non-profit spotlight | sexual trauma services of the midlands

Layla Ferjani | Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands

Hannah: Hello everyone and welcome back to DWGTV. I’m Hannah and today I’m joined by Layla Ferjani from Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands. Today we’re going to be talking about how one, Columbia non-profits, where Layla works, she’s the director of marketing there, how they’re really making an impact on the community and using digital marketing best practices and tactics to engage supporters and really educate the Columbia area about sexual violence. 

Layla if you want to take a second and introduce yourself and explain just what Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands does. 

Layla: Hi everyone. Thanks for having me, Hannah. Like Hannah said, I’m the director of marketing at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands. It is a rape crisis center that serves five counties within the Midlands: Richland, Lexington, Newberry, Claredon and Sumter counties. We are a direct-service organization which means we provide individual and group counseling and advocacy services directly to survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones. And then the second half of our organization is our prevention and education curriculum. We are educating as young as age 3 all the way into adulthood on how individuals can identify and prevent sexual violence. 

Hannah: What is your role as director of marketing? What does that really entail? What does the day in the life of Layla look like? 

Layla: I guess in short I plan and implement strategic communication programming to further our organization’s mission. But really aside from what I do day to day is obviously administrative tasks of checking my email, and looking at social and replying to individuals whenever they tweet at us or interact with our social posts, or graphic design work. It kind of depends on the season. We just wrapped up event season because April is sexual assault awareness month and so that has come and gone. Now I’m really focusing on quarter 4 and our fiscal year and see what marketing goals I had implemented at the beginning of the year worked, and then obviously what didn’t work because not all of my ideas work. And really trying to figure out how do we expand on those. And then come July, strategic planning for the upcoming fiscal year. 

Hannah: Marketing as a nonprofit, I know there are some unique challenges there that y’all face. What are some that you have experienced in your role? Like nonprofit specific challenges when it comes to marketing? 

Layla: I think anyone in the nonprofit sector can relate to budget and time constraints. I wish we had thousands of dollars to spend every month on advertising and digital marketing. If I had a 4-6-person staff where everyone focused on one thing, we could get everything done. And then just time. I am going from social media to graphic design work to website management to media relations just general internal communications work. I think those are our two biggest struggles. I have to manage my time very well and especially when it comes to our budget, really put in dollars within marketing targets that I know will make results.

Hannah: That’s definitely something we hear a lot is the time constraints and the budget constraints. How have you adapted your schedule and built productivity best practices for yourself to make sure that you’re being efficient, make sure that the tactics and strategies that you’re coming up with are going to be effective? How have you adapted to that in your role? 

Layla: I think it really is getting out of that world of daily things. Making sure that when I set my goals at the beginning of the year I can really implement them and set myself up for success, so I don’t get caught like, “Oh my gosh it’s Monday and I haven’t posted anything on social media today. What am I going to post? Let me spend 3 hours trying to think of something to post on social media for today.” So really taking that time in our offseason, so I don’t have to struggle daily; just do my job. 

As far as our budget stuff, just really thinking, “Well where can we get the most bang for our buck?” Specifically, within advertising and within social media marketing. When do I know our audience is most engaged? It’s obviously during our event season. That’s when we sink the most money into our social media marketing, or into advertising, especially within special publications within our news outlets. Just really thinking when is our audience most likely going to recognize us and want to get to know us and just using that to make sure our dollar goes as far as it can. 

Hannah: Those are some really good points. As a nonprofit, you’re speaking to a lot of different kinds of audiences. You have the supporters that you already have, you have donors, and volunteers. How in your marketing strategies do you ensure that you’re reaching all of those different audiences? 

Layla: Something that really made me figure out how often we’re communicating with individuals it’s just a broad editorial calendar for social media specifically. I think social media is definitely one of the biggest tools a nonprofit can use as far as budget constraints and for being able to talk to a mass amount of people all the time. Looking at my monthly social media calendar and figuring out, “Okay on Wednesdays we talk to volunteers, Friday we talk to our educational community partners, Monday we’re talking to donors, Tuesday it’s whatever organic content going on, and then Thursday I might specifically target clients to come in and seek services with us.” And then just rotating that through the weeks. We do a lot of thank-yous. It’s very important for us to show how grateful we are for our volunteers, and our donors, and people that trust us to come to our organization to seek healing. 

