By Sveta Wilkson, Development & Communications Manager at Horton’s Kids
Share the experience of a lifetime for a nonprofit (publicity on a national television show) but also the challenges that come with it. For more information about Hortons Kids on Restaurant Impossible, check out the show’s site.
This winter, Horton’s Kids received the phone call that every nonprofit fundraiser dreams about — a production company was scouting organizations for Restaurant: Impossible, a reality show on the Food Network. The show, which usually focuses on improving failing restaurants, wanted to renovate a nonprofit space in a special episode featuring First Lady Michelle Obama.
Two days after the phone call, our staff members met an associate producer and led her on a tour of our Community Resource Center, then a four-room apartment in the children’s neighborhood. Three weeks later, filming and construction began, and the completed episode finally aired this month. The past few months have been a whirlwind for everyone at Horton’s Kids. And our development team learned quite few lessons along the way!
A long-term relationship made the opportunity possible : Share Our Strength, an organization that is doing incredible work to end child hunger in America, first recommended Horton’s Kids to the production company. Share Our Strength has funded Horton’s Kids since 2009, and their corporate partners have visited our programs to see the impact of healthy meals in the community.
Engaging our board members and volunteers was crucial in amplifying this incredible project: Although the show’s production and construction crews were enthusiastic about dedicating their time to renovating the space, the episode’s initial budget was only $10,000. Board members reached out to their contacts, and Horton’s Kids was able to leverage the opportunity to receive technology resources from Microsoft and construction supplies, labor, and appliances from Home Depot. These partnerships increased the project’s in-kinds from $10,000 to more than $100,000. Horton’s Kids also recruited more than 30 volunteers to help during the renovation.
Hiring Dewey Square, a communications firm, has helped create wonderful publicity surrounding the episode: the Dewey Square team has reached out to press contacts, improved our social media, and advised Horton’s Kids in our messaging. We simply couldn’t have done it without them.
Of course, with the experience behind us, there is one major step that we would have done differently. The increased publicity has not translated into donations (yet!), and Horton’s Kids is working hard to meet our fundraising targets and cover the costs associated with the expanded Community Resource Center. In retrospect, we should have started this work when the filming first began.
The renovation doubled the space of our Community Resource Center, and this has helped Horton’s Kids serve even more children and families. Compared to 2011, we now serve 44% more children with health and basic needs services, and the Community Resource Center has made this increase possible.