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Rebranding a Cause on the Installment Plan

For nonprofits working to shine a light on a cause, one goal is always clear: appeal to more donors. After all, the more money an organization raises, the more work it can do. But to achieve that lofty ambition, it must convince donors that it has what it takes to get results. One way to do that is by using branding to make the case. No one knows that better than Mathew Squillante, owner of San Francisco branding and design firm Squillante Studios. “I’ve had clients tell me, ‘without the rebrand, we wouldn’t have gotten more money,’ ” Squillante says. “So I know that branding can have that type of impact.”

One organization that benefited from Squillante Studios’ magic is Child Family Health International (CFHI), a San Francisco non-profit that develops community-based global health education programs. “We offer nearly 40 different global health immersion programs that are spread across 10 countries,” says Keaton Andreas, director of outreach for CFHI. Squillante Studios set out to help them make an even greater impact still.


The Recipe for a Successful Rebrand
When taking on a rebranding project, the first thing Squillante does is look for where the current materials might be lacking. That means assessing what the organization has, what they’re trying to say, and whether the content gets the message across.

Something as simple as an unflattering color palette can have a huge impact on an organization’s success. A badly designed brochure “could actually keep you from getting more money and engaging with more people, because people just aren’t going to pick it up,” he says. “If it doesn’t work, it’s no good.”

To kick off the CFHI campaign, Squillante spent some time getting to know the organization. He asked questions such as, “Who’s your audience? Who are you trying to reach? What are your top three or four points that we’re trying to say here?” All of that is necessary to create something of a roadmap because “what you see in the final design is not what you have at the starting point,” he says.


Crafting a Campaign One Asset at a Time
One challenge many nonprofits face is having to work with a limited budget. That means they may not be able to overhaul all of their marketing materials at once, but must tackle them one at a time.

That was the case for CFHI, so one of the goals of the campaign was to create assets that could make a difference while serving as a foundation for future pieces. The first items that Squillante Studios worked on were a logo used on social media to promote their 25th anniversary, as well as a postcard and a brochure.

When working on the various elements of the campaign, Squillante knew he wanted the branding to help donors understand what CFHI is all about. To achieve that goal, he focused on imagery that highlighted their work.


But it was also important for images to make an emotional connection with the target audience. For example, since CFHI focuses on health and medicine, one might consider using pictures of doctors in clinical, sterile settings, “but that’s not necessarily the type of photograph that’s going to make somebody stop and pick up that brochure,” he explains. To create more of an emotional pull, Squillante used imagery that focused more on the types of people the organization is helping. For example, one image features women in colorful saris benefiting from CFHI’s services.

Since the target audience includes professors and others in academia, messaging that would appeal to them, such as the phrase “Academic Partnerships,” was also featured prominently in the design. “It’s very clear who it’s for and what it’s about,” says Squillante. “That’s the type of approach I like to take.”

Not only did the materials connect with their audience, but they gave CFHI a more modern look two decades after the organization was founded. “These were materials that we sorely needed,” Andreas admits. Now the world has a greater incentive to support their mission.




Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

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