And then, of course, our second mission is to educate the community about sexual violence and the impact that it has. And that’s a big message of us. Like did you know that 1 in 33 men and 1 in 4 women will be affected by this sometime in their life? And just educating that this is a huge problem. But yeah, just using my monthly editorial calendar for social to push out content through our blog, in the media, just to stay relevant and kind of keep my head on straight and make sure we talk to everyone. 

Hannah: Yeah that’s great for anyone, even if you’re not a nonprofit, just to cycle through those different audiences. Every industry, every company, every organization has several different personas they’re trying to reach, so I think that’s a great way that y’all do it, is kind of have certain days dedicated to talking to different audiences. I know you mentioned educating the community about Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands and really getting the community aware of this, like you mentioned. What are some ways that you do that through marketing? 

Layla: This year we’ve done a lot within constant contact through our email marketing. We really try to use things like, Giving Tuesday, and Midlands Gifts and our end of the year annual appeal to really let people know big of an impact this is. Obviously, we’re doing a financial ask, so it’s like, “Look at what your financial ask is directly impacting.” We’ve seen great results through that just seeing through our click-through rates, getting together our email list, just when you put in those statistics and you make them relevant to the 

Midlands community just how open the community is to eradicate this issue. 

Second, we do a lot on social media. Facebook fundraisers have been a great thing for us, just being like, “Hey, why don’t you donate through Facebook directly?” So that’s been a great benefit to us. Our email marketing has been better this year since I’ve taken the time. Like I said you just have to take the time. Just taking the time to update those email lists and making sure that your audiences are still relevant and interested in what you have to say. 

Hannah: Fundraising, like you said is a huge part of what y’all do. And in your posts, you have that financial ask in there. What digital marketing tactic have y’all seen the most success with when it comes to fundraising? Has it been those emails? Has it been social media marketing asking for donations directly through Facebook? What have you seen through trial and error? 

Layla: I definitely think it has been social media. We had our annual Walk A Mile In Their Shoes event in April. About 10 days before the event we started doing a Fundraising Ask on social every day where we would ask, “Today let’s try to raise between $500 and $1,000.” And then directly say like, “Today we’re going to sponsor our closed closets.” Our closed closet is when a survivor reports to a hospital. Usually, during the evidence collection process, they get their clothes taken, and then what do they go home in an ugly hospital gown? No. So we give them a new pair of clothes to go home in. We don’t ostracize them any more than they already have been. I think our goal is to raise $750 for the day to sponsor the clothes closet for a year. Those ten days of ‘asks’ really, I think we were at $74,000 and it got us up to almost $86,000 in those 10 days. We really do see the reward of asking on social media specifically for our organization. 

Hannah: That really makes sense too now that you’re explaining that because I would think it kind of gets the community feeling like they’re a part of something and they see that this person is giving and they want to join in on that too and just rally together for the common good. That’s really cool, and really impressive that y’all raised that much in just 10 days. 

What have y’all learned from working in marketing within a nonprofit? 

Layla: I mean its kind of like sales in a different sense. It really is like you are selling this organization that doesn’t necessarily have a product. So while maybe for-profit that they’re trying to sell, we serve. We have services but they’re at no cost. But really you are selling the organization’s mission and you’re selling an idea that we want to end sexual violence. I really think that it has taught me a lot about how to specifically craft messages for specific audiences. It has really taught me great time management skills and how to do a lot with a little but I think it really has given me a wide variety of skill sets that I can take to my next job. Like going from social media marketing to email marketing to mass mailing. While I might ask the same thing in every single one of them, I have to ask them differently. It really has taught me how to crack a message but in 4 different ways. 

And then just personally it’s really helped me get to know my community better. I mean we network with so many people within the community, within the nonprofit sector, and for various businesses. I’ve lived in Columbia my whole life and some of these places and some of these organizations that we partner with I had never even heard of. Now I’m like, “Now I know where I want to go if I want to buy a guitar.” I know all of these business executives and it really has been such a cool opportunity and now I know a great organization that can help individuals if they’re ever impacted by this. I think that is one of my favorite things. 

