Author Archives: Jennifer Marcuson

Welcome to the Line Up Birge & Held Asset Management

Posted on February 25, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

Birge & Held (B&H) is a national apartment real estate, private equity and investment firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Since 2008, B&H has acquired and currently manages over $350,000,000 in multi-family assets across the country. Through private equity and creative debt structures, B&H continues to grow its portfolio of assets and generate strong returns for its investors.

Birge & Held tugofwar6


B&G is dedicated to creating profitable partnerships with their stakeholders, an enriched work environment for employees, best in class properties for their residents, and opportunities for community involvement. They have a Community Service policy for all employees and encourage continuous philanthropic initiatives. In this spirit, B&G has generously signed up to be a BFG 2017 Indianapolis Community Teammate. They are partnered with the Humane Society of Hamilton County, our 2015 Indianapolis Champion!

We are excited to see what B&H and the Humane Society unleash in the 2017 tournament together.

Posted in Indianapolis

Career Counseling Organization Ready for tip-off in Baltimore

Posted on January 31, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

Maryland New Directions (MND) was introduced to Brackets For Good last year when they received a postcard inviting them to check out the website. It didn’t take them long to realize the value the forthcoming tournament could bring, and they registered to be among the first competitors in the 2017 Baltimore tournament. 

Offering no-cost career counseling and job skills training, MND has been serving low-income Baltimore residents for 43 years. They offer a range of training services such as career assessments, mock interviews, one-on-one coaching, and job placement assistance. Being well-versed in professional skills development, it is no surprise that the team at MND has already huddled up and developed a full tournament strategy!

Development Manager Barbara Reed says that the team is busy “getting in game mode” for the upcoming competition. They have already warmed up by creating “Team MND” marketing materials, have drafted local businesses to support their tournament run, and are developing video clips. Most of their tournament playbook is top-secret, but Barbara revealed that they will roll out a “Jump Shot for Jobs” promotion. Everyone from volunteers to board members are being put through the paces in order to be able to spread the word, plan special events, and connect with their supporters.

Barbara reports that they have put the BFG website and locker room tools to good use in creating their game-plan. They have viewed the training materials, taken advantage of the available logos and graphics, and integrated the sample social media posts into their planned messaging. Barbara says that the provided writing samples help them to more clearly articulate what BFG is all about in a consistent manner. Ensuring that everyone is getting the same clear and concise message about BFG will help most effectively encourage their supporters to participate, both locally and across the nation.

MND changes lives through employment. Since 1973, they have worked with nearly 140,000 individuals. As they enter 2017, they do so with hopes to grow their newest Youth Opportunity work initiative, focused on unemployed inner city residents, aged 18-24. If MND was to secure the Baltimore Championship title, the funds would be used to support targeted efforts specifically for that demographic. No matter how far they advance, Barbara says that MND is looking forward to new donors, community support, and a great deal of fun. With only 24 days to go until tip-off, the MND team is in great shape and ready to score early and often!


Posted in Brackets For Good | Tagged 2017, Baltimore, Nonprofit, Nonprofit Interview

Volunteer Run Organization with Successful Tournament Runs

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Jen Marcuson


First Book is a national organization that aims to close the achievement gap and attain educational equity, by providing kids, classrooms, and communities in need with books and educational resources. First Book Indy, the local Indianapolis chapter of the organization, is committed to providing access to new books for children in need in Marion County and the surrounding counties. This fully volunteer-staffed group has competed in three Indianapolis Brackets For Good tournaments and has raised over $13,000 for their mission.

Despite not having any full-time staff, no budget for promotion, and changes at the national level that resulted in retiring their local website in 2015, they have managed to successfully compete in the tournaments through good organization and planning, leveraging the skills and passion of their volunteers, and utilizing the resources of the national organization whenever possible.

Before the start of each tournament, the local group discussed the competition in their board meetings. Everyone on the board, comprised of about a dozen people, was involved in idea generation. A public relations team of two took over the plans for the social media aspect of the competition. One member planned and scheduled most of the posts, but input came from multiple members, such as the idea for their “unselfie” promotion, which featured facts about literacy. Material from the national website and blog was curated and repurposed for social posts. They also launched a giveaway for donors during a specific week of the tournament. Additionally, members used their own social media accounts to promote First Book to a wider audience and several different members attended BFG events.

They relied on the professional knowledge of their volunteers; their lead for public relations works in the field, and had experience with similar campaigns. They did their research with the content created by the national organization, and planned ahead for the “unselfie” promotion by taking several pictures of board members to use later in the tournament. The national organization also supported them by retweeting some of their Twitter posts and by donating to their giveaway.

Without spending any money specifically for the tournament, and by strategically using Facebook, Twitter, and e-newsletters, as well as leveraging the use of their board and personal networks, they were able to raise awareness about their cause and attract many new donors. Over their 3 years BFG, First Book states that 83% of the donors that came to them through the tournament were new to them. In 2015, their highest-scoring and furthest advancing year, First Book reports that they definitely saw additional benefits from advancing into the second and third rounds.

