Katharine McLaughlin Kathy Park Share Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email Social systems should help people reach their greatest potential, not create barriers to their success. Kresge Human Services grantee partner Evident Change, formerly the National Council on Crime & Delinquency and the Children’s Research Center, uses data and research to improve our nation’s social systems. It does this by partnering with systems professionals and communities to get to the root of their biggest challenges and giving them the tools and knowledge to achieve better outcomes for all. With social and political change at the forefront in the country, it is critical that an organization like Evident Change is able to tell the world how it can help create social justice, racial equity, and social and economic mobility. So, with Kresge support, Evident Change participated in a comprehensive rebranding process last year, launching its new name and brand identity in December 2020. Kresge connected with Evident Change CEO Kathy Park to learn more about the organization, its rebranding journey, and what she and staff learned along the way. Why rebrand? Why was it important to do for your organization? Evident Change was formerly known as the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. The organization was founded in 1907 with an exclusive focus on juvenile justice, but our work has expanded to the adult justice, child welfare, and adult protection systems. We had also spun off a second brand, the NCCD Children’s Research Center, to house our child welfare work. Many of our stakeholders had no idea that these names referred to the same organization. Additionally, the wording of the name was outdated and didn’t effectively communicate our values, work, or scope. While we took pride in the reputation built under that name over many decades, it was clearly time for a change. We recognized that the organization’s brand was functioning as a barrier. It was preventing us from engaging effectively with all our stakeholders about our work and commitment to driving equitable outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. It became apparent that evolving our brand was critical to our capacity to achieve our mission. What activities were included in the project and what process did you follow? Some crucial steps happened before the project even began. Prior to rebranding, we assessed how our staff felt about the brand. Anecdotally, we knew that saying the name “National Council on Crime and Delinquency” was awkward not only because it was a mouthful, but because many people didn’t feel like it fit with our organization’s values. We are focused on helping to improve outcomes for people, not on “crime.” Staff survey data validated what we suspected. Only about a quarter of staff felt the name worked with what the organization does, our values, and what they individually do. We also spoke with our board several times and received their support. We then reached out to our funders. In talking with them, it turned out that many had the same issues with the brand that our staff did. Some funders who were excited about our work were in a position of having to explain away our name when they spoke about us. That was a helpful, if painful, piece of information supporting the case for rebranding. Fortunately, that meant these funders really understood and supported the project. For the rebranding project itself, we worked with Mission Minded, a wonderful firm that specializes in nonprofit branding. Their process began with research and discovery to assess the current brand’s strengths and weaknesses. Mission Minded also conducted surveys and interviews to capture the perspectives of our staff, board, and external stakeholders. Then we began to build the brand strategy, which was followed by naming, tagline and messaging, and visual identity. What feedback did you receive internally about the process and rebrand? The feedback on the new brand has been overwhelmingly positive. We did a post-project survey of staff and board and found that the satisfaction numbers had shot up into the 80 percent range for feeling like the new brand communicated our work and values well. Even some folks who had a harder time letting go of the old brand were pleasantly surprised at how well the new brand fit. What feedback did you receive externally about the rebrand? We’ve also gotten a lot of enthusiastic feedback from external stakeholders, including our funders. Not only is Evident Change a memorable and easy name to say, they felt like it was “much more in keeping with what [we] do.” One of the comments that meant most to me was from an agency partner in Minnesota, who said that our new tagline (Inform Systems. Transform Lives.) really spoke to her in the context of recognizing and addressing systemic racism and focusing on the impact on people’s lives. That told me that we were on the right track. After having gone through this process, what did you discover and learn that might be helpful to others considering going through a similar process? A few things I learned along the way: Don’t be afraid to be bold. After a lot of thinking, we made an explicit decision to choose a name with a very different feel from our old name. We wanted to communicate our strong people and social justice focus rather than choosing a name that was literal or sounded institutional. We wanted a name that represented the future of our organization to attract the people we need to do that work, whether new staff, funders, or organizational partners. Depending on the size and scope of your organization, allow up to 6 months after you’ve created the new brand to get ready to launch it. There were a million moving pieces that all of our teams had to work on to launch the brand. It takes time and coordination. I gained a renewed appreciation for all our staff and the way everyone pitched in for a successful launch. Understand that not everyone will love the new brand and that’s okay. Some people might just love the old brand and not want to change it. Others will wish you’d made a different choice. While the proportion of these types of comments was very small, part of you will want everyone to love it and that’s not realistic, just like everyone doesn’t love the same flavor of ice cream. Hopefully you can at least achieve the goal of helping people understand why the new brand works as a strategy to support the mission, even if they would have made different choices. If you were to go back in time and give yourself advice at the start of the project, what would you tell yourself? Seek the input of people and teams who will be critical to implementing specific aspects of your new brand. After we’d completed all the strategic work and it was time to actually put the new brand in place, we realized that we’d missed opportunities to include input from some of the people who would do the actual nuts and bolts of implementation. That created wrinkles we had to iron out prior to launch. Including people’s input at relevant points, as much as is feasible, also increases their buy-in and feeling of ownership of the new brand. What message(s) would you have to funders about investing in these types of efforts? Why do you think they should? Brand is more than a name or a logo. It’s essential to achieving your mission, rather than the vanity project that some folks assume it to be. Your brand is a critical way of communicating what your organization offers and a way of connecting to those who need your work. If your brand isn’t reaching those people, you can’t succeed. If funders believe in the mission of an organization, funding rebranding and communication efforts is a key way to support them in accomplishing that mission. We are grateful to have had support from The Kresge Foundation, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for our rebranding efforts. What does Evident Change hope to accomplish in 2021 and beyond? We want to help organizations connect their organizational culture with their service delivery to create equity in their communities. In the push to achieve racial equity, organizations often focus on program metrics without adequate emphasis on coaching and training their own staff to create an infrastructure rooted in racial equity. Or sometimes it’s the flip side: organizations are doing a good job of creating internal equity infrastructure but lack knowledge or capacity to measure whether their program outcomes are equitable. Evident Change integrates all of these elements of racial equity work: internal and external, personal and systemic, data and relationships. In partnership with Kresge, we’re working with our second cohort of organizations to implement our Data for Equity framework, which combines data analysis, training and coaching, and technical assistance. We’re partnering with the duPont Fund on similar work. Within our child welfare, justice, and adult protection work, we will continue to seek new ways to center the perspectives of people with lived experience in these systems. To learn more about Evident Change and its work, visit www.evidentchange.org.