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Case Study: The Story of Stuff

We worked with The Story of Stuff to create a system for building and managing relationships.

The Story of Stuff
The Story of Stuff

One of the biggest challenges the environmental movement faces is moving beyond the green choir. Issues like climate change, toxic chemicals, pollution, waste and pesticides are hard sells—many people are working hard just to stay afloat and talking about the impending doom of our species can be a real buzz kill. Unsustained Materials Economy? Not the most popular party conversation.
Annie Leonard, the author and brain behind The Story of Stuff Project (SOS), understands this. So, she worked with Free Range Studios to create a series of short environmental films that are accessible, hip, and make a whole lot of sense to the regular Joes and Janes out there caught in the middle of a consumer culture. The films are interesting, visually smart, and do a great job of creating a gateway for new people to join the world of environmental advocacy.

Her vision is resonating. Over three million people have watched The Story of Stuff Films online including The Story of Stuff, The Story of Cap and Trade, The Story of Bottled Water, The Story of Cosmetics, and The Story of Electronics. Raising awareness and educating the general public on the pressing environmental issues of our time is essential to creating a wide base of environmental advocates who will demand change from business leaders and legislators.


In 2009, Annie Leonard and SOS were getting noticed by a variety of high profile media outlets including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Business Week, The Huffington Post, The Colbert Nation, Good Morning America, CNN, PBS and many more. The Story of Stuff was gaining momentum, and it was imperative that the organization not miss any opportunities for engagement. The SOS staff needed to make sure they had the right organizing and relationship building tools set up on the back-end to take advantage of a new, interested audience coming their way. They also needed new mass email communications tools that were powerful and could integrate with their database for future relationship building.


We spent time looking at SOS’s organizational process to identify how each new supporter comes into the organization, how donors are acknowledged, how existing supporters are called upon for help, how relationships are being built, and how other organizations could partner with SOS.

We customized a database to organize this engagement. We added a web form to capture contact information of new visitors to the site who were interested in downloading the films. Over 60,000 people have been added to SOS’s email list since implementing this form.

We configured the SOS database so that SOS staff members are automatically alerted when a donation to the project is made, allowing SOS staff to immediately click on that donor’s contact record in Salesforce and quickly scan the profile of this engaged supporter.

Annie Leonard spends a lot of time on the road showing SOS films, promoting the SOS book and telling the SOS stories. SOS staff can create campaigns in Salesforce that allows them to target supporters in the region or city where Annie is visiting.

We also set SOS up with the flexible, mass emailing tool ExactTarget. Lead Organizer Christina Samala can dig deeper into her high open and click-through rates and learn even more about how people are engaging with SOS. And ExactTarget integrates with, so all of a supporter’s engagement is recorded on one contact form in Salesforce, allowing organizers to get a full picture of each supporter with a click of a button. SOS staff can use this information to track engagement and to look for new opportunities to engage people in the SOS mission.

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