Many of you know Viney Group is rooted in social change and civic engagement. But that mission came into focus pretty recently. When I first started the company, I was willing to take on any marketing client – commercial finance, the arts, a local day spa. Mission didn’t matter. My goal was to establish myself and my business, and get that cash flow going. But in 2017, everything changed.
On an errand in New York, I had a chance encounter at a Michael’s craft store. A stranger approached me at the framing station and offered me the photo he’d printed “as a gift.” This generous stranger turned out to be Irwin E. Redlener, Co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund. A pioneering nonprofit he’d started with Paul Simon in 1987, the fund works to ensure America’s most disadvantaged children have access to high-quality health care.
It’s up to us as individuals to use our tools for a higher social cause. Our work is so much more than personal gains, bottom lines and annual ROIs.
When Dr. Redlener invited me to meet his executive team at their headquarters in Harlem, a brief meeting in a craft store became a life-altering event. More than impressing me with his organization’s work success, Dr. Redlener inspired me with his humble, steadfast dedication to a noble cause and, conversely, his rejection of projects that conflicted with that cause – in spite of their high funding potential.
While Viney has never taken on the Children’s Health Fund as a formal client –I haven’t seen that kind stranger since our meeting in 2017 – Dr. Redlener’s work left an imprint on my soul. In 2018, I vowed that Viney would become a social marketing company (not to be confused with a social media marketing company) working to effect positive change locally as well as globally.
Today, the Viney team works solely and passionately on projects for social change and civic engagement, and invests in clients who reflect those values and that mission. These actionable causes have been my passion since childhood, but this decision came with great sacrifice. In order to make the switch from general marketing to social marketing, I had to drop more than 90 percent of Viney’s contracts, a move that resulted in a drop in revenue for the first eight months of 2018.
But we stuck with our philosophy and nurtured our mission.
I’m thrilled to report that in two years’ time, Viney’s revenue increased significantly. We increased the size of our team, and promoting our philosophy with passion and vigor has allowed us to contract with a multitude of clients in the public sector, giving us a greater reach.
Before meeting Dr. Redlener, my thinking remained muddled. I thought if I’d wanted to pursue my passion of helping to change the world, I should have gotten a master’s in public administration from Columbia University, or taken a job at the U.N. I felt that all of the work I’d put into marketing + PR meant I had to stick with general, missionless marketing + PR. But I’ve learned that marketing is merely a tool. It’s not a career, a field, a sector or service; it’s a tool – one that can be used for good.
I share Viney’s journey with you at the start of a new decade. Our world and our communities are filled with corruption, greed and social corrosion; I hope that my story and Dr. Redlener’s work encourages you to believe that through our professional enterprises, we can become better agents of positive change.
This New Year, I’m placing a call to action for all professionals, agencies and SMBs: Our professions, our companies, our agencies, our nonprofits are merely a tool; it’s up to us as individuals to use our tools for a higher social cause. Our work is so much more than personal gains, bottom lines and annual ROIs. The true return on investment is knowing we’re helping to create a better, more equitable world for the next ten years, and every decade to come.
Happy New Decade!