Old School Square
building advocacy for an arts organization in a moment of crisis
In August 2021, the Delray Beach City Commission voted to remove Old School Square Center for The Arts, Inc. OSS) from the historic campus it established by terminating the nonprofit’s longstanding lease. The decision was made based on inaccurate and outdated information presented at a City hearing. Updated information would have demonstrated OSS’s full compliance with City requests. The City’s decision left OSS without a home and put the organization at the center of a local controversy, pitting City officials up against OSS leadership. With a positive and well-established reputation to protect, OSS needed a robust awareness and advocacy campaign surrounding the issue, to uphold their reputation and the industry and community relationships that keep them thriving.
We formed a committee among OSS’s board and leaders and created a strategic PR and community outreach plan in response to the City’s decision. We developed a brief outlining the issue; OSS’s record-breaking accomplishments; and counter arguments to the City’s inaccurate claims. We posted the facts on OSS’s social media and website, and repurposed for a letter to their database. We asked community social media groups to post to their pages. We created a Call-to-Action, including a link to a petition we posted on Change.org; a link to a pre-written letter, asking supporters to email it to City reps; and added the names, numbers and emails of every Commissioner. When City reps began replying to letters pouring in from OSS supporters, we dissected those replies, countered with facts, and posted them on community pages.
We proactively engaged media, coordinating interviews, providing comprehensive briefs, and sharing all documentation between OSS and the City, demonstrating compliance and full transparency. We supplied the OSS team with passion-filled talking points for strong, compelling interview soundbites.
Prior to the next City Commission meeting, we put out a new Call-to-Action to the community to show support for OSS during the meeting’s public comment hour. We also asked them to rally outside of the meeting prior to its commencement, and distributed t-shirts and rally signs on OSS’s campus.
The advocacy campaign we created for OSS following the City vote demonstrated the fact that OSS is indeed, an incredibly cherished and beloved staple within the Delray Beach Community. More than 10,000 people signed the OSS petition in less than a week. Hundreds of letters of support poured into the inboxes of City officials. More than 90% of the online discussion on the Delray Beach community and social pages were in support of OSS. More than 100 people showed up in support of OSS at the rally outside of City Hall, and the hearing room was packed to capacity with constituents, all of whom were there in support of OSS. Though the public comment section of the meeting agenda was slated for no longer than one hour, the out-the-door line of OSS supporters forced the commission to continue with a public comment until every last one was heard, their impassioned advocacies continuing for more than an hour and a half. Dozens of news outlets covered the story, virtually all favoring OSS’s position.
Thanks to our efforts Old School School Center for the Arts, Inc. has raised enough support and funding to continue to fight the City's decision, Additionally, its reputation as an organization that has successfully built a foundation of the heart and soul of a community, is one that not only remains intact, but is stronger and more visible than ever before.