An Oasis Of Ideas

Mark Dunkerley, vice president of development for Oasis Center, speaks to NALC attendees in Nashville about Oasis Center in August. Dunkerly was welcomed to the stage by Jessica Hutwelker, MAS, Danny Rosin and Devin Piscitelli, members of the NALC work group.

Mark Dunkerley, vice president of development for Oasis Center, speaks to NALC attendees in Nashville about Oasis Center in August. Dunkerly was welcomed to the stage by Jessica Hutwelker, MAS, Danny Rosin and Devin Piscitelli, members of the NALC work group.

Industry leaders collaborate to help a Nashville nonprofit address its marketing challenges

The best cold-callers can knock on doors from sunup to sundown, ending the day with a handful of prospects if they’re lucky. On the flipside, organizations can make dozens of calls to promotional consultants before finding the perfect partner. At this year’s North American Leadership Conference (NALC) in Nashville, Tennessee, one local nonprofit was given a golden opportunity to be courted by dozens of industry leaders in one sitting.

The idea was suggested during a PPAI NALC Work Group conference call, says Jessica Hutwelker, MAS, of Sunrise Identity and a member of the group. “Devin Piscitelli, [CEO of AAkron] suggested asking attendees to do ’something positive’ for a Nashville-based nonprofit,” she recalls.

“That sparked a conversation among the three of us [Hutwelker, Piscitelli and Danny Rosin, co-owner of Brand Fuel, Inc.] about what kind of initiative we could put together that would be a collaboration among attendees, generate good will for a nonprofit and also help show the value of promotional products by elevating the nonprofit’s brand and campaign,” says Hutwelker.

On a broader level, Hutwelker says, the work group sought a way to help attendees leave their host community “better than we found it” and to create a template for giving back at future conferences. The initiative was launched with Oasis Center as the inaugural nonprofit group and, says Hutwelker, “the response was phenomenal. There was collective mindshare to address the Oasis Center’s challenges.”

Oasis Center is a Nashville-based agency serving at-risk youth with services such as the city’s only teen shelter and college counseling for first-generation college students.NALC attendees contributed more than $11,000 in monetary and in-kind donations to Oasis Center for use in the organization’s marketing campaigns and fundraising events, and during the opening dinner they also spent time brainstorming solutions to some of Oasis Center’s most pressing marketing-based issues.

Three challenges were presented to attendees:

Challenge 1 – Increase awareness and name recognition to differentiate the Oasis Center from organizations with similar functions. Current state: Known in nonprofit circles but unknown beyond that.

To help Oasis Center extend its reach into a broader audience, the promotional professionals suggested using promotional products to drive traffic to the center’s online social media pages such as Facebook. On social media sites, video testimonials from center staff and recipients of its services were suggested to  help personalize the outreach and provide firsthand knowledge of the center’s purpose.

Challenge 2 – Create a call-to-action plan to expand the center’s donor base and to increase donations from current patrons, in order to drive revenue and increase advocacy. Current state: Successfully transitioning from awareness to donors to ‘evangelists.’

Suggested plans include creating a “core network” of high-profile individuals, such as the city’s mayor, to spread the word among leaders and influencers, and encourage support on an ongoing basis. Attendees also suggested reaching out to service organizations about the center’s mission, fostering future donors and volunteers through education. Additionally, individuals who were helped by Oasis Center could come together to assist another organization as a means of publicizing the center’s good work.

Challenge 3 – Increase revenue raised at the annual themed event from $10,000 to $25,000 or more. Current state: Previously, tickets at the door have been $20; maximum capacity of the current venue is 550 people.

Attendees recommended that the center encourage donors and supporters to host mini versions of the themed fundraising event, and publicize them on social media for others to see and be inspired by. Branding apparel and products with the event theme, and offering higher-value incentive items to top donors were also on the list of marketing ideas.

At the end of the challenge, Hutwelker and the NALC work group worked with PPAI Director of Professional Development Rachel Robichaud to compile the attendees’ suggestions and deliver them to Oasis Center for their use.

“What was especially exciting was that it opened up conversations among the audience as to how to expand this concept to other PPAI and regional events in the future,” says Hutwelker. “We are grateful to PPAI and the NALC work group for their support of the initiative.”

For more information on Oasis Center and related industry efforts at NALC, visit and



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