Providing a Safety Net for the Forgotten

America is fundamentally changing. Historically we were a nation that had the largest middle class in the world, but now we are becoming a nation that is deeply divided between the haves and the have nots.

While the Wall Street Journal advertises $800 running shoes, mansions that start at $20 million and diamond studded undergarments, the typical American family is going economically backward.

“In 2017, over 553,000 Americans were homeless. 40 million people struggle with hunger and 40.6 million officially live in poverty.”

In addition to these alarming trends, America is also getting “grayer,” with the elderly population in our country doubling between now and the year 2050, to 80 million. As shown in this graph, as people get older, they need more assistance to just get by.

A Lifeline of Assistance

Volunteers of America’s mission touches the lives of almost 1.3 million people in over 400 communities in 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico each year. Since 1896 Volunteers of America has supported and empowered America’s most vulnerable groups, including veterans, at-risk youth, the frail elderly, men and women returning from prison, the homeless, people with disabilities, and those recovering from addictions.

Goodwill Communications began distributing Volunteers of America PSA campaigns in 1999, and the early campaigns we distributed on their behalf addressed the organization’s mission, as part of a branding effort, primarily to support fund raising.

All of these campaigns were distributed to over 1,000 local broadcast TV stations and 200 national networks. And, as with all the campaigns we have distributed in the past 35 years, they were thoroughly evaluated, so we knew what was working and where more work was needed.

The most dramatic TV PSA we distributed was called Speeches, which included poignant photos of homeless and needy people with speech excerpts from famous political leaders. A second one titled: Stats recited facts about poverty with stirring music in the background.

A Broader Media Mix

Once we achieved some success with broadcast TV, we began adding other media components to our distribution plan, including cable TV, radio and print.

From a cost-benefit perspective, one of the most successful distribution tactics we employed was our CablePAK distribution service. Volunteers of America was included in 11 separate CablePAK distributions at a cost of $33,000 and the exposure generated was $13.1 million.

Supporting Community Outreach

At one point the local Volunteers of America Affiliates around the country had considerable influence in the way TV PSAs were distributed. Many of them wanted TV PSA tapes sent to them and some wanted local tags instead of the national version. Our solution was to use Volunteers of America’s online reporting portal as a way for local offices to provide feedback on delivery and tagging options.

We wrote custom software that would enable local Affiliates to indicate how they wanted TV PSAs sent to them. In the left hand columns this screen shot, local staff could indicate if they wanted local tags and how they wanted the PSAs to be delivered.

Aggressive Promotion

At the national level we expanded our promotional activities using various tactics to sell Volunteers of America’s TV PSAs to the media including:

  • Creating a custom newsletter on the TV PSAs which was distributed to all TV stations and networks
  • Hiring a media outreach specialist to contact all the national TV and radio networks to pitch the PSAs to them
  • Compiling a list of every website that reached seniors and sending them information on the campaign, asking them to spread the word to their own stakeholders
  • Sending an interactive press release to 30,000 online journalists and state broadcast associations via PR Web. The release permitted the news media to view the PSA, which was embedded in the release.

In 2011, we began working with a different department at Volunteers of America which launched a national TV and radio PSA campaign in collaboration with the Major League Baseball Players Trust, with the theme “Are You In?” This unique partnership was designed to encourage high school students to get involved in their communities, and help those in need. Called “Action Team,”

it is designed to inspire and train the next generation of volunteers. One of the Action Team PSAs generated $112 million in advertising equivalency, the first and only time one of our campaigns has earned this level of support. We have posted a separate case history on that work which can be accessed at:

The total values from all Volunteers of America PSA campaigns exceeds $217 million in verified ad support.