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Case Study By
More than 1,100 local non-profits across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada
Project Title
Program Founders: Cathy Riggs Monetti and Teresa Coles
Founding Agency: Riggs Partners


“We should work around the clock once in a while,” said Cathy Riggs Monetti one late summer night, while working in her studio. “Then maybe we could get ahead.”

“Yes, we should,” Teresa Coles agreed. “But we should do it for charity.”

That brief exchange resulted in the founding of CreateAthon in 1998—the first year Riggs Partners, a marketing and communications firm in Columbia, South Carolina, offered pro bono marketing services to nonprofits in the area during a 24-hour creative marathon.

In 2002, Riggs Partners decided to expand the program into a national CreateAthon network. Since that time, more than 75 agencies, universities, corporations and clubs across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada have participated in the CreateAthon network, conducting CreateAthon events in their respective markets during the designated CreateAthon Week, typically the second or third week in September.

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Riggs Partners developed the name, identity and advertising system for Patina, an architectural salvage store sponsored by a nonprofit, which works to preserve homes of significant historical value.

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A student team at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia produced this awareness campaign for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation. The campaign included a microsite, mirror decals and billboards.

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Whitespace Creative in Akron, Ohio produced this fun invitation to a building dedication and community open house celebration. The local food bank was moving into a new, much-needed facility.

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For CreateAthon at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, three students created a promotional campaign and brochure for this nonprofit, which provides spay and neuter services in the Richmond area.

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CreateAthon works like this: A local advertising agency, university, corporation or club signs on as a CreateAthon partner, agreeing to follow standards developed by the program’s originators. There is no cost to join the organization or participate in CreateAthon. The agency solicits applications from local 501(c)(3) organizations and then selects a group of non-profits and projects based on the recommendation criteria.

The projects are completed start to finish during one 24-hour period. Deliverables produced during the blitz may include strategic development and creative work that spans all aspects of traditional and digital marketing: identity development, collateral, television, out-of-home, web development, inbound marketing, email marketing, public relations, etc. Partners are encouraged to seek out additional local partners to provide printing, production and media placement in order to make CreateAthon a turnkey pro bono effort.


To date, 75 agencies, two universities, three clubs and one in-house group (Discovery Channel) have participated in CreateAthon. The effort has collectively benefited more that 1,275 nonprofit organizations with 3,100 projects valued at more than $15 million.

Additional Information

In September 2011, CreateAthon became a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Prior to this incorporation, Riggs Partners underwrote one hundred percent of the operating costs associated with CreateAthon. We are currently seeking national corporate sponsors, grants and individual donations to fund CreateAthon with a full-time staff and help us reach our goal of $100 million in donated services by 2015.

This case study is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tags Design for Good social responsibility Case study