Digital Impact Greenhouse: 5 minutes with The Food Trust

In the Community

Message Agency’s Digital Impact Greenhouse (DIG)  is a capacity-building program focused on developing digital strategy skills for nonprofit staff. Program participants work through designing a real-life digital campaign start to finish.

The Food Trust, now a Digital Impact Greenhouse alum, brought this campaign to the program: Recruiting applicants for their Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. We caught up with The Food Trust team to see how their campaign performed and what’s next.

Message Agency: Tell us about your campaign. Were you able to meet your recruitment goals?  
The Food Trust: We were! As you know, we had to be careful about getting the message out about this funding opportunity without overwhelming our team with an unmanageable amount of applicants. That’s why it was so essential for us to have a goal of increasing our pool of eligible applicants: it helped us and who we were trying to reach by making it more clear what it means to be eligible for this opportunity. 

We were able to award grants to an interesting mix of merchants selling healthy food, such as corner stores, larger grocers and co-ops across the state. We wanted to increase the geographic and racial diversity of the applicant pool, and with this campaign we were able to do that and keep the process manageable for our small team. 

MA: What Digital Impact Greenhouse materials are you finding most useful?
TFT: Definitely personas. They were the most difficult to think through, but are providing the most value because audience development really is key. 

Target audiences for campaigns as well as clear campaign goals are topics we always come back to and have proved to be useful for other efforts. We’re asking different questions now when we get requests so that we as the communications team can do our jobs more effectively. 

We’ve thought about 1-pagers that define personas, target audiences and campaign goals to share with our colleagues on other teams at The Food Trust to help everyone understand these big-picture topics that are guiding us. 

Also, the engagement ladders were useful. We’ll admit it was hard work to define each step of engagement, but having that plan was very helpful. 

MA: What are you focused on now? 
TFT: We’re working on a new mapping tool that will provide residents with nearby healthy food resources. To start, we’ll have a Philadelphia version and one for Washington D.C. 

For this work, we have to consider the users first: Will the map primarily be used by individuals, or community organizations connected to those individuals? And, considering this user, how will the strategy need to change? 

Having the templates from the Digital Impact Greenhouse helps our team go through the process of planning a campaign or applying these concepts to other initiatives easier and faster. We usually only have a couple of days to do this kind of work, so we are always going back to our spreadsheets from DIG. 

We’ve worked with nonprofits for decades, and noticed a pattern over the years: many do not have an established digital strategy. At Message Agency, we provide tools to support nonprofit staff and help them deliver on their missions, but it’s not just about knowing how to use the tools. Developing a strategy is just as important. 

This is why we created the Digital Impact Greenhouse. It’s our goal to teach others how to develop their own strategies, while understanding the constraints many organizations have. We do not believe that nonprofits should have to rely on consultants or agencies for all of their digital strategy needs, and this type of capacity building can bring lasting value to organizations and their staff. 

Find out more about the Digital Impact Greenhouse