YWCA Chicago Launches its 140th Anniversary Celebration

This summer, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago is celebrating its anniversary with a bold campaign throughout Chicagoland. The YWCA has been challenged with low brand awareness and misunderstanding, often mistaken for the “swim and gym” YMCA. “Without the ‘W’” launches this July with ads showcasing the distinct impact women have in our communities.

The ‘W’ stands for women—the ones YWCA activates through support and programming. Removing the ‘W’ emphasizes that all of our lives would change without the presence of women; it takes a united community—comprised of women, men, young, old—to thrive. Through the campaign, YWCA shows that the ‘W’ is vital.

The new “Without the ‘W’” advertisements physically remove the ‘W’ from iconic Chicago landmarks and communities, such as “Windy City,” “Lakeview” and “Englewood.” The missing W’s beg the question: what if, suddenly, the women were gone? What would our city look like? What would become of our city? How would we move forward?

The campaign is a result of the YWCA’s unique business model, which breaks the mold from traditional non-profit structures—the organization is actually turning the commonplace “donor model” on its side. YWCA believes that the highest potential for advancement requires more than donations; it requires a collaborative relationship, providing both parties a win-win. Today, YWCA partners with large corporations, community organizations, government officials and even employees, to drive significant impact.

“In an era of social-driven value, we are building key relationships with companies and brands that share the same vision of a world where the marketplace advances society.” says Dorri McWhorter, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. “Really, we’re mirroring a strategy of any traditional business model—it’s just not one typically seen in the ‘non-profit’ space.”

YWCA’s implementation of this business-like approach has allowed them to partner with Uber.  Uber and YWCA launched a national campaign in 2015, which benefited both parties. Women enrolled in YWCA’s economic empowerment programs were offered discounted rides to/from job interviews and training programs, while the “Drive to Thrive” campaign supplied Uber with 5,000 new women drivers in Chicago alone.

And, in its crucial anniversary year, McWhorter needed the help of a VSA to clear up misperceptions and reach new audiences. “VSA helped us reimagine ourselves in a way I never thought possible,” says McWhorter. “They quickly became an extension of our team and the new platform will serve as the backbone to all of our outreach over the next year.”

“Without the ‘W’” features out-of-home, print, digital, along with event activation. Already on the calendar: YWCA will “takeover” the Chicago Sky basketball game on July 10, with a meet and greet with player and YWCA-supporter, Imami Boyette.

See the campaign on MediaPost, AgencySpy, WGN Chicago and FOX Good Day Chicago.