By the age of 10, Bill McKendry was negotiating home mortgage rates on behalf of his deaf parents. These were the first – and certainly not the last – group of people he gave a voice to in corporate America. Today, his group of choice is nonprofits.
“I have this gift of persuasion,” McKendry said.
“I was born with opportunities to be persuasive and be a voice for brands to help grow their business.”
This idea remains the backbone of McKendry’s renowned advertising agency, Do More Good. More specifically, the agency looks to increase the capabilities of what a nonprofit can do using techniques taken from for profit businesses, and turn them into purpose-driven brands.
Before McKendry started Do More Good, he worked at BBDO based in New York City, one of the biggest agencies in the world. During his time there, he worked with large-scale clients like American Express and Taco Bell.
This was also when he had his first encounter with his business associate, Jim Hanon, who worked across the street as an art director. This across the street relationship was something that would remain constant throughout their business relationship.
In fact, after their careers took them in different directions (McKendry to Michigan, Hanon to Chicago). Hanon lived four doors down from Mckendry’s sister in Chicago. They ran into each other again, but this time, McKendry had a proposition.
“I brought him back to the company I started in Grand Rapids,” McKendry said. “I wanted Jim to do some freelance work for my agency.”
Previously the Vice President of an agency in Chicago, Hanon had been in charge of most of McDonald’s major initiatives and higher-end brand work, as well as work on other brands such as Leo Burnett, Walt Disney, Hallmark and Oldsmobile. His previous work on these impactful projects made him the perfect fit for McKendry’s plans.
He had just landed an account called Wiser Lock; a big account for a small agency in Grand Rapids. “A the time, they were actually a sponsor of a college bowl game. It was a sexy account.”
That was the first account that Hanon did freelance work for.
Things were going well… but not well enough.
“I wanted to make a difference, not just make a living, Jim told me he had that same feeling,” said McKendry. “What started out as a lunch discussion turned into a talk about starting our own advertisement agency.”
“We wanted to be a voice for the non-profit world, for charity, for faith based organizations, and for more human kindness in the way that we were a voice for McDonalds and Taco Bell,” McKendry said.
It was during further deliberation that they found out a key element of their upcoming business: Non-profits were actually not in competition with each other. They were in competition with people’s time and discretionary money.
Armed with this intuitive thinking, they created their company.
“We set out with Hanon McKendry to be the counter balance to help people spend less on Taco Bell and McDonalds and more on non-profits. We had no idea nonprofits would agree with us on that.”
Success grew steadily after that, they tested out their business idea with some nonprofits and their popularity grew. One nonprofit, Mel Trotter Industries, went from $400,000 to $14 million in advertising budget.
Today, McKendry and Hanon work with over 215 nonprofits.
The company is structured to deliver a great product for less than a Chicago agency, according to McKendry. Acting as the counterbalance between non- and for profit organizations, they work to represent businesses like a consumer brand in terms of creativity and excellence.
That’s where Do More Good came from.
“I won an award in 1999 from the American Advertising Association for being the best guy in America doing nonprofit work,” McKendry told us. “Now I speak on nonprofit branding and marketing. They say all you need is a platform that is very sticky. All these nonprofits are doing good but if they invested into their brands and marketed themselves really well and were strategizing like a for profit business, they could afford to Do More Good.”
So the pair did a bit of rebranding themselves and changed the name of their uber successful ad agency to Do More Good.
Their job is to help these nonprofits understand that marketing and advertising is the way of the world these days and is the leverage to actually do more good. Could you do more good with $400,000 or more with $14 million? McKendry believe the answer is quite obvious.
Success was rapid and obvious for Do More Good.
The company grew from 20 employees to 60 very quickly and became one of the top three places in the country doing nonprofit work.
“As big as the advertising and marketing word is, there are virtually no brands in the branding business for nonprofits,” McKendry said. “I could ask 100 people who the biggest agency in the world is and they couldn’t tell me. We are notorious as an industry not to brand ourselves. We branded ourselves and stand for something real, which is Do More Good.”
Do More Good encourages their clients to use this way of thinking as a guideline. They also implement it within their own business.
“Today, people want you to be a really good company in addition to being successful,” McKendry said. “It’s not just about the price. Millennials especially want to support companies they feel good about. So companies have to stand for something that makes people feel good.”
“However, this does not mean that people only want to support philanthropies. For example, Costco is known for treating their employees with respect, Starbucks is also known for this. People want to support companies that are good, that have a purpose.”
Though McKendry and Do More Good have seen great success, as with many entrepreneurs and visionaries, there were roadblocks along the way.
“I remember we were about four months into it and I didn’t think we were going to make it,” he said. “We were in debt and couldn’t take on any more. We thought we had made a mistake and that the market wasn’t ready.”
Just days before they were about to close shop, they landed a major client.
“You can call it luck. I’m not a big believer in that,” McKendry said. “We created our own luck and that’s what kept us going.”
McKendry shared a moment he had after visiting The University of Colorado:
“This one time I went to talk about cause marketing to students. I started showing my work and saw a lot of kids leave, so I stopped showing my work. I called out to a kid before he left and asked him why he was leaving. He told me because the work I was showing was crap. I asked him if he was leaving because of the work or the issue [the nonprofit].
He said the work was good but it’s for an issue that I disagree with. I told him that he needed to sit and learn from me because if you leave, then this issue wins. I want your work to be better than mine. You can leave and let me win with my great work or you can learn and create something better an beat me on this issue.”
“I love my work, but I want a public discourse. I want the right issues to win. I can’t be the voice for all issues. I’m open to someone having a better point of view and doing better work than me. Let the public decide.”
This is an important aspect in and out of the professional world for McKendry and Hanon. Growing up as religious Christians, this value of doing good for the community to the best of your abilities is a very important topic.
“It’s been part of our DNA,” McKendry says. “I grew up with deaf parents, I learned that people need a voice. I always saw a need out there. Jim grew up in a poor family and the church saved him. We’ve both been on the receiving side of help.”
In the near future, Do More Good will work with more for profits as a means to double their offices in new markets nationally. It’s a way for them to Do More Good.