Things looked pretty bleak for Buddy the white German Shepherd of Claxton, GA. He had a hairless, raw, infected front leg and a bullet with his name on it. His owners were going to put him down Old Yeller style until a neighbor, Dennis Purcell, came to his rescue and brought him to a veterinarian in Savannah, Ga. He was half the weight that he should have been and very weak, but he had a wonderful disposition and was very easy to work around (sidebar: I met him, I can verify that he is a sweet dog). For his first few weeks at Eastside Veterinary Hospital, the doctors and staff and his rescuer cared for him. After some diagnostic work, it was estimated that the cost to treat his injury would be $3,000.
Buddy’s new guardian had created a flier to raise awareness about and funds for Buddy. Kelley Gargiulo, a Savannah resident who has worked extensively with animal rescue groups, received one of the fliers by chance. Gargiulo made a better flier, and created a Facebook page called “Hope for Buddy .” She had experience with various rescue organizations and applied for a LifeLine Rescue Grant from the United Animal Nations that resulted in $300.
The facebook page was taken over and is administered by Dennis’ sister. She began posting pictures, videos and updates about Buddy. Very quickly, donations started arriving by snail mail to the veterinary hospital. There is a wall filled with cards that accompanied donations from well-wishers from all over the country at the office. Eventually, the set up a PayPal account and were able to accept donations electronically.
Buddy’s infection was later diagnosed as Pythiosis and he was also found to have Addison’s disease. The estimate for the cost of his treatment was increased to $4,500.
In three months, over 1,000 people rallied around Buddy’s cause and donated the funds needed for his care. It seemed to take no time at all and was accomplished with no marketing budget. Why? Because his cause was tied to a heartwarming story that involved a lovely animal, compassionate people and a cause that animal lovers felt strongly about.
Here are some highlights (and lessons to be learned) from the success of Hope for Buddy.
- The Hope for Buddy Facebook page was started on June 1, 2010
- Two weeks later, June 14th, the page had 424 friends and over $1,000 had been raised
- Buddy was awarded a grant for $300 from the United Animal Nations (uan.org) on June 15th thanks to the effort of a ‘fan.’
- PR impressions. The story was picked up by local media outlets – three newspapers and one local news station in July and August
- The last publicized amount raised was $4,360 on July 13th, nearly all of the $4,500 set as a goal
- By September 20, “Hope for Buddy” had 1,206 fans and counting and numerous requests to adopt him
- Buddy had some setbacks in his recovery, but his fans are still pulling for him; no one has given up
Why it worked and how you can utilize some of these principles in your marketing program
- Genuine care and compassion. When people are truly passionate about their cause or mission, they are usually the most successful at generating their intended results and achieving their goals. The people who rescued Buddy and the doctors and staff who care for Buddy are extremely dedicated and compassionate professionals and are working tirelessly to save this dog. The people who have donated funds to pay for his care are passionate about animals and were moved by his story. You can’t fake that. Find something that you are genuinely passionate about in the product or service that you are marketin and that will resonate with your customers (for-profit) or supporters (non-profit).
- Prompt and honest communication. Whenever anyone had a question about Buddy regarding his history, his condition, how the funds were being used, what his personality was like, or whether or not he was making progress, the question was answered immediately.
- Face to dogface meetings and gratitude. The internet is great, but there’s nothing like meeting in person. They got off the internet and hit the road to meet and say thank you to some of their biggest supporters. When Buddy was given the OK to travel from the vets, he and his caretaker headed to Forsyth Park in Savannah, GA, Henderson, NC and Atlanta, GA.
Once you have found something you are truly passionate about that you will be marketing to others, make that the center of your communications; it will come through. When you are ready to start garnering PR, check out our PR Ta-Do List to help spread the word.
Also, check out our social media Ta-Do list to harness the power of those tools.