Author Archives: James Howe

Making an impact at Reep Green Solutions

Between August 2015 and January 2018, I made an impact at Reep Green Solutions that extended beyond my duties and responsibilities as its Communications Manager. What follows is a case study that provides an example of how I can make an impact in a senior leadership role for other nonprofits. You can find communications specific examples in the portfolio section.

new logo on Reep Green Solutions signs

I helped Reep Green Solutions to understand that the core essence of its brand was helping people to live sustainably. This insight helped us to refine our mission statement and inform the conclusion of our strategic planning process.

I recognized how it needed to shift its communications and delivery of programs and services to build awareness of its new mission and increase support for the organization.

A first step was to develop a speakers series at the Reep House for Sustainable Living that attracted people to the demonstration home, the educational opportunities it presents and a better understanding of its work. This initiative grew into three events series that featured the knowledge of our Home Energy and RAIN Coaches, the sustainable features of the home and a variety of sustainable living topics including electric vehicles, fashion and how to enjoy summer.

I proposed doing work about waste reduction as a way to be relevant to people’s day to day lives and connect with more than the homeowners who valued our energy efficiency and stormwater management expertise. One initiative was the Zero Waste Challenge that encouraged people to think about how their decisions and behaviours create waste by having people collect what could not be reduced or diverted in a mason jar for up to 30 days. This campaign helped us to reach environmentally conscious millennials.

For another initiative, I secured funding so that we could do field research into how we might use community-based social marketing to increase the use of green bins in five neighbourhoods. And we developed a waste reduction home visit service on behalf of the Region of Waterloo.

I leveraged that small contract to hire an intern through a Natural Resources Canada program to research how we could provide an organic waste collection service to people living in multi-residential settings since the vast majority do not have access to this service. While we unsuccessfully applied for an Ontario Trillium Fund grant to pilot a service, we were actively looking at how we could turn that idea into a social enterprise–one that could also improve our financial sustainability.

Another key strategic insight I contributed was to recommend that we recognize the value in being a registered charity including thinking and speaking of ourselves as a local environmental charity. Doing so helped us to change the perception that the organization was a business, helped it talk about the impact it made in the community and gave people a reason to support its work–including its social enterprises.

Doing so also opened up another revenue stream. Before our last fiscal year, we had never raised more than $3000. By being proactive and making moderate improvements in fundraising such as participating in Giving Tuesday, we raised $4200 and doubled our donors between April 2015 and March 2016. Three quarters of the way through our 2017-18 fiscal year, we have raised $6600. These modest amounts represent a major breakthrough for an organization with no track record of fundraising success.

I effectively used my strong project management and organizational skills. For example, the 2015 awards event was smoothly and professionally execute. And in September, I pulled off the first launch of our report to the community that attracted many of our desired stakeholders. I am able to efficiently prioritize my daily work and get done what is most important or time sensitive.

As an experienced and talented communications professional, I professionalized the organization’s communications. This contribution included developing its first communications strategy including how to reach our key audiences. As a result, we updated our logo to reflect our full name rather than the commonly used “REEP” which people still considered an acronym and  identified only with energy efficiency.

I effectively used digital and social media including by launching a our blog that provided a platform to share our stories and share our expertise on sustainable living. I worked with mostly volunteer writers to publish on average a post a week.

An enewsletter was a frequently used tool communicate with our clients, supporters and other stakeholders. The many events gave us a reason to reach out to them several times a month with content that people found interesting as proven by the spike in registrations after sending an enews.

The blog posts and events also contributed content that I used to double the number of people who liked our Facebook page. This social media and others proved to be a cost-effective tool for staying top of mind for people interested in our work and assisted spreading word about our role in accessing financial incentives for home energy upgrades. They helped us to reach new people.

I also successfully used my media relations knowledge to earn a good amount of coverage by local outlets.



The spheres of nonprofit communications strategy

Having a communications strategy for your nonprofit is not enough. It must have a connection with both your organization’s overall strategic plan and your mission and vision. I’ve been preaching that connection since I started Communicate & Howe! But until recently, I used a graphic that only showed how the different aspects of communications strategy related to… Continue Reading