Types of Volunteers), Networks). A goal of your communications should be to convert these passive supporters into active volunteers.

  • Spice it Up. It is important to vary your communications to keep people interested. Try having someone new create communications. Use exciting subject lines and be concise. The use of photos and short videos is suggested. We also suggest only sending communications for important events, which will only make it easier to make the emails exciting. Here is a garlic growing pamphlet [7.17] we attached to an email to change things up and provide more useful, unique information. Here is an infographic we used on an email communication (ADD LINK).

  • Constant Contact. If you have the available funds, we suggest buying a subscription to Constant Contact [7.18], which will allow better organization and design of your emails. Use of this service will cost $20 per month. For a free email organizer platform, consider using Mailchimp [7.19].

  • SignUpGenius. We suggest using this website to organize sign-ups for volunteer events. You can make an event using this website and integrate a link into an email so that your supporters and volunteers can see all available time slots and sign-up for the one(s) that work best for them. A free subscription to SignUpGenius [7.20] may be sufficient, but you can also pay a monthly fee for better services.

4.

Social Media

Though email is our main form of communication, we still utilize several types of social media to spread the word about our organization. This form of communication is less formal and has the primary purpose of generating interest and keeping supporters and volunteers informed about what is happening with our garden. We share a lot of photos and numbers from our events on these platforms. Occasionally, we will ask for volunteers to go to a specific event or contribute to a fundraising campaign for a project via social media. We also use social media to keep supporters updated on the poundage we have donated. Here are the social media platforms that the Pleasantville Community Garden uses:

  • Facebook. This social media is great for targeting adult supporters. Photos are suggested but not necessary. Check out the PCG Facebook page [7.21].

  • Instagram. This social media is great for targeting younger supporters. This platform should be used mainly for posting photos and videos from garden events. Check out the PCG Instagram page [7.22]

  • Twitter. This social media can target both young and adult supporters. We have used this platform less so have limited experience in this field. This social media is great for short updates or messages to supporters. Check out the PCG Twitter page [7.23].

5.

Website

A website should be an integral part of your marketing and communications plan. This website will function as a place for interested people to learn more about your project. We always share our website [7.24] with potential supporters and volunteers. There are several website-building companies you could use (we have used Weebly [7.25] and Wix [7.26] and found that Wix works better for our needs). Building the website is usually free, but there are monthly costs for making your own website domain. These website-building companies have sites that make it fairly easy for anyone to build their own site. Here are a few things that we made sure to include in our website layout (reference our website using the above link to see an example):

  • Home. On this page, we have a slideshow of photos from our garden. In addition, this page has an update section about notable, new occurrences in the garden and our current poundage donated.

  • About. The About page includes our mission statement and some information about our development story and our organization setup. We also have a short informational video about the Pleasantville Community Garden and a slideshow of the construction of our garden at the church on this page.

  • Volunteer. This page has a description of the various volunteer opportunities through our organization and photos of these opportunities. Additionally, there is a link to the SignUpGenius of each volunteer opportunity below the description so people can easily and immediately sign up for a time to volunteer if they are interested.

  • Programs. This is another explanatory page, similar to the About page. On this page, we include descriptions of where we grow and from where we collect the fresh produce. We also include information about the organizations to which we donate the fresh produce on this page. For each organization we partner with, there is a link to their website.

  • Contact. On the Contact page, we have the contact information (email and phone number) for our organization leaders along with the handles for our social media. We also included a contact form on this page that interested potential volunteers can fill out if they have a specific inquiry or comment.

6.

Other Media

Below are a few ways that we expanded our communications beyond our email lists and social media followers. Be creative and find more ways to get the word out!

  • News Outlets. We often reached out to local news outlets (print, online, and television) when we reached a big milestone (ex. poundage donated goal) or had an important event upcoming (ex. building the garden). Making relationships with news outlets or individual reporters is important to ensure that your content is continually published. This is a great way to promote your project to a new, broad audience. Here is a press release [7.27] we made and sent out to local news outlets about our success in building the garden and first year growing.

  • Podcasts. We found that podcasts were another great media to pursue to get the word out about our project. There are a lot of people who have started their own podcasts and are constantly looking for people to interview who fit their general theme. We had two people reach out to us and ask us to be on their podcast: The Pleasantville Commuter [7.28] and the Organic Gardener Podcast [7.29]. On these podcasts, we were able to explain our history and mission, answer some more specific questions, and then push people to check out our website or reach out to volunteer and donate. This was another great way to communicate with a whole new group of people, increasing our reach and forming new contacts.