CEO Greg Woodman is driven to creating deeper meaningful connections between individuals and the organizations they care about by providing Affinity Connection clients a return on their investment, through data-driven, results based "friend-raising" programs.
In the year 2000, Woodman led a team that bought Stewart Howe Alumni Association founded in 1972 and renamed the company Affinity Connection. Woodman has used his direct marketing experience to transform a niche fraternity alumni newsletter business, into a technology-enabled fundraising powerhouse serving myriad organizations. Over the last 16 years Affinity Connection's direct marketing programs have reached millions of individuals encouraging them to stay connected with and financially support their alumni interest group, community Fire Company, local library, county food bank, or faith-based charity.
Woodman established Affinity Connection after serving as an award-winning Marketing VP with AIRWALK Footwear. At AIRWALK, utilizing direct marketing skills, Woodman took the footwear industry by surprise when he increased AIRWALK revenue from $14 to $200 million in five years, placing AIRWALK sneakers in most footwear storefronts in the U.S. and around the world. The marketing exploit, featured in The Tipping Point, Forbes and numerous footwear industry publications, also put AIRWALK shoes and snowboard boots on teen's feet around the globe, garnering AIRWALK numerous awards for industry innovation and to the ultimate sale of the brand in 1999.
By the time AIRWALK was sold in 1999 Woodman, also responsible for the company’s ad agency management, had become disillusioned with the inability of consumer branding agencies to demonstrate ROI. “There was no science, no accountability,” says Woodman. “How did they measure results? They didn’t. How did it work? They didn’t know.” Woodman believed direct response marketing was a superior value. He also saw that Internet commercialization would make it affordable for even the smallest organizations.
Around the same time AIRWALK was sold, Woodman read and was deeply affected by Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone. Putnam detailed how in recent decades individuals in our society have become more and more disconnected from one another and how our meaningful relationships--- formerly forged in families, churches and local organizations like Kiwanis and bowling leagues--- soon would be dissolved completely. Woodman didn’t want to believe what Putnam was saying. “I just couldn’t accept it,” he remembers. But he couldn’t argue with the volumes of disheartening supporting data. “I believed there would be a return to value of community and a renewed interest in affinity groups.” Refusing to sit by and watch social capital decay, Woodman resolved to reverse the trend by harnessing his direct marketing experience to help clubs and organizations maintain meaningful connections with their members and donors—affinity connections. He knew fundraising was crucial for these organizations to thrive but that volunteer organizations lacked resources to do it effectively.
First, Woodman purchased Stewart Howe Alumni Services, which provided communications programs for mostly fraternity alumni in the Eastern United States, enabling them to stay connected after college. He staffed to serve a wide array of organizations and expanded services to include online direct marketing---websites, e-letters, media relations and social media, providing organizations and the individuals who support them multiple ways to stay connected and informed. Eventually, Affinity was able to provide clients a turnkey managed service, a communications and fundraising system that wires deposits to their accounts. The technology-enabled system utilizes integrated marketing audits, strategic variable messaging, databases and print and online direct response marketing.
Ever mindful of his frustrating client-side experience with consumer ad agencies, Woodman ensured Affinity put a technology platform in place that enables the company and its clients to measure their results and improvement on data quality, donors, dollars, giving trends and e-mail opens and clicks through analytical reporting.
Each day Affinity seeks new ways to measure the effectiveness of their services and provide greater ROI for clients.