By Jordan Hill
When presented with an obstacle, we, as humans, must find a solution to the issue. Creative thinking can be used in many different formats and situations but is used universally. I have spent the last four months on a long-term project for my internship, which has required an immense amount of creative thinking.
My internship has been with Prisma Healths’ non-profit, The Midlands Foundations. At the Foundation we raise money for the hospital to acquire the necessary equipment and funding needed to maintain and improve its health care system to all its patients. As a non-profit organization we have to be very creative with how we raise money. It is not easy work to raise millions of dollars a year for a hospital.
During the Fall, The Foundation puts on an event called the Walk for Life/Hot Pink Half Marathon, which raises money for breast cancer research and testing. It is arguably the biggest event Prisma Health holds annually that takes place in Columbia. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world, it affected events and gatherings of all kind. The hospital was in a crisis mode; understaffed, underfinanced, and exhausted. Just because the Covid-19 Virus was making its presence known, did not suddenly stop all of the other diseases in the world. Breast Cancer is still a leading cause of death amongst women. How could we hold an event with thousands of participants who had weakened immune systems? We would have to adapt and think creatively.
After some research, The Foundation decided to hold a virtual walk/race in its predecessor’s stead. I still get funny looks and questions when I tell people about virtual races. A virtual race is an independent activity that you run on your own whenever and wherever it is convenient for you. The idea itself is brilliant but needed to be developed and would take an overwhelming amount of change to the event we were used to having. My boss, the vice president of The Foundation, used creative thinking when presented with an obstacle and she made a solution. I soon would have to do the same.
This was not an issue that we had ever had before, this took true creative thinking. There were only a handful of virtual races that had ever been held and the idea itself was very new. Virtual races are highly dependent on the access to technology, so most of the world and United States has never had one. Disney is one of the more notable companies that has been doing virtual races for a while. If you cannot have the event in person, bring the event to the person. Disney is all about the experience; we had to still give the race experience to the participants. Racers expect bibs, shirts, medals and goody bags with cool stuff when they sign up for an event, and that is exactly what we were going to give them.
I was brought on as an intern in May after the decision to go virtual had already been decided. My team was still very unsure on how the event would look and if people would even be interested in such a crazy idea. My long-term project was to match the virtual event by creating a virtual goody bag. I had no idea what a virtual goody bag was or how to create one. Looking back at when I was presented with the task, I would never have imagined the end results.
I started the virtual goody bag the same way most people start their creative thinking process; with brainstorming and research. I knew the goody bag would include e-discounts and e-coupons and that my audience had to be able to navigate to. I typed in the words, “virtual goody bag” into the search bar of google and was on my way. I realized what a virtual goody bag really was and looked like. I found out that coupons are put on a page with codes that have links to discounts to online stores or can be printed out. I found out how to construct the virtual goody bag and felt very confident in my ability to carry out the task at hand. Knowing how to make a virtual goody bag, and being able to, are completely different tasks.
I needed to be able to effectively reach sponsors and donors for the virtual goody bag and convince them to give me discounts and coupons to their stores. The world was in the middle of a pandemic and I had the audacity to ask businesses to give me free merchandise and food after just reopening. I had to convince these businesses and stores that they were not only benefitting the hospital but themselves. I drafted a list of reasons why a business would consider donating to The Foundation. The association of helping the hospital was good publicity for these establishments, but I needed more than that to get smaller businesses on board. After some additional research I found out that smaller businesses could use the discounts and coupons given to us as a tax write-off. Sales had been slower for brick and mortar stores in June and July, this was my golden opportunity to get them on board. The coupons would not be used until October, so the businesses were not losing any money or giving anything for free at that time of the ask. Once businesses began to recover, we would release the virtual goody bag in October and help drive business.
The most challenging part of my creative process has been securing donors for the bag. Even though many of the businesses agreed to help with the bag initially, most of them would never follow up or respond to emails when it came time to send the coupons. It has been a four-month process and I have only secured six donations. It can be frustrating when you put a lot of hard work and thinking into a project and the success does not pay off. I am currently taking a step back from my major project and working on smaller projects and daily tasks to give myself a break. I am hoping that by working on other things related to the event I can have another breakthrough that will help me find a way to secure more donors.
I have realized that this project may have been too big to only be put into fruition by me. I have reached out and started asking for help from my coworkers and the board, where it is appropriate. Our IT and media specialist is going to be putting the bag together for me online. This way the bag is put together by a professional who knows what he is doing and can give The Foundation the best look. I have also reached out to the board of directors for Walk For Life and a few of them have agreed to help find potential sponsors. I already have one new sponsor our chairman found for me and I have another one being secured by a long-time supporter.
Creative thinking does not have to be just you; it can incorporate others. I was looking at this project as if I was all alone and had to have some creative miracle to pull it off, when really, I just needed to start treating the project as a team effort. The bag may only have six sponsors, but they are notable ones such as, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Panera, Athleta, Twisted Spur and the state museum. My internship was originally supposed to end September 1, however I was offered an extension until the end of October, and since that offer there has been mention of me coming back for various events later in the year. This was my first professional job and project I had ever been tasked with, but clearly my bosses have taken notice of my work. I am so glad to be taking this class and learning more about creative thinking and its processes. I had no idea how much I would need it and use it in my internship.