Client Story: Red Cloud Indian School

When members of The Numad Group began work at Red Cloud Indian School in 2006, they arrived at an organization that had been operating with a budgeted deficit. With an integrated approach to fundraising, strategic planning, communications and brand identity, throughout the following five years Matt, Kerry and Ted partnered with staff across the organization—and country—so that Red Cloud Indian School ultimately realized an annual surplus and raised more than $70 million, a 44 percent increase over the prior five years. This was done while reducing fundraising expenses to below the 2006 level.

Rebranding Program and Launch

The work at Red Cloud Indian School was successful in part because it integrated a comprehensive rebranding of the organization, and a communication strategy that turned what had been a story of despair into a story of hope—and success. While the organization decided to keep the logo that it had been using for decades, a new tagline was developed and brand attributes were clearly championed among staff, teachers, museum directors and students. Soon, teachers were talking with students about bright futures—and donors were repeating the stories of success that up until this point they had not heard of.

Print publications for students and teachers, parents and community leaders, major donors and foundations, were retooled—from expected browns and grays and bleak photos representative of stereotypes of life on an Indian reservation, to images of happy students, grateful for the education they were receiving, and empowered by the goals that they were setting for themselves.

With the blended approach and exponential growth came national exposure for the institution’s mission, with press coverage in The New York Times, the Associated Press and on ABC News 20/20.

Web Development

This led to the eventual redesign of the Red Cloud Indian School website, which would become a key communication tool in the organization’s arsenal. Over a nine-month process, The Numad Group designed and developed a website leveraging Blackbaud’s NetCommunity content management system and Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge database. The Numad Group also wrote new content for the entire site, which:

  • Serves as a primary communication tool that articulates the organization’s brand for all audiences and drives interactivity through online giving, an online news bureau, calendar of events and social media.
  • Creates a content rich experience that integrates information about history and educational programming.
  • Is easy and intuitive to navigate.
  • Features content based off the time of the year, offering a sense of “newness” every time a visitor comes to
  •  Creates a structure that is adaptable as content changes.
  • Creates a variety of microsites for the different schools, museum and parishes within one site structure—allowing visitors to easily move through different microsites within an overall system.

Since the website’s implementation, web analytics show increased engagement across all areas of the site, with top content including the feature stories and audience profiles, contact information update, facts about the reservation and student newspaper. Fundraising and educational-related pages have also proven popular. Social media engagement has resulted in more than 42 percent of new visits coming from external sources, primarily social media like Twitter and Facebook. Other important outcomes in year one of their launch:

  • Site visits more than doubled over the same period from the year prior to launch due to targeted search engine optimization, e-communications and social media activity.
  • The number of pages that have been viewed has increased by 126 percent and the average time spent on the site has increased by just over 62 percent.
  • Online donations have increased with the seamless online giving platform—and an online giving strategy put the organization on track to raising hundreds of thousands more dollars every year.

Fundraising Program

A fundraising strategy and other philanthropic work supported the web development and brand program—particularly strategies to work with annual fund and major individual donors. The direct mail structure and processes were analyzed extensively and were ultimately adjusted strategically based on the findings, resulting in reduced costs and the implementation of testing for the first time in the program’s history.

After a comprehensive analysis of the 800,000+ constituent donor database including constituents around the country, a more strategic effort with major, individual donors and major donor prospects was rolled out. The top prospects for major gifts were identified, comprehensive research was conducted on each, and individualized cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship strategies were developed for each of the prospects. Through strategic development of the donor relationships (achieved through multiple phone calls, visits around the country, and close coordination with the board, president, and other networks), the individual donor effort was strengthened significantly, ultimately resulting in the institution’s first $1 million gift from an individual donor in the organization’s history.

Also, strategic donor segments were identified based on the locations where concentrated numbers of donors were located. Using comprehensive cultivation, stewardship, and peer-to-peer networking strategies, a Circle of Friends program was developed in multiple locations around the country, bringing networks together to learn more about Red Cloud Indian School and providing the opportunity for volunteer leadership in peer-to-peer solicitations. 

An additional focus of the more integrated and sophisticated approach to fundraising was placed on granting organizations, a constituency that the organization had not had the capacity to cultivate, steward, and strategically solicit successfully in the past. Through the development of individualized strategies and comprehensive processes and structures for both cultivating and stewarding granting organizations, and by moving beyond simply sending boilerplate, cold proposals to a list of foundations, the organization turned its grants effort around from receiving approximately $450,000 each year in grants to receiving over $4 million in grants in one year. 

The specific support provided included:

  • Identifying the highest priority granting prospects, and providing detailed research into the giving practices and histories of each.
  • Asking board members and other friends of the organization to engage their networks in sharing the successes of the organization with strategic granting organizations, and to engage in the grant application process as advocates.
  • Providing detailed cultivation and stewardship strategies for each current and prospective granting donor for at least a 12-month period, and in some cases for a multi-year period.
  • Developing record-keeping processes to ensure goals for research and deadlines for applications and other cultivation and stewardship steps were met.
  • Creating a comprehensive structure for managing this effort seamlessly within the organization.
  • Analyzing existing programs and funding needs, and re-packaging activity areas as appropriate (in essence, a rebranding of individual programs) in ways that helped to meet the donors where they were, matching the organization’s needs and programs to the donor populations’ interests.