Kate Atwood was just 23 when she founded Kate’s Club, the nonprofit centered on youth grief. By establishing a charitable organization at such a young age, her career path in the nonprofit sector has been unconventional. While building her organization, she held an executive position with the Arby’s Foundation and is currently the Vice President leading the new ChooseATL initiative with the Metro Atlanta Chamber. It’s safe to say Atwood found her voice within the realm of nonprofits.
Atwood talks to Content Science Review about the relationship between the content and the audience, the reliance on data, and, we couldn’t talk about the nonprofit sector without the mention of money.
It is tricky, and I think the ratio between curated content and more raw content depends on the “life-stage” of the organization. I think for smaller, newer nonprofits, its OK and almost expected to be a little more raw and transparent. People want to know how they connect to the cause, and the more personal you can make that voice, the more authentic your early adapters will connect to it. A founder’s story is extremely powerful in these early stages because it authentically tells a story of why the mission is needed.
As the organization grows and the brand matures, I do think the expectation in the content being a little bit more curated, and academic, if you will, is higher. Kate’s Club has done a tremendous job of balancing both. The mission of Kate’s Club is to empower children and teens that are facing life after the death of a loved one. This mission relies heavily on a balance of professional content and personal, more experiential content. At Kate’s Club, the kids who participate and I are able to carry that personal content, while the staff and licensed professionals can create the content that really establishes our brand as an expert in the space of childhood bereavement.
If you think about it, it’s really no different than for-profit entities, in how you strategically decide which voice to lead with in designing your content. It’s all about knowing your audience and delivering the content in the way that will best meet them where they are.
It’s really all about the audience. As its Founder, at Kate’s Club, it has worked really well for me to have my own voice. It’s fun and playful, but equally hopeful and real. One interesting thing about the Kate’s Club brand is that in the field of “childhood bereavement” we are the only organization that has a “living brand.” What does that mean? Its means Kate is still living. Other organizations, respectfully so, are named after the person who passed away. This is important because our brand is about the survivor, the child who continues to live. It’s our mission to see that that life can be as full and as healthy as possible moving forward. So me being Kate, it’s an important voice – one that I have had to get comfortable even in owning. It’s not that this is the way every nonprofit should direct their strategy, but it has worked for us.
We have a communications plan but not a documented content strategy. Our work is often themed around holidays and milestones, when grief triggers are at their highest and more people are seeking content about support for coping with a loss. But Kate’s Club does a tremendous job of varying that voice from kids to parents, from volunteers to staff. I guess if we had a content strategy it would be written as such, “showcase our community of support in the most authentic and credible way.” “Authentic” is that experiential content and “credible” is that professional content.
Not very often. It is discussed as part of the strategic plan, but I think core messaging should be as consistent as possible to keep your brand strong. It isn’t much different from a for-profit enterprise. I think nonprofit branding has really stepped up its game in the past decade and taken a lot of cues from the private sector. Those who have not, have really struggled to remain relevant in the 21st century.
It’s huge. Nonprofits always will have to strike a smart balance between a statistical narrative and emotional color.
It’s actually both professional and personal for me, and it’s a quote from Maya Angelou.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That is where it is at for me. My career path has been unconventional for sure, but every step I just make sure I have an emotional connection and a passion for the work I am doing. I need to be connecting to people, bringing joy in their lives, whether it’s a job or a speaking engagement, to really be living my truest self.
I’d love to say some savvy new app, but it really goes back to email. I really can’t imagine life without it, though I did.
At its core, Kate’s Club is about the empowerment of a child after having experienced the tragic loss of a loved one early in life. It is today and was since its inception about moving forward, surrounded by peers and community, in spite of such a life-changing event. One of the things I am most proud of as its Founder is that this philosophy created a culture that still runs through the organization today, 12 years later.
Money. It’s always money.
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