What if you had the answer – but everyone else was asking the wrong question?
That was how Emmanuel House founders often felt when they began working with Bureau Gravity. The nonprofit had a revolutionary approach to poverty: Its financial model actually empowered families of the impoverished working class to save and purchase their own homes. This transition from “renter” to “homeowner” didn’t just alleviate the poverty trap – it actually eliminated it, changing lives for generations to come. The Emmanuel House model was repeatable, reproducible and financially unassailable.
But nobody understood it.
Innovative philanthropic organizations face a unique challenge during donor outreach. Emmanuel House’s strength was also its weakness: Journalists described it with inaccurate shorthand, and potential donors didn’t grasp what made it different from other nonprofits. The organization wanted to increase its impact – but without a similar increase in donor pledges, that impact was destined to stay small.
Bureau Gravity’s work began, as always, with a Charter interview. In talks with the executive director and other leaders, we identified key problems, set objectives, then set to work building a strategy that would meet the organization’s goals without negative impact on its budget.
First came a new messaging strategy to explain Emmanuel House’s mission and its unique model. The model got a name: “Networked Savings.” Core copywriting and infographic design set the standard for how this model would be explained in future communications and staff interactions. Then, a website redesign fleshed out the new message in both words and photographs and gave it a home for donors to explore.
A key part of Bureau Gravity’s work with Emmanuel House has been story videos that focus on the experience of individual Emmanuel House clients, clarifying and demonstrating the Networked Savings model in a practical way that makes it easier to comprehend and makes the fruit of the nonprofit’s efforts visible. Now Bureau Gravity continues to tell new stories, designs regular email updates and develops messaging, strategy and presentation content for the organization’s annual donor banquets.