Case Study

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How Comer Education Campus partnered with Prosper Strategies to rebrand and develop the accompanying marketing and communications plan — leading to a 13.8% increase in fundraising from the previous year.

The Nonprofit Impact System

The Challenge

Comer Education Campus is an education and enrichment organization focused on preparing young people for college, careers and futures as well-rounded, global citizens.


Located in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, the Campus is anchored by the state-of-the-art Gary Comer Youth Center, Gary Comer College Prep, and Gary Comer Middle School. The Campus also serves as home to other nonprofit organizations, such as the college access and success organization UtmostU, ACCESS Community Health Network, and the South Shore Drill team.

Under the leadership of a new executive director, Comer Education Campus approached Prosper Strategies with the desire to overcome years of brand confusion challenges. While the Comer Education Campus is the “umbrella” under which the Gary Comer Youth Center and other partner organizations like the schools exist, its name was not well known and its role in the community was not well-understood. They needed Prosper’s help, and expressed to us that elevating the Comer Education Campus brand would be especially important in coming years, as the Campus would soon transition from being fully funded by the Comer Family Foundation to being an independently funded organization.

We approached these challenges using the Nonprofit Impact SystemTM, Prosper Strategies’ complete set of tools to help nonprofit organizations achieve maximum mission impact. 

Diagram showing the People element of the Nonprofit Impact System


In order to guide our work with Comer Education Campus, we formed two central committees: the primary planning committee and a stakeholder committee. 


The primary planning committee included five highly-engaged representatives of Comer Education Campus, including the executive director. This group worked with Prosper on every stage of the project, including through weekly meetings. 

The stakeholder committee included a group of 15 of Comer Education Campus’ staff members who held various roles within the Campus and its affiliated organizations. The stakeholder committee members agreed to take part throughout the project and share feedback at multiple touchpoints. 

This project also included significant challenges around change management, especially given the many organizations that operate under the Comer Education Campus umbrella and their complicated histories. Therefore, the Comer Education Campus board and development staff were also strategically engaged in the project for input and feedback. 

Our Shared Power Strategy requires deep collaboration with stakeholders across an organization, including its beneficiaries, so in addition to our work with these committees and outreach to the board, we conducted a survey that reached hundreds of parents, youth, donors, funders, community members and partners. We also facilitated one-on-one interviews with stakeholders from each key group to get a better sense of how they understood the Comer Education Campus brand and impact in the community.

Through these methods, we wanted to learn how Comer Education Campus stakeholders perceived the Comer Education Campus brand and get to the root of the organization’s brand confusion challenges.

A diagram showing the Strategy element of the Nonprofit Impact System


In addition to the survey and interviews, we conducted an organization assessment and ecosystem assessment to inform our strategy. 


In the organization assessment, we reviewed the Comer Education Campus’ current messaging, marketing and fundraising material, as well as those of the other organizations that make up the Campus (the Gary Comer Youth Center, UtmostU, the schools etc.). We also took a deep dive into their existing brand assets and conducted internal interviews to understand what staff and board members saw as the Campus’ greatest strengths.

In the ecosystem assessment, we compared the strengths of the Comer Education Campus (identified by its stakeholders through the interview and survey process) with the strengths of five comparator organizations that are similar to the Campus and may compete for donations, share of voice or youth engagement.

Through this research, we identified the Comer Education Campus’ most powerful differentiator as its place-based approach. We also found that the Campus’ role as a community hub, and the lifespan during which the organization works with young people (from middle school through to career and adulthood), were quite unique, with few organizations in the comparative set exhibiting that combination of strengths.

Prosper: Organization Differentiators: How We Got Here

From these findings, we helped Comer Education Campus develop a reason for being, which is a statement that explains the organization’s unique impact.

Then, working with a group of almost 20 staff from across the organization, we slightly modified the organization’s existing mission and developed a new vision statement and values for the Campus.

While defining these elements was key to finding a resonant identity for the Comer Education Campus, they alone would not solve the brand challenges that the organization had faced.

For that, we knew some significant changes would need to be made to the Comer Education Campus brand and messaging. Calling upon key findings from the research, we made the recommendation that Comer Education Campus adopt an Endorsed Brand Structure in which the Campus would serve as the “parent” brand in relation to its many affiliates and campus partners. Those other entities would then be asked to use a logo lockup in which their logo would appear above the Comer Education Campus logo, clarifying the relationship between their organization and the campus. In order to make this endorsed brand structure work, we recommended that the Campus develop a new logo and visual identity, as well as brand standards that defined how the campus brand should be used in relation to its various affiliates and partners. 

The new logo presented a powerful visual that depicted the central role young people play in lifting up, and being lifted up by, their communities. We also developed a new tagline: “Comer Education Campus: Empowering Youth, Strengthening Community,” which brought the organization’s reason for being to life.

Comer Brand Guidelines

Finally, we created a robust key messaging framework for the organization, including overarching key messages, as well as messages tailored to each of its key stakeholder groups: youth, parents, donors etc. 

With its new brand strategy in place, we got to work on developing a 20 month marketing and communications plan for the Comer Education Campus.

Marketing, Communications and Fundraising Funnel

Because of the change management required to align staff around the new brand, our marketing and communications plan also included significant recommendations on internal communications and staff brand training.

The progress element of the Nonprofit Impact System


This marketing plan was created in 2020, so we needed to ensure goals set forth were achievable with limited staff, in the midst of a global pandemic. We needed to account for Campus shutdowns, a transition to virtual events, and a great deal of uncertainty for the Campus and the world.


To accomplish this, we laid out every phase and tactic in detail and mapped the entire plan to a calendar, while also leaving room for flexibility should approaches need to shift and change in response to the changing environment. 

We built an objective and key results (OKRs) dashboard for Comer Education Campus to track its progress against the marketing and communications plan, and then began a year-long series of monthly meetings with the organization’s director of advancement to discuss her team’s progress and make adjustments to the plan. We also hosted a variety of training sessions with staff across the organization to introduce the new brand and help them learn how to use it effectively.


Comer Education Campus launched its new brand in summer of 2021 and continues to implement its 20 month marketing and communications plan, while growing its team. 

In 2020, the organization raised $6.5 million, a 13.8% increase from the previous year, and continued to serve young people and the community in deeper ways. 

Rollout of the endorsed brand structure with campus partners and affiliates is ongoing. While there is still work to be done, significant inroads have been made to overcome confusion surrounding the Comer Education Campus brand, and as a result, the organization’s impact continues to grow.

Could your organization benefit from similar results? Get in touch.