Charity Rebrands for Growth

Charity Rebrands for Growth

On August 13, 2018, Lisa Bertagnoli of Crain Chicago Business explained why rebranding a Chicago-based charity was a real game changer. Though it may seem as a simple change, the charity expects to see great success.

What’s in a name? Plenty, when it comes to fundraising for a charity with a sensitive mission.

Until Aug. 1, Chicago-based “Resilience” was Rape Victim Advocates, an organization that has evolved substantially since its founding 44 years ago. Back then, staffers visited hospital emergency rooms to help survivors of sexual assault. These days, the nonprofit also offers counseling for survivors and education and awareness programs aimed at ending sexual assault.

Erin Walton, executive director, says that the former name had grown irrelevant and even problematic as the organization evolved. “Rape” too narrowly defined its focus, given that it helps survivors of all sexual trauma. “Victim” is a “trigger word that doesn’t resonate with some survivors,” Walton says, and even “advocates” doesn’t adequately describe the charity’s work.

The former name also impeded fundraising. Some sponsors didn’t want their brand associated with the word “rape.”

Why the change to Resilience? For clients, the word points to the future instead of focusing on the trauma. It’s also easier for potential funders to hear. “Rape is possibly one of the most inflammatory words in the English language,” says Matthew Brett, owner of Substance, a Chicago-based communications firm that helped with the rebrand.

Resilience’s annual operating expenses are $2.7 million, 37 percent of which is covered by individual donations and earned revenue, for instance, corporate workshops designed to create a culture of respect and equality. Walton wants to move that figure to 50 percent, especially as Resilience plans to expand its presence to 18 hospitals, up from 14 now. The rebranding, including a revamp of the website and marketing materials, cost $60,000-money well-spent, as the new name will make it easier to talk about the organization and its goals. “We just really want to minimize barriers to those initial conversations,” Walton says.

Despite the inadequate descriptions associated with the charity, they were able to rebrand for greater growth. Check out our Case Study on Naming a Nonprofit for more information on creating a brand name.

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