Strategic Storytelling

WHERE: Jewish Family and Children’s Services

STRATEGIC CHALLENGE: Raise the profile of a 150-year-old social service agency to increase funding to meet community needs.

JFCS, founded during the Gold Rush, was expanding services to meet the diverse needs of the community – a new immigrant population from the former Soviet Union, the rise of AIDS, domestic abuse, a growing senior population and pressures facing children and families.

My goal as public relations director was to turn these issues into strategic stories that would to open the community’s hearts and wallets. The results: during my decade at JFCS, volunteer support grew threefold, from 700 to 2,100 individuals, named endowed funds multiplied from a dozen to more than 100, and annual revenue increased from $5 to $13 million.


Personal Profiles

In a celebrity-driven culture nothing sells like individual stories. At JFCS, strategically chosen stories about real people – donors, people in need and dedicated volunteers – highlighted community needs, inviting others to respond with donations and volunteer support. The key was leading by example, enticing people to turn their values into generosity and action.


JFCS used an array of newsletters and publications to communicate consistently and often with its many publics. Strategically driven, they presented JFCS’s multi-faceted work as individual stories – about homeless moms, people with AIDS, seniors needing support, volunteers willing to help – always demonstrating how assistance from JFCS makes a difference. My role: writing, editing and managing production, plus collaborating with staff, volunteers, donors, photographers and graphic designers.

Special Publications

The year 2000 marked JFCS’s 150th anniversary. How best to commemorate this special milestone? A calendar, of course – but with a creative wrinkle. This 150th-anniversary promotional calendar held 16 months, highlighting both the Jewish New Year in September and the secular New Year in January. With its historical timeline, list of “150 ways to show we care,” evocative photos of volunteers and clients, historic images and even recipes, the calendar told JFCS’s story in one comprehensive document.

Annual Reports

JFCS’ annual report needed to simplify a kaleidoscope of programs into easy-to-grasp bits and make the resulting documents visually compelling and appealing to read. The solution required distilling core messages into salient bullet points, and combining factoids with simple stories and photos that touched the heart.

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