Guest speakers and students cutting the ribbon at the Universities at Shady Grove's grand opening of their new Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Education facilty

Photo courtesy of The Universities of Shady Grove

On November 7, 2019, the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) welcomed more than 600 people to its Maryland campus to celebrate the opening of a fourth academic building—a $175M Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Education Facility, known as the BSE.

The grand opening event kicked off with a luncheon and program, featuring the presidents of three partner universities: University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, College Park; and UMBC. Following the luncheon, guests gathered in the atrium of the BSE to hear from speakers­­—including Governor Larry Hogan—and to celebrate the official ribbon cutting of the building. After the ceremony, guests explored the building and participated in a Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medical (STEMM) Showcase, which brought aspects of the building to life with displays from 14 academic programs and eight industry partners. Students and staff were stationed throughout the BSE to serve as interpretive guides for guests. The event exceeded the set attendance goal by 20%.

As a long time, invested partner in Universities at Shady Grove, Mission Partners previously supported USG on the groundbreaking ceremony for the building and managed complexities of project management, communication, and media support for this critical moment in the organization’s history, and future. The event boasted a strong print and broadcast showing—eleven onsite media teams—and coverage of the event garnered more than 7.8M impressions from 13 news stories, including two consecutive days of coverage in The Washington Post with an op-ed and feature piece on the front page of The Washington Post’s Metro section.

See more examples of our work with USG.

NewsMatch logo
Journalist at rally with audio recording equipement interviewing people begind a metal barrier

Photo courtesy of NewsMatch

In the summer of 2019, NewsMatch engaged Mission Partners to develop the messaging and strategy for its fourth annual campaign, which runs from November through December. In the wake of “fake news” and powerful politicians’ attacks on the free press, NewsMatch has supported unbiased and independent journalism through a national matching-gift campaign designed to grow fundraising capacity in nonprofit newsrooms and promote journalism as a philanthropic cause. As the media industry continues to evolve, the support NewsMatch provides is more important than ever.

To begin, Mission Partners conducted a comprehensive peer set audit, and then guided NewsMatch and its partner funders through creating a message framework to help align 2019’s campaign. After in-depth interviews with NewsMatch’s newsroom participants and partners, Mission Partners also created the theme of the campaign. Along with messaging, media relations, training webinars, toolkits, and the creation of talking points, Mission Partners updated NewsMatch’s visual brand and created customizable digital and social graphics for newsrooms across the country to utilize. The paid social media strategy was further enhanced by a PSA video Mission Partners worked alongside a third party to create. 

The 2019 NewsMatch campaign saw its best-ever #GivingTuesday returns, and of the 198 participating newsrooms, 187 customized or implemented materials provided to them.

The New York Foundling Logo
A young Black girl playing with a brightly colored toy set with her adoptive parents in the background

Photo courtesy of The New York Foundling

For 150 years, The New York Foundling has trusted in the power and potential of people. While the Foundling’s history and legacy in the field are among its greatest assets, the Foundling knew its brand needed to be updated to showcase the Foundling’s evolving suite of services and better convey the organization’s transformational impact. The Foundling engaged Mission Partners to create new messaging for the organization, as well as rebuild and redesign the Foundling website. 

After conducting a comprehensive audit and peer set review to better understand audience perception, Mission Partners guided the Foundling through the process of establishing a messaging hierarchy, and created updated talking points and concise program descriptors for shared language among team members. Mission Partners then supported the Foundling through the creation of a comprehensive brand book and conducted a series of message training sessions to ensure all team members felt comfortable speaking on behalf of the organization. Lastly, Mission Partners worked in close coordination with the Foundling to completely overhaul their website, making it easy to navigate for the Founding’s many audiences.

With updated messaging and a new website, the Foundling is now well-positioned to work alongside their current and prospective clients and effectively share how their work impacts people’s lives.

accp logo

How Does an Association Launch a New Brand That Resonates with Existing and Prospective Members?

The Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals has been the leading membership organization for CSR-minded professionals for over a decade and a half. While ACCP’s history and legacy in the field are among their greatest assets, the brand needed to be modernized to showcase ACCP’s ability to continually evolve and stay one step ahead of the growing industry. In the fall of 2018, ACCP engaged Mission Partners to create a new visual brand and messaging. To go along with the updated brand, ACCP also worked with Mission Partners to redesign ACCP’s website to create a better, more efficient user experience.

At this time, the organization had recently undergone a leadership transition, and a new CEO meant a new era for ACCP. The corporate citizenship field is changing rapidly, and ACCP’s prior messaging and visual branding didn’t convey ACCP’s expertise and recent growth. Updating ACCP’s brand was a necessary step in growing the membership base, further engaging current members, and better articulating the breadth of the services ACCP offers. At the start of this project, Mission Partners conducted a brand audit and peer set review to better understand how members perceived ACCP and how ACCP’s presentation was tracking against competitors. These initial assessments showed that from a messaging standpoint, ACCP’s talking points weren’t clear enough, and they didn’t fully capture ACCP’s growth and how the corporate citizenship field has evolved. And from a visual standpoint, the logo didn’t stand out or convey anything about corporate citizenship.

