It was recently announced that Indiana was going to spend $2 million dollars with an outside PR firm to help repair the image of Indiana post RFRA. Good intentions but the combination of hiring an outside (not from Indiana) firm and the amount of the spend has raised some eyebrows. Understandably. I also understand the good intentions behind the spend. Indiana has many other stories to tell. Most of us are not homophobic. "Hoosier Hospitality" is a real thing. Let's tell that story.
But I think there is a better, smarter way to spend $2 million.
Once a year at SmallBox we do Nice Grants. It's a pretty simple premise. We give away 10 $1k grants to people (not just non-profits) with "nice" ideas for making Indy a better place to live. This year we have been joined by our friends at Developer Town (thanks guys!). The application form is super simple and we always get a great pool of applications. Then we write 10 $1k checks for the best ideas and see what happens. No strings attached.
What we have found is that $1k is often enough to tip the scale. To get a community project started, to fund a music festival to start an after-school program for kids, etc. Read about 2013 and 2014 projects. Each $1k invested has a real impact on the community. It makes it a better place to live. It also creates great content. We collect that content and share it with the world. We tell the story of our Nice Grants winners. This helps them as well. Exposing them to new opportunities.
So what if we took the $2 million the state is looking to spend on PR and do 2000 Nice Grants? We can call it something else, it's the idea not the name that matters. Then tell those stories. Real stories about real people doing great things in their community.
What do you think would get the attention of national media more? I'd place my bet on 2000 small stories than one big one.
ps- 2015's Nice Grants closing at 5pm this Friday April 17th!