An Unforgettable Opportunity to Contribute to the Common Good

This summer, I was one of five students sent to Traverse City for the first-ever Summer Street Team. I'm a senior studying Journalism and Marketing, and I can honestly say it was the experience of a lifetime. The opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without the generous donation of MSU alumna Jill Byron.  

Four years ago, Media Sandbox Street Teams were a group of talented ComArtSci students that piled into a van once a year and drove across the country, helping various nonprofits along the way. Today, Street Teams have grown into a fully-fledged program at ComArtSci. Street Teams are interdisciplinary teams of students that work with local nonprofits to help them with their marketing and communications needs.

The Community Champion

For the Summer Street Team, we worked with the nonprofit Cherryland Humane Society. Like most humane societies across the country, Cherryland is a champion for animal welfare, rehabilitating animals that have suffered from unimaginable pain and abuse. 

We had one week to complete our work and present it to Cherrlyand’s executive director and board. Traditionally for Street Teams, you have the entire year to work with your nonprofit. Our summer timeline felt intense in comparison! 

Our student team consisted of Maia Barber, an Advertising Management graduate and team lead, Jacob Disbro, an Advertising Management graduate, Kaumudi Mahajan, a Communication sophomore, Diana Camarena, a Journalism senior, and myself.

The Challenge

Cherryland’s number one focus is on the animals they take into their care. This makes it difficult to find time to communicate their great work to the community. Like many nonprofits, they also have limited resources, and communications and marketing duties are shared between a few staff and board members. 

This is where we came in. Our challenge was to provide them with the marketing and communications resources they needed to create a foundation that they could continue to build on in the coming years. This meant that first and foremost, we needed to help Cherryland redefine their brand to create a unique, powerful identity. 

Having a strong brand helps to build the reputation of the organization, as well as differentiate them from the competition. Our final goal was to help them effectively communicate this brand identity through social media by providing planning materials and insights on what to post and when.  

I’ve found that even establishing simple things like a color palette and tone words can have a huge impact on nonprofits. It provides a reference point that the organization can use whenever they create content so that all of their materials look, feel and sound consistent. It takes the guessing out of the equation and saves them time. 

From Strangers to Friends

As a team, our biggest challenge was time. Lucky for us, we each had unique talents to contribute, and we split up the work accordingly. Most days, we worked the typical 9-5 shift, but what wasn’t so typical was the level of collaboration and feedback we had throughout the week. 

Somehow, we went from five strangers who drove up to Traverse City together to five friends who had movie nights, went on hiking trips, got ice cream, shared stories and talked about the meaning of life. 

Building a Foundation for the Future 

At the end of the week, we gave Cherryland a brand guidebook, social media guide, social media strategy book, and concept ideas designed to help them grow and raise awareness in the community. 

After a week of getting to know Cherryland’s employees and volunteers, interacting with the animals and learning about what they offer to the community, I felt connected to their mission. It was rewarding to know that our materials could help Cherryland find more animals their forever home. I’m excited to see how our ideas help them grow and build a closer bond with their community.

Having the chance to work with two nonprofits this year has helped me see a different side of the world — people that dedicate their lives to organizations that do everything in their power to help the community. Street Teams has given me an unforgettable opportunity to see and contribute to the good in the world simply by doing what I love to do. 

If you have the chance, join a Street Team — I promise you, it will change your life. 

By Rianna N. Middleton

Sign Up For 2019-2020 Street Teams

Apply to be a Nonprofit Street Team Partner