Hannah: That’s a really good point. Especially with nonprofits the community marketing, and networking. Like you said, because you have to do so much with so little, you don’t have a giant team, you kind of have to use your resources wisely and partner with the other organizations and business in your local community to promote your cause and your event, so that’s a really good point. There are some great lessons in there. 

What advice would you give to a nonprofit whose kind of struggling with marketing and really just doesn’t know where to start? What kind of advice would you give them? 

Layla: I think the biggest investment is just within social media. Let’s say you can’t hire a full-blown marketing person or you don’t have someone on your staff that can design new materials, I really think social media is the way to go. But then I think something to think of is that you don’t have to go on every single social media outlet at one time. It’s okay to start small. It’s okay to start with a Facebook page and generate audiences there, and then move to Twitter, and then move to Instagram if you have enough picture-oriented content. I definitely think it’s important to be on social media. People immediately go to social media to lookup an organization and to see how active they are and to see who interacts with them. But then, like I said, it’s okay to do just one thing. And it’s okay not to post 4 times a day. It’s okay if you post on Facebook every other day. But I really think organizations should really go more towards their social media. And then on top of that, I would hope that people already have a really nice website. A website that is easy to use and is mobile friendly. Because that’s where people go to look for information and then they go to social media. I think once you have a robust, user-friendly, mobile-friendly website, then moving to your social media platform, I really think that’s where organizations should start. And then like I said, just start slow. You don’t need to rush into having a Pinterest and a Google Plus and all of this other stuff. Starting small and then just doing small really well, and then expanding. 

Hannah: That’s something that we at DuBose, we always say is we’d rather do a few things really well than do everything just ok. That’s a great tip there. 

I like to ask everyone that I interview a couple of rapid-fire questions to get to know you better. My first question is, are you a morning person or are you a night owl? 

Layla: For sure night. I think I email my coworkers at like 11 pm all the time. 

Hannah: What is your favorite emoji? 

Layla: Probably the upside-down smiley face. It’s kind of like an “Oh gosh,” kind of attitude. 

Hannah: What are you currently reading or listening to? 

Layla: Well sadly I’m not reading anything right now but I probably have Billie Eilish on repeat right now. 

Hannah: Yes, her new album is so good. I’m so mad at myself for not getting tickets to her tour. 

What is the best advice that you’ve ever received? 

Layla: That you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It speaks, just to me as a person, and to my job in general. Not everything has to be an original idea and it’s okay to take someone else’s idea and twist it a little bit to make it fit with your organization. But especially if you don’t have the time or the budget you do not have to reinvent the wheel. 

Hannah: Who inspires you? 

Layla: I don’t think I have a specific ‘who,’ but I think the women and men that I work with. Especially this being my first job out of college, I mean I have been here for 3 years but I really have learned so much from these people that I work with even though I’m the only marketing individual at my organization I think that the group of people I work with have taught me to slow down and take care of myself and to really love my profession. I mean I didn’t start STSM because I was a huge advocate in the community for sexual violence. I honestly didn’t even hear of STSM before I applied there. The people that I work with, the people that serve our clients every day really have shown me my ‘why.’ Why I love this organization, why I love this cause and why I think it is so important. I think those are the people that inspire me and keep me going every day. 

Hannah: I love that. That’s all of the questions that I have for you. Before we go where can people go to learn more about STSM, get involved, learn more about y’alls mission and all of that stuff? 

Layla: If they’re looking for more information about we directly provide, or to do volunteer opportunities they can visit our website at Or if they were wanting to seek services or had a question about sexual violence, in general, they can call our 24-hour hotline at 803-771-7273. 

Hannah: Awesome. Thank you so much for being here today, Layla. It was so good to talk to you and see you again after college. I think this was a great conversation and I hope that our viewers get some value out of it. I know they will. I know I got something out of it. Thanks so much for your time. 

Layla: Thanks, Hannah. 

Hannah: And everyone, thanks for tuning in today. If you liked this video, please share it and give us a like on our Facebook page as well as our Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Give us a follow there and connect with us so you can find out when we’ll be going live next and we’ll see you then. Thanks so much, y’all. Bye.

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