The NONPROFIT BRANDING BLOG is written by John Burke and Janice Gavan, husband & wife and owners of VisABILITY.
Even when a blog post is heretical, you can trust our advice. We are from your world. We have years of hands-on experience managing public service organizations, holding or supervising jobs like the ones now held by VisABILITY clients and readers of the Nonprofit Branding Blog.
We are today, or have been in the past: director of a local United Way, external affairs vice president of a university; development vice president of two private colleges; executive director of a regional health association; trustee of two private colleges; senior fundraiser for an international health organization; secretary of a public university board of trustees; director of a regional animal shelter; admissions officer at two private colleges; management and marketing consultant to 23 regional and national nonprofits.
We organized annual benefits with 35,000 participants; obtained coverage from nearly every major print and broadcast media in the nation (plus some international press); wrote and produced two nationally broadcast TV documentaries; managed development programs, supervised direct mail campaigns, wrote grants and conducted major gift solicitations, all of which over the years produced nearly $200 million in philanthropic funding.
As you can see, we have served in management positions in universities and in community agencies, in health associations and in public broadcasting stations. We also served on governing boards for institutions in each of these categories. Then we formed our company so we could enjoy working together.
We founded VisABILITY in 1985: The goal was to put our nonprofit background to use in an entrepreneurial context. Our company quickly became – and still is – the primary supplier to the nation’s public radio system. We are entrusted with national brands like Marketplace, This American Life, Morning Edition, Car Talk, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, A Prairie Home Companion, NPR News and many more of equal luminescence.
Now beginning our fourth decade, VisABILITY had supplied over 21,000 fundraising and marketing campaigns with products and guidance. In addition to servicing America’s public radio stations and producers, we have supplied nonprofit clients outside of public broadcasting with custom logo-imprinted branding products and related marketing advice . The following is a sample of nonprofits VisABILITY has serviced:
MIT (Cambridge, MA) Smithsonian Museum (Washington, DC) Wells College (Aurora, NY) The Food Trust (Philadelphia, PA) Komen Denver Race for the Cure (Denver, CO) UCLA Alumni Association (Los Angeles, CA) Smithsonian Publishing (Washington, DC) San Jose Museum of Art (San Jose, CA) Colorado Department of Social Services (Denver, CO) New York State Historical Association (Cooperstown, NY) Outward Bound (Golden, CO) Canton Municipal Government (Canton, NY) Arkansas State University (Jonesboro, AR) George Foster Peabody Awards (Athens, GA) Radio Free Asia (Washington, DC) American Association of Cancer Research Foundation (Philadelphia, PA) Vassar Alumnae Club (Philadelphia, PA) Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine (North Grafton, MA) Dana Foundation (New York, NY) Christian Brothers Academy (Syracuse, NY) Empower African Children (Dallas, TX) Defenders of Wildlife (Washington, DC) Seattle Youth Symphony (Seattle, WA) Grassroots TV (Aspen, CO) University of California (Davis , CA) American Motorcyclist Association (Pickering, OH) The Concord Coalition (Arlington, VA) Minnesota Orchestra (Minneapolis, MN) Dance Theater Workshop (New York, NY) Audubon Society (Cheyenne, WY) University of Missouri (Columbia, MO) Denver Regional Council of Governments (Denver, CO) Ordway Center for the Performing Arts (Saint Paul, MN) University of Northern Colorado Alumni Association (Greeley, CO) and more….
We have done pretty well by our clients. A few years ago a staff member tabulated a critical index of performance: a comparison of original and then-current client rosters. We learned that 93% of the organizations who became clients during our first two years in business continued to be active clients 20 years later! Old timers in the promotional products industry tell us that a client retention rate of 93% over two decades is a spectacular achievement.
The things we learned from all this experience inform the content on this blog. So, as we said at the top – even when our blog posts rant about nonprofit misfires, we are writing about the sector of America’s culture and economy that we love and have served for a combined 84 years. (Although the photos above are recent, we somehow ended up looking younger than our ages.)
Here is another insight into VisABILITY – we live in an extraordinary little town in the Colorado foothills.
Our spectacular location helps define who we are, how we live, who we hire and how we operate our company. So, when you get a few minutes, check out Lyons, Colorado. The link is under “Factlets” at the top of this blog. You will be pleased you did – especially if you ever wondered what you would find at the end of the Yellow Brick Road. Also, check out Lyons if you are thinking of relocating your family to the edge of the Rocky Mountain Wilderness, with more sunshine than Miami or San Diego, in a community of artists and musicians just 15 minutes from Boulder!