Name This Fork.

The Urban Ministries of Durham cares for Durham, North Carolina’s homeless and impoverished community by serving as a comprehensive service provider of food, shelter, clothing and supportive services for over 6,000 men, women and children annually.

While their programming may be traditional (shelter, food pantry, clothing donations, and a community cafe), their fundraising and communications methods are quite innovative. One particularly interesting fundraising campaign is Names for Change, which allows donors to “name” a daily item that may be taken for granted, but that is highly prized by those in need. In exchange for their donation, donors can create a personalized poster of their named item.

To launch this project, UMD partnered with ad agency McKinney to design posters of 169 items that play a role in helping someone who is homeless or in need of emergency essentials. Using the tagline “This is just stuff. Until you don’t have it.” the campaign offers donors a way to do good, personalize their philanthropic experience, and better understand the importance of items that can be easily taken for granted. Costs range from $20,000 – $500 for limited edition items (like the Merge Records Stove of Cookin’ with Gas) to as little as $1 to name a butter pat (The Geneva Berke Butter Pat of Blessings) or $26 to name a casserole (The John Coughlin Dinner Casserole of Potluck Dominance), making participation possible for a wide range of people.

Another interesting way UMD communicates the importance of its work is through their online game SPENT, which challenges players to make it through one month of daily obstacles faced by many Americans with a monthly income of $1000. As you play, the reality of your decisions is reinforced with statistics about the challenges faced by America’s 14 million + unemployed citizens. This game was made pro-bono in partnership with McKinney and commercial sound designers White Noise|Lab. It has raised $45,000 so far for UMD, and was awarded “Most Significant impact” Game at the 2012 Games for Change Festival. You can watch a trailer for the game or play it here.