IMPACT | BAREFOOT REPUBLIC CAMP

Big aims and a narrow target demand perfect positioning.

 
 

Barefoot Republic is a Nashville-based nonprofit with a decade of youth impact to stand on. But aggressive growth plans and a niche audience were driving the need to clarify, articulate, and firmly stake their market position to usher in the next ten years of progress and change. It was time to revisit business strategy. And create a marketing plan that would tell a compelling brand story to drive more dollars in a highly-competitive space.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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INTRODUCTION

Bridging divides with common ground

 
 

You don’t have to look hard – or be an adult – to identify the tension that exists in America. Race relations are straining, cultural traditions clashing, class divisions widening, and people of faith struggling in the face of spiritual differences.

Barefoot Republic was founded with the goal to bridge these divides and generate more unity within schools, offices, places of worship, and society at large. Their mission: uniting youth and families from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds so they can grow closer in faith and friendship through the common ground of a camp experience. The shared connections forged at camp then influence future relationships as each individual brings increased empathy and understanding to their interactions with all.

 
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SITUATION

Authentic mission meets genuine challenge

 
 

Barefoot has established very specific diversity goals for each camp session: 30% white, 30% black, and 30% other. To encourage and enable kids from disadvantaged families to participate in this summer tradition, the Barefoot model includes a scholarship program.

But they had identified the need to increase the number of paying campers. Not just because of available capacity at their sprawling southern Kentucky camp, but also because scholarship campers were beginning to exceed paid campers for most sessions. More importantly, the paying-camper base was insufficiently diverse. It was proving difficult to recruit multicultural families to pay for camp, directly threatening the Barefoot mission by inadvertently strengthening the race/class divide.

It was also crucial for Barefoot to increase their donors and funders. While they have a strong earned-income model fueled by camp tuition and retreat groups, there was a big opportunity to increase the latter revenue stream by building a multipurpose lodge (funded by a critical capital campaign).

But Barefoot lacked the necessary time, team, and tools to solve these problems alone. 
 

 
 
 
 
 

ACTIONS

From solid footing, strategy grows

 
 

Mighty Ally helped establish a firm brand foundation, identify marketing gaps, and create an actionable strategy to increase paying campers and the donation base. As the project evolved, we formalized and documented their impact model and provided guidance for optimizing organizational performance.

Brand Strategy
Developing an outreach plan required a strong understanding of Barefoot's ideal positioning. We needed to ensure their value was distinct, clearly communicated, and understood in a marketplace crowded with dozens of camp options.

We started with a series of workshops to clarify core ideology and vision. Barefoot’s “why” was authentic and passionate, but prior articulations lacked a solid explanation of “why it mattered”. Once we understood who they were and where they wanted to go, we could chart a course for how to get there.

We layered on a landscape and SWOT analysis and identified key gaps in the marketplace – namely, that many other camps like the YMCA were pushing the nonprofit, affordable, and Christian message, but none could claim diversity. Then we defined Barefoot’s target market via empathy mapping of four discrete personas. And we dug into Barefoot's brand personality, distilling their voice, tone, archetype, and motto. This work proved challenging as we balanced the fun personality of camp with the seriousness of race issues. But the result provided a strong bridge to the marketing plan. 

Marketing Plan
The marketing plan would put the brand strategy into action, reinforcing the vision and promoting the unique diversity mission. It would avoid mass marketing techniques given their niche targets, focus tightly on the four key ideal constituent profiles, and maximize their refined brand personality of being spontaneous while being welcoming and compassionate.

We tapped Barefoot’s database, extracting intelligence about both active and inactive donors. An analysis of their available marketing channels – website, social media, email, and print – illuminated immediate priorities. Calls-to-action needed to be adjusted, and all communications reframed around desired outcomes and impact instead of activities and outputs.

Team members involved in communications would need continuous “onboarding” to keep brand strategy consistent. The website needed heavy content updates to better articulate differentiators, and a major data aggregation effort would help segment and communicate with such discrete audiences.

The marketing plan outlined goals, audiences, strategies, tactics, and key performance indicators. And we developed two custom campaign concepts. One aimed at major donors, the other focused on activating camp alumni as an important new communications channel. But simply pouring fuel on the marketing fire would be moot without the technical infrastructure to field the new leads. So we also provided a robust analysis of CRM and donor database platforms to facilitate a long-overdue systems upgrade.

