“Through the Fellowship I learned that what drives me is the project. I intend to keep consulting in the nonprofit area.”
|Los Angeles, CA|
Joan spent over 25 years in advertising, including media planning, account management and strategic planning at agencies such as Benton & Bowles and Ogilvy & Mather. She then built her own consulting business in branding, strategic planning and marketing for agencies and clients, while in the last few years, she has consulted largely with nonprofits.
Joan first heard about Encore Fellowships when she met the Los Angeles Program Director at a lunch. Some time later, an opportunity with LA’s BEST came up and the Program Director contacted Joan to see if she would be interested. For 30 years, LA’s BEST has provided safe, supervised afterschool enrichment for elementary school students in neighborhoods with the greatest needs and fewest resources throughout Los Angeles. LAs BEST serves 25,000 kids every day.
LA’s BEST needed to refresh their website, but the President & CEO Eric Gurna knew they needed to first take a step back and reflect on their branding and messaging in order to better communicate their purpose and impact to stakeholders, donors and the community. The need for thinking about their core strengths and impact ‒ and how to communicate those in their messaging ‒ was a match with Joan’s skills.
“LA’s BEST does an unbelievable amount of good. Through its deliberately developed programming and staff, LA’s BEST builds the kind of deep engagement in children that drives their development as enthusiastic learners and active contributors to their communities. For many children who participate in the program, it is not an exaggeration to say that it is life-changing. LA’s BEST engages students deeply. It empowers them with the agency to explore and discover the opportunities in their lives, and make their own choices. My job was to make the visual identity, messaging and website better communicate both the real need and the tremendous impact and importance of the program,” explains Joan.
Joan conducted a brand audit and investigation, interviewing board members, donors, partners, volunteers, parents and staff about what they perceived the mission to be, how they talked about LA’s BEST benefits and unique strengths, and how they thought about the program’s impact. She provided a formal findings report and recommendations on brand positioning and vision statements. With LA’s BEST leadership and board input and approval, Joan and Eric worked with a copywriter to develop new value propositions and messaging.
“The message became more about the philosophy and real benefits of the program. We captured the idea that LA’s BEST is not just a place for kids to go afterschool, but rather, a means to discover and develop new ideas, passions, skills and relationships with peers and caring adults, that have profound and long-lasting impact – impact that can be measured in things like higher school attendance and graduation rates, but also in equally critical measures of self-confidence, curiosity and wonder, and enhanced senses of purpose, drive and self-worth in kids. It empowers them with the agency to explore and discover the opportunities in their lives and make their own choices.”
Says Eric Gurna, President & CEO, “Joan created a process which helped us talk through our message. She helped us negotiate the process, worked with us to collaborate on the language to use. Our challenge was to refer to the communities we support in a way that felt respectful of people and gave the urgency of the need. Joan posed language we could react to and facilitated us hammering it out. She didn’t push her own perspective but helped us have a robust dialog about it.”
Joan found herself using her skills in a new environment. LA’s BEST was formed as a unique partnership between the Mayor’s Office, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the private sector. Joan learned about City and LAUSD policies and procedures, and the political sensitivity needed to align so many stakeholders within one organization.
“Through the Fellowship I learned that what drives me is the project: the strategic thinking, figuring out the real benefits and an organization’s story ‒ and not the money,” Joan observed. “I like digging and finding answers, helping an organization get to a better place in their branding and messaging. I intend to keep consulting in the nonprofit area.”
Adds Eric, “Joan’s compassionate commitment drove her to provide the highest quality, stick with difficult decisions and push through a lot of tedious work. She showed us perfection, not just good enough. This Fellowship was a case study of incredible success.”
Interested in becoming an Encore Fellow? Learn more and apply at https://encore.org/fellowships/fellow/