Grantmakers for Effective Organizations


GEO is a diverse community of 5,000 grantmakers working to identify the core smarter grantmaking approaches that enable transformational change. Understanding that grantmakers are successful only to the extent that their grantees achieve meaningful results, GEO promotes strategies and practices that contribute to grantee success. As a part of GEO’s work, the organization conducts industry-leading research on grantmaking practice and fosters learning initiatives targeting specific aspects of the process. 

GEO approached Sage after the start of a major rebranding effort, with the need to define the execution of the brand guidelines and create new collateral to introduce the new visual brand and brand voice. 

The Challenge

With a renewed focus on community — the members central to GEO — the new brand required use of an inclusive tone, inviting language, vibrant color and a focus on photography that presented great opportunity — but also some discomfort — for shifting away from GEO’s comfort zone.

Sage began by reviewing research and collateral that defined GEO’s identity to date — including GEO member surveys and testimonials, presentations, webinars, field scans and market research — to understand what comprises GEO’s core and how that core identity could best be realized under the new brand. With this understanding, Sage dove into the new brand guidelines and wrote and designed the first new creative materials needed for the launch of the new brand, including a membership brochure, conference booth exhibiting materials, photo library, PowerPoint template, business cards and stationery. Sage paid careful attention to how each piece complements the others to achieve GEO’s goals — portraying a unified, compelling brand that’s attractive and clear to ultimately sell prospective members. 

At each step of the creative process, Sage worked closely with GEO to explain the rationale behind our content and design choices, in order to gain comfort and buy-in among GEO leaders. In one example, we led a fun photo exercise with GEO staff to help teach them how to employ photography — a great departure from GEO’s past. We worked as an extension of the GEO team, intentionally designing a sophisticated but user-friendly PowerPoint template and the foundation for a photo library that GEO staff can then expand and tailor to their needs.

We’re glad to help to build GEO’s internal capacity, and proud that the brand training we led at GEO was praised by the client as “easily one of the most creative and effective workshops we’ve ever had a consultant organize.” The first executions of the new brand have been received with great enthusiasm, and have led to ongoing work designing a new look for GEO’s publications.

V-Brand, M-ArtsJim McIntyre