UCAN: A Lesson in Non-Profit Branding
Case Study
The Results

84%
84% of capital fundraising achieved to date through improved fundraising and relationship management.
94%
Customer satisfaction levels rising above 92% due to improved emotional connections and mission focus.
2016
The UCAN capital campaign reached completion and the organization opened its new home on Chicago’s West Side.

“AE Marketing Group is inspiring and impressive. They brought everyone together to improve brand clarity and consistency across the organization. They made our non-profit think like a consumer brand.”

Tom Vanden Berk
Chief Executive Officer at UCAN

INDUSTRY RECOGNITION FOR NON-PROFIT BRAND LEADERSHIP

In 2015, Branding Magazine highlighted the impact AE Marketing Group had on UCAN, a non-profit helping Chicago youth who’ve suffered trauma and addressing violence prevention.  Watch the video and then read the backstory and results below.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: 2013

A brand doesn’t endure for 150 years if it isn’t strong. However, during a journey lasting 15 decades, it’s no surprise if that same brand may have managed to wander off its intended path along the way. Such was the case with UCAN, a youth-focused Chicago non-profit with roots dating back to the Civil War and a modern-day identity that often was at odds with itself.

“We needed help with brand control,” explained Thomas Vanden Berk, CEO of UCAN, which is dedicated to empowering youth who have suffered trauma and helping them become future leaders. “Our organization didn’t have our brand well under control. We had a lot of different types of programs and ideas that were all over the place and weren’t managed very well.”

To bring clarity to UCAN’s brand, build consensus across the organization and improve positioning for future fundraising – all while staying within a limited budget – UCAN tapped AE Marketing Group.

CUTTING THROUGH THE CLUTTER: 2014

By conducting in-depth interviews with UCAN’s customers/youths, staff and board members, AE Marketing Group determined that one of the nation’s oldest social service organizations indeed did have a strong brand. However, that brand was hiding behind inconsistent messaging and confusion. Those problems, combined with a clear misalignment of design and data, were creating an emotional void at UCAN that was resulting in missed fundraising opportunities.

By leveraging these brand insights, AE Marketing Group activated a strategy to showcase UCAN’s consistent presence along with its meaningful programming, unrivaled diversity and innovative approach to violence prevention. Balancing both internal and external brand forces with design and data provided a clear brand architecture that resulted in:

  • Operationalize brand positioning, tone and style, which including realigning and/or eliminating dozens of sub-brands to cut clutter and waste. Vanden Berk noted that “AE did a good job of tossing out the garbage while keeping the good stuff.”
  • Enhance creative treatments by integrating key satisfaction data with emotional photography and stronger calls to action.

ALL ABOARD, ALL IN: 2015

Led by AE Marketing Group, the key to success with the brand transformation was ensuring that everyone at within the UCAN community, from the governing board to the front-line staff, had ownership in process. Said Vanden Berk, “By getting everyone on board, everyone better understood the importance of communicating our brand and solidifying the organization around the message of our brand. At the end of the process, we had a better handle on brand control, if you will, and clarifying our brand message.”

UCAN Chief Development officer Barbara Stone added, “Our management team sees AE Marketing Group as a partner for both UCAN’s marketing and mission. Their process provided instant clarity to our brand chaos by improving emotional connections through data and storytelling. Those connections will help us better serve our diverse audiences.”

AE Marketing Group CEO Brian Walker with UCAN VP Fred Long

In 2015, UCAN’s capital campaign reached completion and the organization opened its new therapeutic home on Chicago’s West Side. Following the brand transformation, two key metrics showed:

92% Customer satisfaction as a result of improved emotional connections and a focus on UCAN’s mission to “help youth who have suffered trauma become future leaders.” (Source: UCAN 2015 Survey)

84% of capital fundraising achieved to date through the improvement of fundraising and relationship management. (Source: UCAN Sept 2015)

WEST SIDE RISING: 2016

To coincide with the completion of the North Lawndale UCAN Campus, AE Marketing Group began an aggressive brand storytelling campaign in the first half of 2016. Our first feature in the Brand Lab Series™, “A Long Journey on the Red Line” garnered over 100K hits within a week and gained media attention throughout metropolitan Chicago.

Non-Profit Brand UCAN's Vice President Fred Long

In early summer, our integrated media strategy included both a second Brand Lab Series™  feature, “West Side Rising” as well as a Non-Profit Brand Podcast with UCAN CEO, Tom Vanden Berk.

This strategy helped drive social and digital buzz leading up to their UCAN’s 17th Annual Youth Leadership Awards Dinner in June, which raised record revenue for the non-profit.

Said Brian Walker, Founder and CEO of AE Marketing Group, “UCAN is full of talented people and incredible stories of adversity. Our job was to guide them along the brand journey. Achieving buy-in from the entire organization and community was critical to this transformation. It is incredibly gratifying to see UCAN emerge stronger than ever from this process.”

 

Summary

A non-profit brand doesn’t endure for 150 years if it isn’t strong. However, during a journey lasting 15 decades, it’s no surprise if that same brand may have managed to wander off its intended path along the way. Learn how AE Marketing Group helped UCAN align its development, marketing and storytelling to drive growth.

Assignment
Bring clarity to brand, build consensus across the organization and improve positioning for future fundraising.
Key Challenge
Breathe new life into a non-profit brand that is 150 years old while staying within a limited budget.
Customer
UCAN helps youth who have suffered trauma become our future leaders. Each year, the organization provides over 10,000 children and families a consistent presence, meaningful programming and unrivaled diversity. Visit UcanChicago.org to learn more

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