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Market Research and Community-Outreach
to African-American & Black Community Volunteers

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Project: Market Research and Community-Outreach to African-American & Black Community Volunteers 

Client Company: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee

Dates of project: 2019 - 2021 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee works to provide mentorship and guidance to youth facing adversity, operating under the belief that every child possesses incredible potential. Historically, the organization had experienced challenges in recruiting Black male volunteers to serve as Big Brothers to Littles within the program in Middle Tennessee creating a waitlist for Black youth looking for a mentor. BBBSMT partnered with CST to conduct market research with Black and African-American men, including current and prospective volunteers. CST was then retained to design and implement a social media campaign to build presence with the target audience.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee matched over 1,000 Littles with adult mentors in 2019 across Black, White, Hispanic, and Multi-Race ethnic backgrounds. 588 of these Littles identify as Black or African-American, and 75% of these mentees reside in urban environments. According to tracked demographic data, African-American or Black volunteers are underrepresented within the BBBSMT volunteer base, only making up 161 of 982 adult volunteers. Our work was centered around engaging with this key audience and later, building BBBSMT brand awareness in the hopes of increasing this number throughout the coming years. 

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CST’s work: 

In August 2019, Culture Shift Team (CST) began conducting market research of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee’s community brand in the African-American and Black community for the purposes of volunteer recruitment. The goals for this project included bringing insight and understanding to the organization around the brand’s awareness and perception within the Black community, and the identification of barriers to recruitment of Black male Bigs and volunteers. Acknowledging the nuance that is inherent within any successful community outreach and recruitment campaign, Culture Shift Team evaluated organizational brand, brand presence, current strategies and engaging with community members, leaders, and key stakeholders. CST leveraged partnerships with area Black and multicultural fraternity alumni associations to recruit prospective volunteers.


Discovery: In the initial stage of this project, CST gathered data from those inside and outside of the organization. The facilitation of a focus group and a volunteer survey tool were identified as the most valuable qualitative and quantitative methods of collecting input from current African-American male volunteers and individuals who would be considered part of BBBSMT’s prospective volunteer base.

  • Focus groups were held to hear from  men who were identified as potential volunteers.  Participants were asked to provide their insight on mentoring, the client brand, BBBSMT marketing and advertising materials, and to share their experience with key aspects of the organization’s mission. In defining what mentorship, community, and connection meant for them, participants also assisted CST in identifying areas where BBBSMT messaging and impact could be refined. 

  • An online/phone survey was conducted with current BBBSMT Black volunteer mentors and alumni in order to capture their experiences with the organization. Questions captured their satisfaction with the onboarding and matching process, perceptions of the organization, and brand awareness. 

  • Interviews with three (3) key community partners serving the Black and AA community.

  • Interviews with client leaders and team members serving the Black and AA community.

Development: Target market profiles were developed along with a community engagement campaign strategy.

  • Virtual meetings with potential Big Brothers and Big Sisters

  • Graphic design 

  • Social media posts and ad buy on Facebook and Instagram


Delivery: CST’s multicultural marketing is currently conducting a pilot campaign with the goal of increasing the target audience by 20% in a period of three months. The campaign includes social media content development, a schedule of boosted posts and advertisements targeting zip codes where the African American population is 10% and higher. It also includes vetting and securing partnerships with Black-owned businesses for outreach and the creation of a pipeline of mentors for the organization.

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