If you were on social media over Super Bowl weekend, you may have noticed a fundraising campaign making the rounds.
#GreenBlitzTampa, led by Dr. Maddy Orr (University of British Columbia, Sport Ecology Group) and Kristen Fulmer (Recipric), was launched 48 hours ahead of kick-off as an effort to galvanize the sports community around a local nonprofit in Tampa whose work has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Premised on the notion that people in this industry care, the two women set out to develop and pilot a grassroots campaign model that can be revived for future events.
The outcomes of the campaign were mixed, but the lessons were rich. We sat down (on Zoom, of course) with Maddy and Kristen to get the story behind #GreenBlitzTampa.
Green SportsBlog: What sparked the idea for what became #GreenBlitzTampa?
Kristen Fulmer: About a week before the Super Bowl, I was chatting with a Tampa-based friend, who was telling me what they knew of the sustainability efforts associated with the game. It didn’t require much research to realize that, for a whole host of reasons, many of the original plans for local environmental give-back were downsized or entirely cancelled.
While some of the reduction was an understandable result of COVID-related constraints, I found out that some of this occurred at the last minute – As an example, the 500-person volunteer Green Team was reduced to 50 people on the day-of their training, which was a week before the game… What a waste! I get really sad when people that are willing and excited to help with environmental work are given any reason to resent the efforts in the first place… That’s not how we grow this critical movement!
That day, I learned that Maddy may also be aware of some of the reductions in Tampa. Knowing her expertise in grassroots climate action, experience with international events, and passion for simply “doing better,” I sent her a text. Within a few minutes, I had the “I’m in” response and by that night, #GreenBlitzTampa was built out. Our mission was simply to fill a gap that had formed and our goal was to leverage our network and the momentum of the Green-Sports movement to ‘do better’.
GSB: I’m not surprised that it only took you and Maddy less than a day to create #GreenBlitzTampa. What led you to pick the The Sustainable Living Project? What if any coordination took place between you and the SLP?
Dr. Maddy Orr: From the start we knew that the only way this pilot would fly is if we had a really good and respected partner on the ground. We spoke with some friends and colleagues who live in Tampa and got a list of nonprofits they thought could benefit from this. Working with a woman or minority-run place, preferably an organization with a sustainability slant, was a priority and it had to be hyper local. The organization needed to be small enough so that regardless of the end sum of the project, our efforts could make a difference.
We contacted Georgea Snyder, the Director of The Sustainable Living Project, on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, via email. It was a cold call, basically. She was responsive right away and just so easy to work with. Truly, we couldn’t have asked for a better partner.
GSB: How long did it take from your first conversation about it until launch?
Maddy: Seven days. Kristen and I spoke on Friday January 29th, secured SLP as our partner on the 30th, designed the campaign content on the 1st and 2nd, and the project went live at 6:30pm on the 5th.
GSB: Seven days? That’s a productive week to say the least…
Kristen: …While we recognize that the initiative could have been larger with a longer lead time, we both agreed that something was better than nothing and worked quickly. I wonder how many texts and emails we sent each other in those seven days…
GSB: Aside from helping a worthy local social justice and environmental non-profit in Tampa, what were your objectives? What was your financial goal?
Kristen: Once we learned more about SLP, including an informal discussion with an amazing volunteer that had previously worked there (who had nothing but glowing reviews), we really just wanted to cover everything on Georgea’s modest wishlist. During a conversation with her, we learned that SLP had had a few major setbacks recently — including a lack of funding for their veterans programming due to COVID and a loss of on-site refrigeration as a result of some aging solar batteries. We set a goal of raising $5,000 to cover some basic operational needs — soil, seeds, lumber, etc. And we sought in-kind donations to source the solar batteries and a few other specific items.
GSB: Were you able to track the money donated specifically through your initiative? If so, how much was raised?
Maddy: Yes, we actually were able track donations and raised just under $2,000. Which of course, is way less than we wanted to raise.
Fortunately, some of our in-kind donation requests came through. So we were able to cover almost everything on Georgea’s wishlist. We also were able to offer some in-kind support ourselves, like sorting out a direct donation button which will be permanently on the website and hopefully bring in more financial support moving forward. We’re also still in talks with some local universities to get a funded intern position for SLP, and that position will help Georgea with the administration aspects of the nonprofit, like grant-writing, volunteer coordination, and fundraising efforts.
GSB: What effect if any did COVID-19 have on this effort?
Maddy: Since the whole thing was designed during COVID, it wasn’t an impediment operationally. That said, we got a lot of feedback from people who said they would love to donate, but can’t because of the financial crunch created by COVID and the recession. The sports industry has been hit hard, so it wasn’t an easy time to be asking people for money.
GSB: What were the key lessons learned about managing a one week-blitz?
Kristen: Like everything following the COVID shutdown, the first thing we learned was that physical location is less important than it used to be to catalyze action. Through the power of social media with a catchy hashtag, some great graphics —courtesy of Maddy! — and some informal emails to ask for support, we were able to get approximately 1,000,000 impressions for the campaign and had over 150 different individuals posting through various channels.
Though technology was on our side, timing was not.
In retrospect, we recognize that a longer lead time would have allowed us to better share the message and coordinate with athlete philanthropy groups, who often require board approval before they can submit a donation.
As two individuals working together, Maddy and I were inspired by the other individuals that were willing to contribute their own personal funds to this initiative. Talk about people walking the talk!
Without these generous individual contributors, our grassroots give-back would have been close to zero. We’d hoped that some early outreach would conjure up some institutional support, but learned a lesson in the unfortunate reality of organizational priorities, even in situations where we thought that missions were aligned.
GSB: What can and will you do to grow the impact through future efforts?
Maddy: The big one here is just to start earlier. One week is too short.
GSB: You ain’t kidding! How much planning time do you think you would need for a #GreenBlitzLA — SoFi Stadium, home to the Rams and Chargers — will host Super Bowl LVI next?
Kristen: Three to four weeks at a minimum…
Maddy: …Also, because it was such a short timeframe, we had to keep it lean, so we didn’t enlist a whole lot of help. Moving forward, we’d start way earlier, enlist more help — I don’t want to be the graphic designer on another project like this! — and start collecting in-kind donations ahead of time.
We also had some interest from the media in Tampa to do interviews or a newspaper story, but because we were so last-minute, we had little time or capacity to activate the media side of the project. So, that’s another big one to cover next time, especially ahead of the campaign.
GSB: What’s next?
Maddy: We #GreenBlitz again, haha!
I think we both need to take a breather and take some time to think through the wins and losses on this first campaign, but once we’ve slept on it and deconstructed it, we’ll do this again. We just have to pick our target. I like to get involved in those places where greenwashing and whitewashing blurs the real negative impacts of events.
Kristen: I’m with Maddy! Some positive impact will always be better than none, so I’m excited to identify future opportunities to Blitz, Full-Court Press, or Power Play our way through another initiative!
A postscript from Kristen and Maddy…
If you were inspired by SLP’s amazing work in Tampa, you can still support them even though #GreenBlitzTampa is over! Please visit their website: http://www.slptampa.com for ways to donate, volunteer, or get involved.
Our interview with Kristen and Maddy was the third and final Super Bowl LV-story to run in GSB. Click here for the interview with Laura Stargel, sustainability coordinator for the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Community. And click here for our op-ed in which GSB imagined being appointed Commissioner of the NFL for one day so we could install a league-wide climate policy with real teeth.
Photo at top: The Sustainable Living Project’s Veterans GROW Garden project (Photo credit: The Sustainable Living Project)