An Identity That Fits: Missouri Foundation for Health
When Missouri Foundation for Health came to Almanac with a request for new communication materials, at first we agreed that was what they needed. However, as we moved through our discovery process with them our opinion began to change. View the full project.
Getting to the root of it all
During our deep-dive with staff, Board and other stakeholders, the picture that developed was one of an organization that had outgrown its current identity and messaging. Simply creating a new powerpoint wasn’t going to fix what they were dealing with. A definite gap had evolved between who they were/how they worked, and who all of their messaging and materials said they were. Our job was to help them strategically bridge the gap by creating a brand that is more in line with their thinking and focus today.
“At that point, a lot of things had changed at the Foundation—leadership, strategy, and we didn’t really know ourselves,” says JoAnne LaSala, Chief of Staff at Missouri Foundation for Health. “One of the best things Almanac did for us was to listen to us and then introduce us to ourselves!”
Understanding the landscape
For more than a decade, Missouri Foundation for Health (“the Foundation”), the largest health foundation in the state, has worked throughout the state to improve the health of the most vulnerable. Beginning as a funder of other agencies, the Foundation evolved to work in policy and education and outreach as well. Their staff are not simply check-writers, handing over dollars to agencies who are impacting health. Quite the opposite, they are well read, very experienced, respected professionals who are surfacing health issues, bringing together the right organizations and people, and creating the systems and conditions to allow positive changes in health to flourish.
We mined information, insights and motivation from this talented group through a facilitated, highly interactive, all-staff session. We also spoke one-on-one to several key staff and Board members about the Foundation’s future, its key audiences and strategy moving forward. “That facilitation helped us find a vocabulary for ideas we hadn’t been able to articulate before,” says JoAnne.
When we shared the results of our research with staff, including our recommendation to develop a new identity, they were immediately in agreement. Working together, we dug in and created a look and messaging that fits the organization, its stakeholders, and its future.
“This process was so important because an organization’s brand signals to people how seriously to take you, and it should reflect the work that you do,” says Courtney Stewart, Vice President of Strategic Communications at Missouri Foundation for Health. “It brings clarity to all your communications.”
We began with key messaging, covering the unique concepts that set the Foundation apart, and which define the space that the organization occupies in the minds of its audiences. These included the geographical location in Missouri, health improvement, staff knowledge and expertise, a multifaceted approach and a focus on people. The key messaging process culminated in agreement on a specific and unique positioning statement:
Missouri Foundation for Health is a resource to the region, working with communities and non-profits to generate and accelerate positive changes in health.
A shorthand version of that statement became the tagline:
Missouri Foundation for Health: a catalyst for change
Visual identity development
Our team was inspired by the idea of a catalyst—something that causes or accelerates activity between two or more persons or forces. This was the essence of the Foundation’s work: bringing together the right people, agencies, programs and resources at the right time to create positive health outcomes. The goal with the mark was to very immediately define the work geographically, indicated by the State of Missouri with a simplified, bold outline and then show the catalyst-like bubbling up of ideas, programs, and impact, extending beyond the state’s boundaries, indicating the Foundation’s national reputation.
We selected a modern color palette to signal a new outlook, and developed a suite of icons to make communicating complex health information accessible and easier to understand for all audiences.
To ensure that the identity and any materials felt as authentic as possible, we conducted a number of photo shoots in communities that are served by programs funded by the Foundation. We visited programs in action, met people from all walks of life and captured a moment of their lives, when they were being impacted by the Foundation’s work.
Spreading the news
The new brand for Missouri Foundation for Health provides a flexible framework for communication to all of the Foundation’s audiences. As the new identity rolls out, the Foundation’s internal communications team continues to address new challenges and needs, using the components of the system.
“Every day and in everything we do we are thinking about how to communicate those key messages and continue reinforcing our identity,” says Courtney.
The bridge that we built together connected the Foundation’s past with their present and is leading them toward an even brighter future.