How the organization formerly known as Rape Victim Advocates rebranded to become Resilience, transformed their messaging, and grew their impact.
As a 44-year-old nonprofit organization, Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) was at crossroads when they engaged Prosper Strategies and our strategic partner, Substance Strategic Visual Communication.
Their name and brand no longer aligned with the expanding scope of their mission, yet many of their stakeholders felt personally tied to their existing identity.
In fact, every word in their name had become problematic:
- “Rape” limited their scope of work as they now focus on all types of sexual violence. It also limited their ability to bring programming to schools and workplaces that were adverse to the term.
- “Victim” was a harmful and disempowering label for the people the organization serves, who they had long ago taken to calling “survivors” rather than “victims.”
- “Advocates” did not adequately explain the role that the organization’s staff and volunteers play in the lives of the survivors they serve.
However, changing their name and rolling out a new brand was not going to be easy. Rape Victim Advocates had built up significant brand equity over its long history. Additionally, many of the organization’s staff members and volunteers are themselves survivors, which made them even more likely to feel personally invested in the current and future identity of the organization.
We began our engagement with RVA how we begin every engagement, with the formation of a project committee, representative of the organization’s internal and external stakeholders and the communities the organization serves. In RVA’s case, this committee included leadership, staff, volunteers, board members, survivors and donors who would bring their own diverse perspectives and lived experience to our work and provide valuable input and feedback. We then worked with this committee through the four phases of our rebranding process: Discover, Design, Drive and Deliver.
After hosting a Discovery Kickoff Meeting with the RVA team and project committee, we conducted three key assessments to determine where the organization’s brand stood in the present, and how it would need to evolve in the future. These assessments are part of the Discover process for every brand and messaging strategy we develop. They include:
An Organization Assessment where we explore where the organization stands currently in regards to their strategy, challenges, brand and marketing. In RVA’s case, we reviewed the organization’s strategic plan, existing marketing and communications materials, and media coverage. We also interviewed leadership, board members and staff.
An Ecosystem Assessment where we aim to understand how the organization exists today relative to others in its ecosystem: collaborators, comparators, competitors for funding etc. For RVA, we conducted a marketing and messaging audit of four other organizations that provide survivors with support, as well as those that provide corporate and institutional training, and explored how RVA’s marketing and messaging compared to theirs. We also conducted a topical media audit focused on local and national coverage of sexual violence.
A Stakeholder Assessment where we aim to better understand the stakeholders our clients hope to reach, both demographically and psychographically, so we can propose a strategy that will be effective for them and sensitive to their lived experience and cultural context. For RVA, we analyzed a donor survey and interviewed supporters, volunteers and survivors. Focus groups are another commonly used tool in our stakeholder assessments.
What did we find?
Our Discover process leads us to uncover a few key insights that guide the rest of the rebranding process. In RVA’s case, these key insights included:
- RVA’s goal to expand its mission was significantly limited by their current name and brand identity
- RVA was differentiated from the ecosystem by its exclusive focus on survivors of sexual assault and 24-7 end-to-end support
- There was a significant disconnect between RVA’s staff and its leadership in regards to the organization’s ideal future identity
Findings from the Discover process always lead us to key strategic recommendations that guide the rest of the rebrand, which we make in the beginning of the Design phase of our process.
In RVA’s case, our strategic recommendation focused on building a new brand for the organization that lived at the intersection of empathy and empowerment, two themes that had been consistently emphasized through all aspects of the Discover process.
We then developed a Brand Base and a Brand Brief, two deliverables that serve as a bridge between the strategic recommendations and the new brand itself. In RVA’s case, the Brand Base and Brand Brief included a positioning statement, key messages, audience identification, brand personality guidelines, and more.
With the Brand Base and Brand Brief in place, we then moved on to the naming portion of our Design phase.
For RVA, we started by developing a list of more than 100 names, organized by thematic category (functional, experiential, evocative etc.). After holding a meeting with the project committee to review the long list, it was clear that stakeholders were most drawn to evocative names, and they liked the thematic ideas of determination and solidarity as paths for exploring the strategic direction of empathy and empowerment.
Based on the input from these sessions, we selected a set of five top names we recommended for RVA. We conducted research to determine name availability and any conflicts, as well as web domain possibilities. And, we developed taglines for the final five recommendations.
The final five names were shared in a meeting with the rebranding committee and the committee voted on the name Resilience and the tagline, “Empowering Survivors. Ending Sexual Violence.” A descriptive tagline was an important accompaniment to the more evocative, less descriptive name.
Once the Design phase of our process is complete, a name has been selected, and the board has voted to approve it, we begin the Drive phase of our engagement. This is where we work to bring a new brand to life.
For Resilience, we prepared four logos and visual identity systems, along with usage examples. We also explored typography, color palettes, patterns and grids that could be applied to the entire marketing communications program for the visual identity. These options were explored with the project committee. We then refined their preferred option based on their feedback. Once the new logo and visual identity system were approved, we developed a brand style guide to guide the expression of the new brand.
RVA was now ready to become Resilience.
During our Deliver phase, we develop a brand rollout plan that identifies how to announce a new brand to an organization’s most important stakeholders and make sure it is as well-received as possible.
Resilience needed to explain that while their mission wasn’t changing, their name and visual identity were being updated to keep pace with their evolved scope of services and impact.
Our plan provided strategic counsel for unveiling the new brand to the organization’s most important stakeholders, which included survivors, donors, corporate partners, supporters and members of the media.
Additionally, since thought leadership positioning was also an important goal for Resilience, and since the announcement of a new brand provides opportunities to connect with reporters, we supported the organization in creating and executing a brand rollout media strategy. And, to ensure everyone at the organization was prepared to talk about the rebrand and use the new Resilience messaging, we held two messaging and media trainings with the executive director and other senior leaders.
The organization announced its new name at its May 2018 Annual Fundraiser and it was received extremely positively.
With a new brand comes new materials. Following the announcement of Resilience, we unveiled a new website for the organization, along with updated collateral.
Total revenue growth between 2017 and 2018, the first full year after the rebrand
- New Volunteers
81 new volunteers recruited between 2017 and 2018
Growth in foundation grants between 2017 and 2018
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