All-Star Spotlight: “Community Teammate”– Morales Group and Exodus Refugee Immigration #Dreamteam

Posted on August 28, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

Exodus Refugee Immigration Morales Group

Brackets For Good introduced a new strategic feature to the 2017 Indianapolis tournament: The Community Teammate. Designed to pair local businesses with participating nonprofits to help them increase their reach and strengthen their competitiveness in the tournament, the program raised the stakes and essentially created two teams carrying the ball for each nonprofit – but it didn’t mean anyone got any extra bench time!

One such partnership, between Exodus Refugee Immigration and Morales Group Staffing, was definitely a slam dunk. Morales, a staffing firm that focuses on the local immigrant population, has been recognized as one of the fastest growing Hispanic owned businesses in America and one of the best places to work in Indiana. Their BFG nonprofit teammate, Exodus, has been working to resettle refugees in Indianapolis for over 30 years. Pairing up for the tournament was a natural extension of their ongoing relationship.

The two organizations have been working together for many years, working to secure job placements for refugee clients. The desire for Morales to become a Community Teammate came out of the spirit of their Community Outreach program. Monique Charlebois, Director of Human Resources with Morales, stated, “We live our mission every day. We want to build better futures and we want to do that with our partnerships.”  Morales’ outreach includes financially supporting organizations in their community but also provides a deeper level of commitment and activity, including encouraging employees to do at least 25 hours a year of volunteer work, some of which is on company time. Cole Varga, Executive Director of Exodus, wholeheartedly agrees, “This organization walks the walk. They really care about this population.”

CEO Tom Morales said that when they signed up to be in the BFG Teammate program they specifically asked if Exodus had a partner. Once they were paired up, dedicated staff were assigned to work with the Director of Development at Exodus, Liz Standiford, and together they created a strategy with the ultimate goal of winning the tournament. They also wanted to ensure Exodus raised at least $35-$40,000, a huge increase over previous years’ totals for the organization, but a goal they surpassed, raising $44,000 and making it to the Engaged Eight round.

Amanda Franklin, Branding and Digital Strategy at Morales, revealed one in-house engagement tactic they used; the Lids Free Throw points. Earning $2-$3 just for filling out your donor profile was easy and they earned over $100 from doing that. She noted, “It was also a good opportunity for the staff to get a better understanding of what the tournament is about.”

The two organizations came together to create shared social media messages and strategized their Friday night round-end plans together. Each Friday, Morales, Exodus, or the unofficial third partner, Luna Language Services, hosted a party for staff, volunteers, board members, and friends of each organization. Morales hosted the first week, treating everyone to food, the live BFG feed, and a silent auction of donated goods to help raise more money to put toward the last seconds of the round. Each week as they progressed, video feed of the cheering partygoers would be shared online after the round close.

While they worked closely together, they did not work alone. Tom revealed that a key strategy was reaching out to other affiliated organizations, such as Luna. “Overall, we realized there was no reason not to share in the fun!” he added, “I’m not just talking about the financial piece. It was something very different, so that was the first step – how can we reach out and make it entertaining for everybody.” Monique confirmed, “We definitely strengthened our connection with Luna. For many of us that would go to the events, it was good to get to know other organizations that are also so passionate about this.”

Morales acknowledged that their round-by-round budget occasionally got thrown by the wayside due to the fierce competitiveness amongst the team. Tom said, “I honestly believe that had I been there during our final round, we would have gone over because I wasn’t going to lose! I think it’s really important to note, every time I did give, I didn’t feel like I was buying something. It felt like I was giving to something that was really going to be for the greater good.”

The two organizations share an easy camaraderie, joking back and forth about the tense end-of-round moments they shared. The tournament partnership played a role in creating this level of comfort. Monique commented, “Coming together on the Friday nights, and getting to know the team better, it was a lot of fun. We encouraged people to come by giving them volunteer hours for coming.” Cole agreed, “For some of our non-employment staff who don’t interact with Morales all the time, it was nice to have them here and give them a chance to interact.”

Amanda noted the importance of being invested in your partner. She said, “I don’t think it would have been nearly as successful had we been partnered with someone that we hadn’t had a relationship with. A lot of work goes in behind the scenes, and you’re working very closely together. I would definitely recommend that if someone is going to do this, they partner with someone they have a connection with.”

When asked if they would participate again, Monique was quick to jump in, “Absolutely we would do it again! It is such a great cause and it is so much fun. I would advocate for anyone being a teammate to one of the organizations. As soon as it was over, we were thinking about how we were going to do things differently next year. It was a great way to collaborate, be team players, and support a good cause.” Tom added, “Had the competition not been there, I don’t think we would have raised the same amount at all. I think it was the strategic, competitive component that really got us going.”

And of course, when asked about their Buzzer Beater strategy, everyone agreed… “We won’t reveal it!”

Posted in Brackets For Good, Indianapolis, Nonprofit Story, Sponsor Story