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Coalition Campaign- Marketing Ideas for Programs Operating on a Shoestring Budget (Part I)

by Kelli Cooney, Data Manager/ Literacy Liaison

Syracuse City School District Adult and Continuing Education

Many of our Adult Ed Programs across the state would greatly benefit from running a marketing campaign for student or volunteer recruitment or even literacy awareness but don’t have the budgets to pay for it.

In 2018, Programs in Central New York decided to pool their resources to bridge the gap between the estimated 60,000 adults in Onondaga County in need of greater literacy skills and the 5,000 participating annually in adult education classes


Funded primarily by a grant from the Syracuse Rotary Club, known for their ongoing support of Adult Literacy over the years, a matching grant from the CNY Community Foundation and an in-kind donation of creative work from Pro Literacy, a marketing campaign was launched to direct target audiences to a toll free number and a dedicated website called “CNYLearns.” Here visitors can find information on anything from beginning ENL classes to HSE programming to Vocational or Postsecondary education opportunities nearest to their home.

A press release about the campaign resulted in free air time on local news programming and several online and print articles about adult literacy. Each partner was also assigned to write an Op Ed piece for one of the first six months of the campaign. Half of them were published.

Posters and flyers were distributed by hand throughout the county, materials and “swag” were printed to be taken to events where representatives from the various programs promoted the work of all of the partners to find the best fit for potential students.

Finally, the most expensive (and most effective) piece of the campaign was the launch of transit advertising, including tails and kings (external), interior cards and shelter ads, which none of the programs could have afforded on their own.

Some of the strategies of the campaign could be used by other regions or programs across the State. Whether it’s partnering with other providers to launch a bus campaign, making it a priority to distribute posters to local laundry mats, libraries or benefits offices or even just scheduling in the submission of student success stories to local news outlets, there is something that each of our programs can do to up our marketing game.

ProLiteracy and our Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County have made the materials developed for our campaign available for download from ProLiteracy’s Website. They can be repurposed with information about your own program to get you started: Literacy for Impact

Next up: Watch this space for our upcoming post on how to utilize social media to grow your program.

Happy Marketing!​

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