 

Logic Model Definition
Like many nonprofits, Barefoot’s logic model felt logical. Their day-to-day work seemed to intuitively drive towards creating an intentionally diverse, Christian, and dynamic camp setting. And feedback from campers and their families suggested their mission was being fulfilled.

But the Barefoot team had never formally documented their logic model, an exercise that ensures a causal relationship between the work done and outcomes desired. For Barefoot, it would also increase their capacity to talk to individual and institutional donors wanting to see a clear theory of change prior to making funding decisions. In this case, we defined ultimate impact in three buckets: individuals, the church, and the camping industry at large. 

Completing the “Activities” section of Barefoot’s logic model brought to light an unrealistic array of daily activities for a relatively small team: camp programs, several revenue generation events, and significant operational efforts. This insight allowed us to facilitate conversations around organizational focus and prioritization of efforts.

Organizational Health
“Vision without execution is merely hallucination.” So we grounded our recommendations in the operational realities of the Barefoot staff. Here’s how we reached our understanding of the organization:

  • Full-team workshop: A right/wrong/missing/confused exercise opened a window into team dynamics, personalities, and communication culture.

  • Individual stakeholder conversations: We sat down with a handful of staff members to wrap our heads around their roles, responsibilities, perspectives, and challenges.

  • OCAT survey: We issued McKinsey & Company's robust survey to staff and directors of the board. This multidimensional assessment revealed current strengths and areas of operational opportunity across leadership, innovation, process, and infrastructure. A key insight was that while the staff and board had a high level of excitement around the vision, that vision lacked clarity.

  • Board communications: A review of recent board emails, agendas, and notes allowed us to identify topics being addressed at the highest level. And to gauge board involvement and overall level of input, an important piece of the internal landscape for any nonprofit.

Most Mighty Ally engagements include a recommendation of “must reads”. In this case, we suggested the leadership team adopt the Entrepreneurial Operating System to help marry strategy and traction. The EOS model – as found in the book “Traction” – includes a litany of helpful tools, such as the Accountability Chart, with which we advised the Barefoot team on how to ensure clarity within roles and enforce accountability for results. And even which roles they might need to hire in order to fulfill the newly minted vision.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

"We absolutely loved working with Mighty Ally. They laid out a clear plan of action and executed on each item along the way. Their ability to guide strategy discussions and ideation – while also helping us lead with our own voice – was critical for our success."

– TOMMY RHODES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

 

 

 

 
 
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RESULTS

Paving the path to 100,000 campers

 
 

Mighty Ally developed and delivered a comprehensive social impact model that set Barefoot Republic on the trajectory toward their 10-year target. It included:

  • A refined and impactful articulation of the mission and vision – one that would better resonate with and activate their very niche audience.

  • A logic model that better defined the causal relationship between required inputs, daily work, and final impact.

  • Strategic value propositions mapped to audiences and framed in the longer-term outcomes and impact.

  • Profiles of the target market and the recognition that the ideal client profile was very narrow.

  • Unique differentiators, namely, that no other camp in the region counted intentional diversity as a key tenet.

  • Defined long- and short-term goals that drive towards the ultimate vision.

  • A strong brand personality and the tools to implement the brand consistently across all channels.

Our practical and actionable marketing strategy gave them:

  • Sharpshooting marketing techniques that honed in on the identified niche audience.

  • Key insights and tactical recommendations for improvement of all marketing channels.

  • Campaign ideas appropriately scoped to the organization's capacity and tied to the short- and long-term outcomes desired.

  • A key performance indicator scorecard with leading and lagging indicators of marketing success against the objectives outlined.

  • Specific prioritization of activities and tasks, along with a roadmap for execution partners and new hires.

Armed with a clear brand, an actionable marketing strategy, and the internal alignment needed to execute flawlessly, Barefoot Republic is on its way to raising $1.5 million this year and celebrating their 100,000th camper in 2028!

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

"Thanks to Mighty Ally's tireless efforts, we not only have a clear picture of what makes our organization unique, but also the tools and plan to help make our vision a reality. We cannot recommend them enough."

– JAKE SMITH, DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT

 

 

 

 
 
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