Now, ACCP’s new visual identity is professional, but approachable, and the three interlocking circles in the logo represent the “triple bottom line” approach: people, planet, and profit. For messaging, Mission Partners led ACCP through the process of establishing a messaging hierarchy and updated talking points, which make it simpler for members and the board to share what they love about ACCP. As part of a more encompassing communications plan, Mission Partners also created a brand book, a year-long communications strategy, member recruitment materials, social media graphics and templates, and a member benefits explainer video, “What an ACCP Membership Means for You,” all of which helped advance ACCP’s goals of retaining and growing their membership base.

For the final component of the rebrand, Mission Partners worked alongside ACCP and a third-party vendor during the summer and fall of 2019 to redesign ACCP’s website to reflect the new brand. What was once a difficult-to-navigate site filled with an overload of information, is now a more engaging, streamlined platform for current and potential ACCP members. Along with the new website, Mission Partners also redesigned ACCP’s newsletter template for The Wrap, which simplified the weekly creation process for ACCP, and established a stronger hierarchy of information so readers can find information more easily.

ACCP’s rebrand was a crucial step in prioritizing the growth of the organization and further establishing ACCP as the leader in the corporate citizenship field. Mission Partners continues to support ACCP through member acquisition, ACCP Conference, and overarching communications and thought leadership strategies.

“We are proud to introduce ACCP’s new brand, which reflects our ongoing mission to empower corporate citizenship leaders to strengthen their companies and improve the world. This new branding recognizes that our field and our association are ever-evolving, and reflects the energy and vibrancy that our members bring to corporate citizenship every day.” —Carolyn Berkowitz, President & CEO

In 2013, the Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit called on our team to raise awareness about the organization’s work during its milestone 20th year. What started as a tiny workshop for five students had grown into the region’s largest independent school for the dramatic arts. Yet, outside the theatre community, Theatre Lab’s story was largely unknown. During an initial in-depth interview with Theatre Lab co-founders, our team learned that despite the recession, Theatre Lab’s enrollment spiked by 55 percent between 2008 and 2012. Theatre Lab thrived largely because of its ability to tailor programs to people at all stages of life—especially the unexpected acting student. Using this narrative, we launched a targeted media relations campaign to promote Theatre Lab’s rich history, and top-notch faculty within the Washington, D.C community. Our efforts generated nearly 20 million media impressions, in outlets including, The Washington Post Magazine, Washington Business Journal, WTOP Radio and the region’s most listened to NPR affiliate, WAMU. Our efforts are credited with significantly improving brand awareness among potential donors and growing enrollment by nearly 10 percent in one year– a record for the organization.

Team IMPACT is an organization that matches chronically ill youth with college athletic teams for friendship, mentoring and inspiration. In September 2016, five years into the organization’s life, Team IMPACT found themselves in a “breakout” moment- feeling ready to solidify who they are and who they can be as an organization, versus who they were in their infancy. What started as a singular commitment to improving the quality of life for sick children had expanded to a model that offers real and lasting value to athletes and athletic communities. The organization’s new CEO, Seth Rosenzweig, needed help capturing the opportunity and translating it into one that resonated with stakeholders and paved a path for future growth. Team IMPACT hired Mission Partners to support the development of a strategic plan – including defining a new Mission and Vision, conducting perception research, defining a set of SMART goals, and fleshing out a 3-5-year strategic plan that will guide the organization’s activities and messages into the future. During Phase 1 of the project, Carrie and Carolyn conducted market research through IDI’s (In-Depth Interviews) and identified the key differentiators from other similar organizations in the marketplace so that Team IMPACT was positioned to lead with its unique assets. We led the staff in a planning exercise that identified a critical, unmet need – to develop and implement a Theory of Change for the delivery of a complex set of services, with an outside evaluator. With its model codified, Mission Partners was brought back for Phase 2 of the engagement, kicking off by facilitating a strategic planning retreat that yielded five key strategic initiatives that will propel Team IMPACT forward. As we finish Phase 2 of the process, Carolyn and Carrie are leading the team in fleshing out the key actions within the strategic plan that the organization will undertake in the next 3 years, putting meat on the bones in such areas as building regional staff infrastructure, planned growth, communications and marketing, model implementation, and growing the financial resources to ensure that thousands of children with chronic and life threatening illnesses and the athletes who serve them live a life of hope and purpose.