First book has succeeded by working together as a team and divvying up the tournament responsibilities amongst their members. Everyone in this group owns a share of the points they’ve scored, the supporters they have attracted, and the educational advancement of many children for whom the love of reading will serve them their whole lives.

Posted in Brackets For Good, Nonprofit Story

Tournament Competitors; Now Community Collaborators

Posted on November 14, 2016 by Jen Marcuson

logo-brackets-for-good-2016-twin-cities-1The final round of the 2016 BFG Twin Cities tournament came down to Spare Key and The Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association (LEMA). Spare Key is an organization that provides assistance to families in crisis with critically ill or seriously injured children. LEMA supports families of fallen law enforcement officers when they have lost their lives in the line of duty. Despite similar missions to assist Minnesota families in need, the two organizations had only a limited knowledge of each other’s work before they found themselves head-to-head, battling it out to become the first Twin Cities champion.

In what was the highest-scoring final round of all the 2016 city tournaments, Spare Key edged out LEMA to win, but their match-up didn’t end there. After the tournament, LEMA President Jeff Beahen reached out to Spare Key. In the spirit of shared excitement for the successes both organizations experienced, a dialogue formed about how they could leverage the momentum of the tournament and create a partnership.

spare-key-logoSpare Key Executive Director, Erich Mische, noted that many people on their Board of Directors had been involved in government and public policy and had the privilege of working with the men and women of law enforcement throughout their careers. Because of that body of knowledge, they were pleased to learn of the profound work that LEMA does on behalf of those who are committed to protecting and serving communities throughout Minnesota.

lema_logoJeff said on behalf of LEMA that while they didn’t know Spare Key before the tournament, the more they learned, the more interest they had in their organization. He noted, “toward the end, we mentioned that if we had to lose, at least it would be to Spare Key, as we admired their mission and their passion for those they served.”

The outcome of the conversations between the two organizations was the creation of a program to provide housing grants to Minnesota Law Enforcement families with critically ill or seriously injured children in the hospital. Spare Key designated their $10,000 prize from winning the tournament toward this program and LEMA donated an additional $5,000 to Spare Key to be used for the initiative.

Erich said, “we believe it has made many families who might not otherwise know of Spare Key aware of our program and services. Equally important, those families have shared information about our program to others which we believe will ultimately result in Spare Key being an important resource to law enforcement families who have sick and injured children in the hospital.” He added, “one of our strategic goals and objectives for 2017 is to increasingly highlight the relationship with LEMA and more proactively promote our program to law enforcement families throughout Minnesota.”

Jeff stated that the new relationship, “truly opened our eyes to the value of working with other non-profits toward common goals. We have a whole new approach to our marketing and branding after Brackets for Good, and we are so extremely grateful for this experience.” The feeling is mutual for Erich, who said, “we are privileged to have come to know the individuals leading LEMA, and the families they serve”.

Congratulations to both Spare Key and LEMA for this incredible endeavor. Friendly competition is an incredibly powerful force for GOOD. We look forward to seeing what these two champion organizations can do together in their community.

It’s Competitive Giving. Everybody Wins.

Posted in Nonprofit Story, Twin Cities | Tagged 2016, champion, Nonprofit Interview, Twin Cities

Get to know our 2016 Indianapolis Champion, The Joseph Maley Foundation

Posted on October 19, 2016 by Jen Marcuson

The Joseph Maley Foundation was ejoseph-maleystablished in 2008 with the mission to serve children of all abilities. They focus on disability awareness, adaptive athletics, youth leadership, and service learning. They are on track to impact more than 26,000 children with their programs this year alone. Bracket For Good is proud to have played a part in assisting JMF achieve their goals.

JMF has participated in three back-to-back BFG tournaments, advancing further each year. In 2014, they earned over $10,000 and advanced to the Supported Sixteen round. In 2015, they were our runner up, scoring over $75,000 – an impressive advancement! But it was in 2016 that they came out on top, bringing home over $85,000.

How did they do it? JMF reports that they employed three distinct phases in the 2016 tournament: Education, Gamification, and Targeted Messaging. First, they focused on educating their supporters on how the tournament works leading up to the launch and throughout the opening round. Next, they focused on the competitive aspect, emphasizing the fact that any gifts received through the tournament had the opportunity to translate into an additional $10,000. Finally, they closed the final rounds of the tournament with a targeted message, their #SpiritOf76 campaign. The foundation namesake, Joseph Maley, was born on July 6, 1990. They encouraged donors to give any iteration of $76 ($7, $760, etc.,) in celebration of Joseph and his legacy.

joseph-maley-foundationTheir tournament run was successful, not only in raising funds, but in attracting new supporters. In 2016, they received donations from 57 new, first-time donors. JMF plans to use the funds to make strategic additions to their staff, support their seven ongoing programs, and update the functionality of their website.

Throughout the entire tournament, JMF embodied the spirit of sportsmanship and a winning attitude by celebrating and cheering on other competing organizations in our community. In our eyes, this makes them truly a champion worth celebrating.

Posted in BFG History, Brackets For Good, Fundraising, Indianapolis, Nonprofit Story | Tagged Joseph Maley

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