When Nancy Sasaki joined Alliance Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in 2011, people told her she shouldn’t have taken the job.
She quickly discovered why. As the nonprofit’s new executive director, she heard that the community was unhappy with AHF, despite its mission to help the disadvantaged gain access to healthcare in San Diego and Imperial counties.
But Sasaki, who worked for Planned Parenthood for 30 years, is no shrinking violet. She told the board what the community was saying about the organization, then she emailed a survey to current and past grantees, vendors, and other organizations.
SCATHING REVIEWS FROM THE COMMUNITY
“The survey came back really blasting us,” Sasaki said. “There were comments that our board of directors was out of touch with the community and that the community was confused about what we funded.”
The nonprofit’s tagline was “Improving access to healthcare,” but AHF would also fund things like community gardens and training programs for recently released prisoners to help them find a job.
“For the community, that was too far removed from healthcare,” she said. “For them, our tagline meant you walk into a clinic. Everything we do helps you walk into a clinic for healthcare. But that’s not what was being seen out there.”
The survey results also revealed the community was in an uproar over the vetting process for funding, stating that the board didn’t properly evaluate their needs.
Sasaki held nothing back from the community. Instead, she released the results at an open forum. And then she got to work.
REBRANDING ALLIANCE HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION
To help her rebrand AHF, Sasaki hired Ideahaus, a creative communications agency, and one of the first things they tackled was the tagline. It’s now “Advancing health and wellness for those in need,” which more accurately describes the broad services that AHF funds in the community.
The funky logo with bird wings on it also had to go. The new logo is a triangle, which is also delta symbol, and indicates change, something AHF represents. It is comprised of health-related icons, which shows that AHF is responding to the community’s feedback.
“My perspective was to be a much more community-oriented, community-facing organization,” Sasaki said. “It wasn’t about us. It was about the work our grantees were doing and what others were doing in the community.”
One challenge for Ideahaus, she said, was that it wanted to promote the client, AHF. “But it wasn’t about AHF. It was about who we were working with and who they were serving.”
Taking that into consideration, Ideahaus redesigned AHF’s corporate-looking website so that it better reflects its grantees, and particularly the homepage, which showcases the diverse organizations it serves. The nonprofit also evaluated which social media platforms would align with its new strategy, and started using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as publishing blog posts on the website.
Changes were made to the funding application process as well. Each applicant was asked to submit a two- to three-minute video in which the leaders of their organizations would talk about what they hoped to achieve with a grant. AHF received 114 applications, and all of them had video, which AHF posted on social.
Those videos not only helped educate the community about the work of different organizations, but also acted as a reward to each applicant, to see themselves and their stories shared online. Once the board decided which organizations would receive grants, the winners’ videos were posted again.
Other ways AHF helps highlight the community is by hosting two events a year for CEOs or executive-level members of nonprofit organizations to encourage networking and talk strategy, and also to position AHF as a health and wellness supporter through additional town hall meetings and learning webinars.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING NOW
AHF conducts surveys every two years, and since that first one in 2011, the situation has vastly improved. People are now saying great things about AHF.
“They see me and the program officer out in the community, and they feel like we’re listening to their needs, that we’re doing so much for their organizations,” Sasaki said.
As for the warnings from friends that she not take the job at AHF? She’s glad she didn’t listen. “This job really speaks much more to what I thought I was going to do when I grew up,” Sasaki said. “It really is my dream job. I’m lucky.”
To learn more about AHF Visit AllianceHF.org.