Synod of the Northeast
A regional body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Synod of the Northeast gathers across human-made boundaries to nurture innovation and strengthen gospel communities.
Several years ago, the Synod of the Northeast of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was responding to a mandate from its national body to examine its effectiveness and purpose. While being open to complete disbandedment, they learned that they have particular gifts to share, and that the diversity of the gathered community was too important to lose. To emphasize the gifts of this gathered body, they worked to refocus their energies, flipping the balance so that gathering received more emphasis than governing, allowing the gathering time to be filled with energy and the governing time to be filled with purpose.
In three key areas, we have been honored to work with the Synod to help implement its new strategic vision.
We created and implemented a cohesive and cross-platform communication plan in consultation with the Synod, and as a result of a communications audit. The website was used as a community hub where information was shared clearly and effectively. A video was created to communicate the personalities and the impact the Synod is having on the life of its constituents. An eblast schedule and template (both visual and content) was created to further tell those stories, driving traffic back to the website. Finally, we created special branding for their two biennial conferences, known as Come to the Table.
To effectively communicate their vision, and the new ways of engagement that come out of that vision, their website needed to become a vital location centralizing communication and provide opportunity for community-building. After completing a communications audit and report, we took their existing logo and vision, flushed out a verbal and visual brand identity, and created a new, easy to update website.
To communicate with their constituency in between events, as well as to communicate the weight and importance of their work with current and potential donors, we created a robust package of print materials. Their Robert L. Washington Scholars & Fellows program was established to provide leadership opportunities for young and/or people of color, and we also created a gorgeous and hefty annual report.
The Synod also needed a way to personally and persuasively communicate their vision and warmth to the people in their large geographic area without physically having to be present. Our creative team reflected their story back through a short video. Working with a team from the Synod we wrote a script, gathered leaders from throughout the Synod together for a day-long shoot, and then edited together a video currently used in their local communities, and at fundraising events.
Stories of hope and innovation that exemplified the Synod’s deepened purposed needed to be shared persuasively and effectively. We created a communication schedule and guidelines, integrating the website, social media and new eblast templates to reflect the new brand identity. We also worked with the staff to train them to take their design templates and do it on their own.
Finally, as the Synod's focus shifted to gathering, the first non-governing event was a major undertaking. Our services were contracted to help the planning team create and execute a hospitable, organized experience for their guests. We took the branding platform and guidelines and implemented them through the creation of a registration process and conference booklet. We also worked with the worship team to align our worship time with the new vision of the Synod. Mieke Vandersall, Derrick McQueen, Paul Vasile, and Larissa Kwong-Abazia of the Vandersall Collective were instrumental in making this event a success.
In their process of re-visioning, the Synod reallocated significant funding to support innovative ministry within their geographical bounds. When we began our work with the Synod they asked for help in reconstructing their grant applications, application process, and review process. Using best practices, putting more trust in the applicants, and encouraging them to explain their needs in their own words, we first wrote a report after speaking with various past grantees with recommendations for change and then worked with the Mission and Ministry Commission (their Board-equivalent) to refresh their process and encourage a more mutual relationship between the applicants and their Synod. The stories of the applicants were also the basis of our communication strategy.
With so many new people, congregations and organizations seeking funding from the Synod, and the heightened communication about the granting opportunities, the generous funding set aside in the Synod’s budget was being spent faster than ever before. In order to understand how best to raise funds, we completed a development audit, and then began a robust major-donor program, integrating the opportunity for giving on the website, organizing multiple cultivation events throughout the northeast, and launching the Synod's inaugural year-end campaign highlighting the impact of the grants made to innovative ministries.