Case studies

Identifying a stand-out difference

The challenge: A mid-sized nonprofit was relatively unknown and undifferentiated. Though funders held the organization in high esteem, they didn’t distinguish it from handful of competent peers. The organization needed a genuine, credible, and compelling point of differentiation in a crowded field.

The solution: I collected internal and external insights to understand the organization’s strengths, weaknesses and reputation. I also talked to funders about trends, priorities, and their perceptions of organizations in my client’s arena. Through this process and further conversations, a clear differentiator emerged. My client employed a business model that differed from its peers in a way that mattered to funders. Moreover, this difference would likely become even more important over time. From this knowledge, we developed the organization’s brand positioning, and then language that would amplify their key claim through all communications channels.

The results: Discovering what made their organization uniquely great eliminated the guesswork from their messaging and guided their future communications with funders and other key constituent groups.

A new name helps an upstart raise seed money

The challenge: A church-based group was planning to create an urban community center to provide job training and other services, but they needed substantial funds to make the center a reality. Their previous naming discussion resulted in a generic name no one was excited about. Plus, a change in leadership and an informal decision-making process created confusion about who owned the naming decision.

The solution: I began with a discussion of the naming process and clarification of roles. The group defined who would provide input and who were empowered to make the final decision. I also helped the group clarify its decision-making process. Next, we identified the key constituencies who could make the center a success and determined what mattered most to them. With clear goals and criteria to guide us, we generated a list of possibilities. The final name selected was unique, energetic, and appealing, with a subtle nod to the organization’s Christian roots.

The results: The naming process not only produced a powerful and memorable name—it also clarified the founders’ story, enabling them to continue their fundraising efforts with renewed purpose.

A clear and unified voice for a large organization

The challenge: A large nonprofit that had been successful getting government grants wanted to develop an individual giving program. Though its outcomes were outstanding, its brand was virtually unknown. Plus, each of its programs had its own brand. The organization needed an identity that was unifying, consistent, and relevant to its constituents. It also needed to “claim its territory” amid a dozen other organizations with overlapping missions.

The solution: Because the organization was large and had multiple locations, it was important to engage staff across all service areas as genuine partners to make this initiative successful. I first spoke with dozens of stakeholders, including staff, donors, board members, funders, and clients. The insights I gathered suggested a number of potential positioning options. Next came group discussions. Through this process, an initial list of 25 positioning options was narrowed to three, and, finally, to just one.  The new positioning felt authentic, credible, and aspirational. The new positioning would affect all elements of the organization’s brand and become the launch point for a significant brand refocusing and revitalization.

The results: This process gave participating staff and board members a chance to consider the deepest strengths of their organization and to create a story that could be authentically owned by all stakeholders. For the first time in decades, this organization is clear about its unique value to our community.