The client’s perspective

For the nearly 12,000 people who live on the streets in the greater Seattle/King County area, the gift of a warm blanket or of school supplies for their children can make the difference between distress or degradation—and dignity.

Graham Pruss, WeCount’s co-founder and executive director, understands this point as well as anyone, having personally survived a stretch of homelessness during his teenage years. After moving to Seattle, these experiences led Graham to partner with entrepreneur Jonathan Sposato (GeekWire, PicMonkey) to develop a technology that could help the general public assist people in need within their communities. Recognizing some of the unique characteristics of the homeless population in the area—greater than 50 percent are under age 50; 90 percent have access to Wi-Fi; more than 30 percent have finished at least some college—Graham and Jonathan founded the nonprofit WeCount.

unique characteristics of the homeless population

Navigating social services can be like navigating a labyrinth – many people have no idea where to start. WeCount’s unique approach taps technology as the platform to connect local people in need to those wanting to give, and ultimately to a larger network of resources that can lead homeless people to social services. Using WeCount, a person confidentially posts their individual, unique needs. People looking to donate are then matched to those requests. When a recipient picks up donated WeCount items at a designated social services center, they are encouraged to go a step further and begin accessing a continuum of services. As WeCount says, “We recognize that giving someone a backpack does not end homelessness, but a backpack can start a conversation that secures social services and saves a life.”

In its inaugural year, more than 1,600 users joined WeCount. Donors offered more than 900 requested items, connecting nearly 100 people directly with the social services they needed. Following WeCount’s initial year of operations with limited funds and resources, the organization began charting a path to longer-term sustainability.

unique characteristics of the homeless population

A new view

WeCount planned a reboot “version 2.0” of its donor-recipient-services matching technology, moving onto a mobile platform. As WeCount worked on technology development, the team sought guidance to reimagine its broader business strategy and marketing plans. Eagle Hill Consulting was ready to help. Moreover, our belief in the value of WeCount’s services—and our support of its mission—led us to a pro bono consulting partnership.

Eagle Hill began with a traditional assessment and analysis of WeCount’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Our consultants spent a week collaborating with the WeCount team to understand their organization, processes, technology, and future objectives. Our team learned that WeCount had a clear vision, knew what it wanted to achieve, and understood the challenges ahead.

In many respects, the organization resembled a high-tech, for-profit start-up. WeCount’s founders are visionaries with genuinely big ideas. However, the team was small and resources were scarce. Eagle Hill helped WeCount narrow its focus to better understand its audiences’ needs and motivators, and tailor its marketing approach to reach each one: recipients, individual donors, social services organizations, and corporate partners.

Over the next month, we worked with WeCount to develop a go-to-market strategy based on validated priorities—focusing on users to deliver a product that makes a real difference; continuously identifying what’s working well (including positive PR and community exposure from the first year) and ways to improve; and “nailing it locally”—in other words, prioritizing success in the local Seattle market before looking to expand into new cities (e.g., San Francisco, Los Angeles). Eagle Hill incorporated these priorities into user personas for each target audience, considering differing demographics, information needs, key messages, and outreach channels. We then aligned key performance indicators and metrics to each of WeCount’s strategic priorities, to track return-on-investment and inform future marketing activities. In addition, we helped WeCount document its operational procedures, including mapping desired business processes for the version 2.0 technology and managing information security.

unique characteristics of the homeless population

Unconventional consulting… and breakthrough results

Eagle Hill’s go-to-market strategy has become a foundational document for WeCount, providing a unified understanding of the organization’s future vision and a roadmap for roll-out of the new technology. Eagle Hill’s support has helped WeCount consider marketing itself in more targeted, cost-effective, and compelling ways—and through new channels—while positioning WeCount to grow its presence as a thought leader on homelessness. Further, the strategy has since helped facilitate WeCount’s corporate partnership with Hanes.

Eagle Hill continues to provide WeCount with advisory and marketing support in advance of their version 2.0 technology launch.