By Sara Williscroft, ABC, CDMP

When you hear the term social marketing, it probably conjures images of tweets, hashtags and Facebook posts. But before there was social media, there was social marketing – a discipline of marketing that focuses on behavior change. 

For Yvette Biggs, vice president of marketing and communications at United Way of Calgary and Area (UWCA), understanding how to help people shift their behaviour for positive social change is her passion and now she’s using it to support UWCA in their vision of being a social impact organization. 

United Way Campaign

For the last three years Biggs has focused on tackling behavior changes in donors. This involves increasing donor segmentation, understanding what drives different segments and ultimately how to engage new people with the United Way brand. 

“Donors are changing – what they want is changing. They want less of a transaction, more of an experience. They also want to know how their donations are making an impact in their local community,” said Biggs. 

Last year, UWCA raised $50 million, funding 138 programs with 90 local agencies impacting over 160,000 individuals living in Calgary and area. The pressure is on for Biggs to lead the way in creating marketing and communication strategies that are multi-faceted to ensure United Way continues to be a brand that is relevant to new and existing donors.   

“Donors want to be involved. One of the most memorable moments I’ve had at this organization so far was our 2019 campaign kick-off. Where over 2000 people came together to march for social issues impacting our city. It was a “this is why we are doing it” moment, where corporations and agencies came together to Do Local Good. We had our highest attendance for #UNIGNORABLE issues in the community. This isn’t just a United Way campaign but a community-generated campaign.”

This shift is exactly the strategy that Biggs is pursuing. UWCA is changing the hero narrative so donors get closer to the impact funded programs are making in the community and understand the role they play. But how is she doing it?

“Great content, enhanced donor experiences and impactful data is key. And, ensuring that donors get this when, where, and how they need it is very important. Our data is our edge and it allows us to show how donors are making an impact in their community. But how do you make the data relevant to the donors so they are motivated? That’s our challenge.”

As with any not-for-profit limited marketing can be challenging. This is why knowing what your audience needs is so important. Biggs says that being audience centric ensures marketing and communication activities are as effective and impactful as possible.  

“We try to take a back seat and understand what the audience wants to hear – what matters to them, what drives them and what changes they want to make in their community. This is how we are tackling shifting behaviours. We want to listen to what our audience wants to hear, so we can tell stories that match their value-set and motivate them to give.”

Yvette Biggs is currently the vice president of marketing and communications at United Way of Calgary and Area. Her over 15 years of industry experience includes working with Alberta Health Services, The Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund, and leading her own social marketing consulting company.  

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