Adept Marketing Pilots Pro Bono Service Model

Jackie Mantey
Justin Spring, co-founder of Adept (right), meets with Furniture Bank president Steve Votaw.

Beds. Box springs. Couches. Tables. Chairs.

“They gave us a house—except for the walls,” explains a father in a video, describing his family’s gratitude for items received from the Furniture Bank.

The four-minute film, created by Adept Marketing, was just one component of a yearlong pro bono project for Furniture Bank of Central Ohio, an effort that began when Justin Spring, co-founder of Adept, grew tired of volunteering hours instead of talent and expertise.

For years, he says, Adept employees were encouraged to volunteer for local nonprofits. “It was great, but I started thinking about the impact we had. The effect of our [volunteerism] ended as soon as we were done. There are a ton of nonprofits that aren’t doing digital marketing very well, so we said, ‘This year, instead, let’s adopt one nonprofit and do what we do best.’ ”

The digital marketing firm put out a call on social media, offering an equivalent of $50,000 in free marketing services, strategy and execution to an organization serving Central Ohio. Over a two-month application period, the Adept team received more than 40 applications from qualified nonprofits.

Furniture Bank’s submission stood out.

“Their application spoke our language,” Spring says. “It was really well written in terms of how they wanted to grow and how they thought digital marketing would help. We all kind of take for granted what we have in our homes. They educated us even in just their application about this problem.”

Furniture Bank’s mission “is to turn empty houses into homes,” says agency president Steve Votaw. His staff works with families coming out of homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse, natural disaster and other dire situations. The bank collects donated furniture from the community and, in turn, gives it to struggling families. The furniture comes from all over—volunteers, residents, corporations, universities, hotels—and even includes some pieces constructed by Furniture Bank itself. Typically seen as the giver, Furniture Bank was honored to receive a gift instead.

“It was like Christmas, in all honesty,” Votaw says of the moment he heard they had won Adept’s contest. “It’s difficult to do much strategic marketing. We don’t have the resources to do that. To get to partner with Adept, to really dive into digital marketing like this, it was a fabulous opportunity. We’re so grateful, and we’ve built a great relationship.”

Throughout 2018, Adept worked with Furniture Bank like any high-profile client. They set up information gathering sessions, reviewed the nonprofit’s current marketing materials and developed concepts to better tell the organization’s story.

Using their well-honed skills, the digital marketing pros then developed a strategy for streamlining Furniture Bank’s web presence, consolidating three domains into one. The short video Adept produced for Furniture Bank was a powerful highlight for the organization’s 20th anniversary celebration.

Adept also created ways to more effectively deliver news about the brand, redesigned key web pages, elevated the story of its public thrift store and fine-tuned its messaging—all with an eye on what Furniture Bank’s team could manage on its own after the year of gratis work concluded.

“Nonprofits tend to partner with other nonprofits a lot,” Votaw says. “This was a different kind of a collaboration. We’ve never experienced a partnership quite like this, and it has been beneficial to our whole organization. Our staff has been able to see how we can innovate on our side, and Adept increased our knowledge of what we’re able to do … and how we present ourselves to our community.”

As for his team at Adept, Spring says its members gained a lot from the experience and are excited to continue the program next year.

“We’re getting to do what we’re really good at doing and using our talents to make an impact on lives of people who couldn’t be more in need,” Spring says. “To give more people a chance at a better life, a place to put their kids at night or when they eat their food—there’s nothing more rewarding than using something you’ve spent 15 years learning to do really well and apply it to that.”

Number of in-need families Furniture Bank supports each year: 3,500

Number of pieces of furniture that Furniture Bank provides those families: 60,000

Value of services Adept Marketing provided Furniture Bank: $50,000

By the Numbers