Hale Advisors Applies Client Approach to Help Address Domestic Violence

Hale Advisors Applies Client Approach to Help Address Domestic Violence

By Nancy Meyer

When Beth Bengtson and Zoe Dunn signed on Hale Advisors to sponsor a local One Billion Rising event in February 2013 to raise awareness and end violence against women, little did they know just how much their services would be needed.

Because Hale Advisors is a women-owned business, Beth and Zoe believe the company has a responsibility to empower women. They honor this commitment by not only donating 1% of company gross revenues each year to a local and an international charity, but also by putting those dollars to work for positive change.

Their vision for that Valentine’s Day One Billion Rising event was to not only “rise up, dance and strike” to end violence against women and girls, but to also educate people about how much domestic abuse happens locally, and what individuals can do about it. Beth and Zoe’s approach to their community work mirrors what they do for clients in their marketing and communication practice: research, education, storytelling, evaluation, and support.

The One Billion Rising event focused on educating participants through speeches, a short film, and a panel discussion; moving them through music and dance; and empowering them with facts, hope, inspiration, and solidarity. It attracted 200 participants, some of whom turned out to be quite influential, including celebrities and government officials.

Local singer/songwriter Natalie Merchant felt so moved by the experience and by hearing the director of the local domestic violence shelter give detailed accounts of terrorized women fleeing for their lives in the night with their children that she decided to help connect these families in crisis with the members of our community who have the privilege of living in peace and security. As a result, Natalie asked Beth and Zoe to support her in organizing a benefit concert for the Washbourne House of Ulster County and the Grace Smith House of Dutchess County – and the Shelter Concert was conceived.

Less than four months after One Billion Rising, on June 2, 2013 at the Fisher Center at Bard College, the Shelter Concert featured Natalie Merchant & The Kalmia String Quartet along with local singers Simi Stone and Yungchen Lhamo for a night of music and message that drew attention to the grave problem of domestic violence in the Hudson Valley. The event raised about $10,000 each for the Washbourne House and Grace Smith House.

“We were called on because, in short, we get the job done,” Beth says. “Just as our clients are change agents in their companies and industries, we took this project on to prompt change in the community and make a difference in the world and the lives of women and children.”

Beth and Zoe applied the Hale Advisors’ client approach to organizing the concert by researching the topic; developing and designing an infographic to illustrate the local domestic incident reports, arrests and deaths; creating a website; telling stories of women affected by violence; marketing the event and bringing together attorneys, elected officials and decision makers from the two local counties to effect change.

While the Shelter Concert drew 700 people and achieved its financial goals, it also did much more.  

·       Hale Advisors created an infographic to distill the harrowing statistics into an easy to understand comparison of the two local counties. The beauty of the infographic is that one can easily visualize the impact – and get the meaning quickly, without much reading. The picture spoke volumes and has been used extensively to raise awareness locally.

·       There is now better communication between Ulster County and Dutchess County offices. People who are on the frontlines have started meeting and talking, looking for ways to address this issue of domestic violence.

·       The Shelter concert website raised visibility for the concert, shaped the educational story and messaging, and was the launching pad for outreach efforts.

·       Visibility of both shelters and the lives they’ve saved increased. The audience gave a standing ovation not only to the singers, but to the workers in the shelters and the attorneys who confront this issue and help the victims on a daily basis.

·       People were educated people on the available services to address domestic violence. The event garnered a lot of local press and some national press, so if just one family is positively affected, we’ve made a difference.

“For me, it’s about the circle of influence,” Beth says. “We invited Natalie Merchant to our One Billion Rising event, and she brought Yungchen Lhamo; then her coming to our event led to the creation of the Shelter Concert, where 700 people showed up and phenomenal connections were made.”

“We hope the work we did for One Billion Rising and the Shelter Concert will encourage other business owners to think about how they can apply their expertise to help their communities. For Hale Advisors, we applied the approach we use with our clients and translated that into a clear plan to help fight the issue of domestic violence in the community,” explained Beth. “For us, education, communication, and empowerment go hand in hand.”