Platform of Hope

In the rapidly gentrifying Adams Morgan neighborhood of northwest Washington, DC, six local organizations—Capital Area Asset Builders, For Love of Children, Jubilee Housing, Jubilee Jumpstart, Sitar Arts Center, and Mary’s Center—formed a strategic alliance, committed to ending multigenerational poverty in their neighborhood. With start-up funding granted by the Meyer Foundation in October 2017, the Steering Committee engaged Mission Partners to guide the group through the foundational process of creating a model for collective impact called The Platform of Hope.

Mission Partners led the Steering Committee through a Design Thinking process that established a vision and common agenda, guiding principles, governance model, program design, budget, process map, and fundraising plan for a one-year pilot cohort of participating families, with plans to scale over 5 years. Mission Partners developed protocol and trained representatives of each organization to conduct empathy interviews and listening sessions with prospective families. The Steering Committee engaged community members at every step, using their feedback and insights to modify and design the program.

The Platform of Hope launched in September 2018 with a cohort of twenty families and has adopted a unique and forward-thinking model in which families develop their own goals and build a strategy plan for accomplishing them.

For more than 20 years, Per Scholas has been driving positive and proven social change in communities across the country, and has been hailed as one of the most effective models for workforce development in the U.S., by the White House, Fortune 100 companies and scores of elected officials. And yet, when Per Scholas approached us in 2015, the organization had a lack of clarity for how to talk about its own model, and certainly not consistently. The leadership was too close to their own issues, and they struggled to identify their priorities, which was limiting the organization’s ability to reach its full potential. Our team guided Per Scholas’ national leadership and board through several strategic planning exercises before ultimately helping the organization completely reframe how it talked about its work and impact. The work resulted in a nationwide brand refresh, and a strategic communications plan that for the first time has provided the clarity needed for the excellence of this organization to shine through at every level.

The Challenge: How do you both manage and message an organizational transition for maximum success?

Coming Together from a Place of Strength, Not Weakness

In 2016, Leadership Montgomery and the Corporate Volunteer Council of Montgomery County made the decision to merge their organizations to amplify each other’s strengths, and provide more value to their members. Under new leadership, Leadership Montgomery understood that it had just one chance to get their expansion announcement right—to ensure its range of supporters saw the expansion positively, rather than the possible perception that one organization was “saving” a weaker partner organization.

The Strategy

In October 2016, Mission Partners came on board to develop a strategy for announcing that expansion. The team conducted a comprehensive review of and refresh to the brand, developed of a marketing plan, and conducted message training for all senior executives in the lead up to the announcement. Mission Partners also conducted In-Depth interviews to close-in supporters to ensure that the message we intended to deliver in early January 2017 would be received positively.

The Activation

Sarah Burnett, C. Marie Taylor, Nicky Goren

In January 2017, Leadership Montgomery unveiled a new brand and a new strategy for growth, as discussed in this announcement. On February 16, 2017, Mission Partners coordinated a service event to mark Leadership Montgomery’s program expansion and the launch of the organization’s new strategic plan. The reception and service activity took place at Sodexo–a regional volunteer powerhouse that had directly engaged with the Corporate Volunteer Council for years and had many Leadership Montgomery graduates in its ranks–in Gaithersburg, MD. The event featured brief remarks from Shondra Jenkins, the Executive Director, Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation and Director of Sodexo Community Relations; C. Marie Taylor, the President & CEO of Leadership Montgomery; and from Nicky Goren, CEO, Meyer Foundation, which provided the grant that funded this project.

The Results

The message was rolled out with great enthusiasm and community support, and in just the first few weeks of the expansion news having gone public, Leadership Montgomery witnessed a positive spike in member and community engagement.

Additionally, Stanford Social Innovation review was so interested in the collaboration, they featured it as a case study on their website.

“The needs of our county have evolved,” said Leadership Montgomery’s new CEO during the public announcement. “As I’ve listened to what our members, our graduates, and our partners desire in leadership programming, I’ve realized without hesitation that with CVC, we can deliver more for those whom we support, and we can pull our community closer together in the process.”

When the Jubilee Housing leadership and board adopted a new phrase—justice housing—to describe its organizational philosophy towards providing affordable housing, the team struggled with finding exactly the right words to define what they meant by that phrase. Jubilee Housing engaged Mission Partners to create a definition of justice housing and messaging to help members of the team communicate about the philosophy. Mission Partners hosted a series of in-depth interviews, followed by a focus group in Washington, DC, to explore perceptions and associations of every word in the proposed definition. Mission Partners assembled a diverse group of residents, board members, donors, and volunteers, leading participants through a variety of structured and unstructured exercises and questions to uncover feelings and emotions associated with every word. Mission Partners then developed all brand elements to support the roll out of the new phrase and brand, including a case statement for support. Just 9 months after launching the Justice Housing Fund, Jubilee Housing surpassed its $5M fundraising goal and secured more than 100% of its goal for increasing affordable housing units in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.