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April 19, 2024

Brand on Us™ Connects Nonprofit to Their Roots

Posted by
Christine Deckert

Research Objective: The Central Gulf Coast CDF Freedom Schools leadership sought to rebrand to better reflect the identity of the organization. The brand rollout aims to educate and broaden public awareness and the visibility of the organization in Escambia County to propel the organization’s growth goals.

Strong Stories Create Stronger Organizations

Storytelling is at the heart of every nonprofit’s success. A clear story has the power to focus the collective will of a community around the nonprofit’s mission, scaling their impact and strengthening their sustainability as an organization from within. Each year, Brand on Us™, a community-backed initiative by idgroup, selects one deserving nonprofit to receive a full brand transformation using our most powerful tool, From the Core™ – at no cost. For our 2023 Brand on Us™ recipient, Central Gulf Coast CDF Freedom Schools, that story was embedded within their rich history as part of the nationwide Freedom Schools Movement. 

Literacy as a Defining Moment in History

During a major inflection point in the civil rights movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi saw an opportunity to leverage volunteers flocking to the state. “Let’s use their education” sparked the launch of the first Freedom Schools, where Black Mississippians were connected, many for the first time, to literary works of Black authors and critical thinking skills.

This new educational environment electrified the youth, who could freely and emotionally express themselves. By the end of what became known as Freedom Summer, the curriculum was expanded and implemented to more Freedom School projects. Today, Children’s Defense Fund carries on this legacy with their nationwide CDF Freedom Schools® summer program. As a host organization, Central Gulf Coast CDF Freedom Schools brings that literacy and cultural enrichment program to the greater Pensacola area.

Stakeholder Engagement Brings Everyone to the Table

Fundamentally, organizations are strongest when they reach deeply into the hearts and minds of all their stakeholders to define their identity and path forward. As an expert stakeholder engagement facilitator, idgroup hosted dialogue sessions with leadership, volunteers and community members to shape the organization’s story. Each dialogue provided a layer of diverse perspectives and insight about the organization’s strengths, aspirations and ultimately, a strong shared purpose. The findings from these conversations were analyzed and combined with contextual research using idgroup’s rigorous From the Core™ research methodology. 


Identity Map - Organization's Purpose Statement: We exist to build a strong belief within our scholars that they can make a meaningful difference for themselves and their communities.

A Future Built on Stories of Freedom

Co-creation is fundamental to the process of shaping a story worth living. Unifying themes emerged from the dialogues that brought clarity to Freedom Schools’ identity. 

Designed to establish a competitive advantage, idgroup’s Identity Map framework fuses data and the art of storytelling to find the sweet spot of branding. For Freedom Schools, that meant establishing a story at the intersection between scholars and their families, community partners and funders, the education ecosystem and the organization itself.  

Identity Map - Organization's Purpose Statement: Freedom Schools is a research-based program that creates fun, interactive learning environments that nurture the whole child. Unlike other programs, we are torchbearers for our rich history and transform our scholars into confident changemakers for themselves and their communities. As a partner in education, Freedom Schools offers an uplifting culturally relevant academic approach that prevents summer learning loss and offers unique value to communities and education ecosystems looking to fill gaps in education.

Each building block within the identity map formed the core narrative that will drive the organization forward. Inspired by history, shaped by diverse voices, the narrative powerfully connects how the organization sees itself and communicates with the world.

Identity Map - Organization's Vision Statement: We are proven mentors of great minds and inspired leaders. We have infused a spirit of hope in our scholars, their families, and the educational environment.

Sharing the Story Through a High Impact Campaign

Empowered with a strong brand identity, story and new name, idgroup positioned the organization to be reintroduced to the marketplace as Gulf Coast Freedom Schools. The campaign titled, “A world in every child,” emphasizes the connection between literacy and transformative ideas as a means to change the world - internally and externally. Referencing illustrative themes from books within the Freedom School curriculum and culturally relevant artworks, the creative team developed a distinctive visual style that utilized vibrant mosaics, joyful movement and imaginative environments that center the scholar. 

Transformation from the Inside Out

Gulf Coast Freedom Schools’ new identity was rolled out and celebrated at the Brand On Us™ launch party, where the organization was joined by community members, volunteers and idgroup’s contributing partners. This moment, a culmination of storytelling, strategy and deep engagements from a cross section of advocates, served to catapult Gulf Coast Freedom Schools into their next chapter. It was an honor for everyone on the idgroup team and all of our Brand on Us™ partners to volunteer our services and talents to help build a bright future for the organization.

Learn more about Brand on Us™

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