Behind the Scenes of the $35K donation to Atlanta Beats COVID

If you’ve been following my social media posts, hopefully you’ve seen my posts that led to a $35,000 donation for Atlanta Beats COVID (ABC) on September 9, 2020 from Jim Ellis Automotive. There were many unexpected twists and turns during this journey, and it is my goal to give you the behind the scenes insights in this article. October 1, 2020 Update: Jim Ellis Automotive published a press release on this campaign.

Before I get started, I wanted to take a moment to discuss this most rewarding part of this process, the PEOPLE. I’ve made so many new friends through this process and renewed old friendships thanks to this global pandemic. Huge THANK YOU to everyone (too many to name, but I will try) that I have worked with and met (mostly virtually) during these unprecedented times. Decatur Makers: Irm, Lee, Chris, April. Maker Station: Tanju, Sean, Randy, Bret. Roswell Firelabs: William. Gwinnett Geekspace: Josh. Skyler, Janet, Keith, April, Milt, Fabien, Becky, Deb, Kayla, Gina, Julie, Nathan, Max, Maddy, Sharon, Alice, Stephen, Phil, Shelby, Karinn, Wesley, Jimmy, Shane, John, Rom, Shannon, Brittany.

In the early days at ABC, I focused on 3D printing face shield frames and providing weekly metrics updates via Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and IG. 

Live Update Milestones:

June 15, 2020 – I was featured by the Georgia Tech Alumni Association (online and in print) for my work with ABC and making face shields with my 3D printer. The actual interview with Jennifer Hersiem, Georgia Tech Alumni Association was conducted on April 6, 2020.

June 29, 2020 – Sean Mills contacts me about taking on a leadership role at ABC. I eagerly agree. 

July 6, 2020 – Irm and Milt officially transition leadership activities to Sean and myself. At that point, Sean and I had very few resources (i.e. $$$). We agree on an ABC Phase 2 of restarting fundraising and volunteer recruiting. I immediately get to work. I authored the Phase 1 to Phase 2 press release here

July 7, 2020 – I started sifting through the backlog of unfulfilled requests and I found an inquiry from Shannon Dominy from AJC dated June 28. I check with everyone via Slack and no one has responded to this media interview. I email Shannon and get a response almost immediately. Great news, AJC wanted to feature Atlanta Beats COVID. Shannon provides a list of questions, I write up the answers and review with Sean; I submit my write-up along with a library of pictures. Sean and I start working through the backlog of requests for PPE. I start responding to requests from school principals and administrators. 

July 10, 2020 – St. David’s Preschool and The Cottage School principals personally come to The Maker Station to pick up free face shields. What a rewarding day to volunteer for ABC!

Sunday, July 19, 2020 – The ABC article was published on the 2nd page of the Metro section of the AJC.

July 21, 2020 – Karinn, Marketing Manager from Jim Ellis Automotive contacts ABC through our website. I immediately see her form submission, post it on Slack, and set up a meeting with Karinn and Sean for 5:00 pm that same day. Our initial conversation goes well, and we continue to converse via email. I pull in Irm to provide 501(c)3 paperwork. 

July 29, 2020 – Karinn notifies us (ABC)  that the Jim Ellis sponsorship is official. All 18 Jim Ellis dealerships will donate a portion of their sales from Labor Day weekend. Woo Hoo! Now we get to work on the creative.

July 30, 2020 – I meet with John Witte, Creative Lead from Mnemonic Agency to discuss the TV commercial featuring ABC. I submit existing videos from the Maker Station and Roswell Fire Labs, but they have very specific requirements in mind. In a pinch, I turn my home office into a mini-studio and shoot some video assembling face shields. Link to raw footage here. The face shields I assembled in the video were donated later that day to Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), a non-profit providing free mobile COVID testing.

August 11, 2020 – I collaborate with Karinn on the upcoming Jim Ellis Labor Day press release featuring ABC.

August 18, 2020 – Go LIVE day! Press release, TV commercial, radio, social media, all go live for the Jim Ellis sponsorship. I work with Sean and Keith on ABC’s end to update the website, contact press, schedule social media posts. Sean suggests a “Shield-a-Thon,” an event at a dealership where we give away hundreds of face shields to the public for Labor Day weekend. Karinn loves the idea and schedules our “Shield-a-Thon” for Saturday, September 5, 2020. We keep everyone at ABC in the loop via Slack.

8/20, 8/24, 8/31, 9/4, 9/5, and 9/6 – Social Media posts featuring Jim Ellis Automotive

August 25, 2020 – I write and blast an email to the ABC mailing list about the sponsorship. ABC team notified via Slack. Metrics: 37.8% open rate

August 26, 2020 – Conference call with Karinn and Sean to go over the details of the upcoming Shield-a-Thon. We work with Karinn to create social media artwork and signage for the event.

August 27, 2020 – I go LIVE on ABC’s Facebook and Instagram announcing the sponsorship.

September 1, 2020 – I write and blast an email announcing the “Shield-a-Thon” to ABC’s mailing list. 28.7% open rate ABC team notified via Slack.

Then we hit rough waters, Uh Oh!

Requests are up and Sean allocates all remaining face shields at The Maker Station. There are now zero face shields at the Maker Station. Sean orders more face shield making materials, but the shipment is delayed. Meanwhile, our lens cutting machine is down for maintenance and we are short on face shield lenses. Fortunately, William and Skyler come to the rescue working after hours at Roswell FireLabs to make 300 face shields for the Shield-a-Thon.

September 5, 2020 – William, Sean, Paul (my great sport of a husband), and I meet Karinn at Audi Atlanta at 10:30 to start setting up for our Shield-a-Thon. It’s a beautiful day, thank goodness for no rain days in Atlanta. We meet customers and employees and everyone is very appreciative for the face shields.

September 5 – 8, 2020 – I work with Karinn and team on the location for the check presentation ceremony. Karinn decides on the Maker Station for September 9, 2020. ABC team is invited via Slack.

September 9, 2020 – Check Presentation Ceremony

Another great day for ABC! Jimmy Ellis, President of Jim Ellis Automotive, and his son Wesley come to the Maker Station to hand ABC a check for $35,000!!!

Everyone at ABC is blown away by their generosity. Watch the check presentation ceremony.

Behind the scenes, Karinn keeps the big check in the video, and I get to take the actual $35,000 check to Irm for depositing.

September 14, 2020 – The real check deposit day for $35,000. I meet Irm to deposit the real $35,000 check. To keep with social distancing norms, I slide the check through a crack in my window.

Epilogue: The $35,000 has already been put to use to purchase PPE for more schools in the area and has injected new life into Atlanta Beats COVID. Thank you to everyone on the Jim Ellis team for your generous donation! Thank you to the volunteers, partners and sponsors at Atlanta Beats COVID to help make this happen!  Jim Ellis Automotive published a press release on this campaign.

Caroline Dunn is an experienced marketing executive combining her natural leadership ability and engineering education in marketing communications, content marketing, social media, and product management. She has a proven track record in exceeding sales objectives, leading execution teams, and campaign management.


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