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Big Shoulders Fund Saves a 100-Year-Old Catholic School

How did a Hawthorne client land 50+ pieces of coverage with headlines praising the nonprofit for saving a school? They did it through a mixture of hard work, goodwill, collaborations with like-minded stakeholders, and a strong communications strategy and execution. 

In January 2024, headlines appeared across Chicago and the internet about St. Frances of Rome School closing due to the loss of the Invest in Kids scholarship – a critical scholarship that provided low-income families with tuition to send their children to a school that best fits their learning needs. Following the announcement, Big Shoulders Fund, the school’s and parish’s community, the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Big Shoulders Fund anonymous donors began working diligently to find a way to keep the school open. In early March 2024, these efforts paid off and the details were finalized: the school was going to stay open. 


With the details locked-in, it was time to tell the community and spread the news more broadly about the win. Through emails and meetings, the Hawthorne team worked closely with the Big Shoulders Fund team to develop a press release, a media advisory, and supporting materials to prepare for the announcement. The evening before the announcement event, the Hawthorne team issued a media advisory to Chicago media and other media who has been covering the conversation, teasing that there would be a surprise announcement the following morning at the school. While there were only a couple of curious responses, there was largely silence. 

The morning of the event, the Hawthorne team arrived onsite and greeted a couple of media cameras that were eagerly setting up for the event. As the time of the event marched closer, more media gradually began to show up and text and call the Hawthorne team to request information and interviews. The Hawthorne team was busy onsite, greeting the media and working with them to help ensure they received the necessary information and spoke to the proper sources to build the story they wanted to tell, while ensuring our client was central to the story.  

As the event began, Hawthorne team members offsite began to send the press release to the full media list, coinciding with the live announcement. The press release was shared with all the contacts who received the media advisory as well as anyone who had written about the topic and the media who were there onsite.  

Once the announcement was made, the media frenzy began, and the Hawthorne team alongside the client’s communication team, coordinated interviews at the event with ABC, WGN, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, WBBM, WBEZ, and the Chicago Tribune. After several hours of coordinating interviews and exhausted spokespeople, the event concluded, and the media monitoring began. 

The coverage was outstanding, resulting in more than 54 placements across every major news outlet in Chicago, from print to radio to online to television, securing more than 218M potential impressions. While the numbers are exceptional, the quality of the coverage is the icing on the cake. Big Shoulders Fund was central to the story, positioned in a very positive light, and the coverage included our client’s key messaging. 


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