The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 9th Annual Shorty Awards

Meals on Wheels “America, Let’s Do Lunch” Volunteer Recruitment Campaign

Entered in Non-Profit


Currently 1 in 6 seniors – 10 million - across America struggle with hunger and isolation. Meals on Wheels is the national organization that addresses these issues by leveraging nearly 2 million volunteers to deliver a meal and a friendly visit that enable millions of seniors to remain living in their own homes each year.

With the number of seniors projected to double by 2050, and the fact that the large majority of volunteers are seniors themselves (75% are over the age of 55), it is imperative that we inspire a new generation of volunteers.

While Meals on Wheels has very strong name awareness and favorability, research showed that people associated the organization with experiences and memories from the past, and were largely unaware of the work the organization is doing today. Meals on Wheels was viewed as old-fashioned and out of date. Additionally, understanding of the value and scope of services of Meals on Wheels was limited – they were seen solely as a meal delivery service.

Therefore, the primary objectives of the campaign were to:

  • Rebrand Meals on Wheels and the seniors they serve
  • Increase awareness and understanding that Meals on Wheels is contributing to communities across America today
  • Inspire both retirees and a new younger generation to sign up to volunteer in their local communities by showcasing the vibrant seniors Meals on Wheels services, and the benefit the volunteer gets by being involved.
  • Strategy and Execution

    In order to safeguard the future of the Meals on Wheels brand we needed to maintain focus on our core source for volunteers – older adults/retirees – while simultaneously appealing to a new generation of millennial prospects with little understanding of who we are, what we do, and why it's important. Because of our limited budget, we needed to nail an idea that would resonate with both audiences.

    The three key barriers we needed to overcome were:

  • The inherent stigma associated with the elderly in our country (kids and puppies are potentially an "easier" sell to volunteer with)
  • The dated perceptions and limited understanding of the Meals on Wheels brand
  • Logistical challenges of volunteering during the day
  • Anomaly developed a creative idea that effectively turned one of the biggest barriers of volunteering into a benefit. The theme, "America, Let's Do Lunch," enabled us to invite people to volunteer at what was seen as a difficult time of day.

    Additionally, we learned that young people find old people to be scary and uncomfortable to be around. So, we gave the microphone directly to a few of the fabulously endearing and engaging Meals on Wheels clients to charm our audiences and invite them to volunteer.

    The seniors became the heroes and are featured throughout the campaign in online and offline media, as well as becoming the centrepiece of our social content.

    With no media budget, the entire campaign relies on receiving donated media. We knew we needed to start strong to put Meals on Wheels back on the map and on the radar of prospective volunteers. We partnered with Facebook, Upworthy, and social media influencer Meghan Camarena to launch the campaign with concentrated and targeted support, to capture attention quickly.

    To extend the campaign with social and digital activations, we implemented influencer partnerships with digital and traditional celebrities and engaged our audiences on Meals on Wheels social channels. In addition to Meghan Camarena, influencers such as Baddiewinkle, Bill Walton, and Diana Nyad have volunteered with Meals on Wheels as ambassadors on behalf of the campaign.


    The campaign launched in July 2016 to greater marketplace acceptance and effectiveness than we dreamed we'd achieve on many fronts.

    More exciting than that is the fact that, to date, we have generated over 500,000 visits to the campaign microsite and more than 30,000 volunteer recruits!

    Additionally, we built in several studies to measure creative effectiveness and ongoing movement toward our goals and three separate studies indicate that the campaign is already changing perceptions of Meals on Wheels and of seniors, increasing intentions to support Meals on Wheels and to volunteer, and increasing favorability toward the brand. Specifically, among those exposed to the campaign, we saw a 15% increase in awareness, 29% increase in favorability, and 37% increase in intent to donate/volunteer.

    Lastly, the campaign launch in July caused a significant uptick in Meals on Wheels discussions on social media, with Meals on Wheels mentions rising by 40% and accumulating over 10.6k mentions. Tthe projected conversion of microsite visitors into volunteer prospects through filling out a sign-up form was 3.4%, based on Ad Council campaign benchmarks. In this campaign, despite the fact that volunteerism is quite a heavy lift, we have experienced a conversion rate as high as 17% in recent months among the important Millennial audience.


    Video for Meals on Wheels “America, Let’s Do Lunch” Volunteer Recruitment Campaign

    Entrant Company / Organization Name

    Ad Council, Meals on Wheels America, Anomaly


    Entry Credits