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Google Challenged

A look back on our incredible Google Challenge experience

“You guys are not going to believe it!” Tara Robinson, MAF’s Chief Development Officer, said with a wild glint in her eye and a smile spreading across her face. Daniela Salas, MAF’s COO, and I were both eager to hear what her amazing news was.

Months earlier, Tara had written a grant application on a whim for a very special opportunity. She had completely forgotten about it since we were launching a new website, onboarding me as a new employee, and rebranding all our platforms.

As Tara clutched her phone, she began to read the email aloud, “We are excited to announce that…”

She stopped.

Daniela and I hung on the pregnant pause with excited anticipation.

“Oh”, Tara mused. “This is top secret, so none of you can tell anyone yet.” Daniela and I agreed immediately, because who doesn’t want to be in on a secret?

“We’ve been notified that MAF has been chosen as one of the top 10 nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area by Google! ” Tara said.

Daniela and I were confused but excited.

“So what does that mean for us?” I asked.

“Well, we have been chosen to participate in the Google Bay Area Impact Challenge,” Tara explained. Little did we know that this conversation would be the beginning of a whirlwind few weeks of strategizing, organizing, writing, campaigning, and voting–in short, one of the most transformative experiences that MAF has been through so far.

Challenge Accepted

Google looked at over a thousand organizations for three main points: need, program impact, and scalability, to select the top 10 Bay Area nonprofits that would be voted on by the general public to receive up to $500,000 in grant funding. And we were in the top 10!

Once we were able to break the news to the rest of the staff about this exciting event, our first task was to make our Lending Circle program and its impact easily understandable for people in and out of the Bay Area, so they would vote for us.

For most people, talking about credit-building is as interesting as watching paint dry.

Our solution was to run a visual social media and email campaign. We had to find a highly innovative way of creating content that could be seen quickly and tell not only MAF’s story, but also the story of our members and what our programs do. Often, all of this had to be conveyed in less than 140 characters!

Our marketing team worked together to assemble a robust campaign of stories, images, social media posts, and key messaging that would tell people who we are and the kind of impact we could make in our community with their support. We also gathered together a list of our partners, supporters and advocates locally and nationally to help us get the word out. We created a schedule to pass out flyers and posters at local businesses, attend events, festivals, canvas on street corners and more! From May 22 to June 2, it was all hands on deck to push out our content and inspire our friends, family and networks to vote for us on the Google Challenge voting site.

Giving Credit

We approached the invitation to the Google Challenge from a celebratory standpoint. Google had not only identified us as a high impact organization, but it had also identified access to credit building and affordable financial tools as a critical need for local communities in the Bay Area. For us, this alone was a major victory.

In the end, MAF did not receive a top 4 spot in the voting campaign, but what we did get was much more valuable. We were able to reach a whole new group of people (more than 2 million!) and let them know how critical financial empowerment and credit building is to creating sustainable futures for hardworking families.

We were humbled by the amazing support from our members, partners, and supporters all over the world. We’re also grateful for an award of $250,000 for making the top 10, so we’ll be able to scale our program to thousands of families in 14 new communities in the Bay Area.

It’s interesting how something as small as an email can change the course of an organization. The voices you raised in support of hardworking families really made a difference. We were able to bring light to the everyday challenges that people without bank accounts or credit scores face, share their triumphant stories of perseverance, and kickstart an important conversation on creating a fair financial marketplace.

Thank you all for being with us through this amazing experience. We couldn’t have done it without you!