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Vision and leadership

Surdna Foundation

Surdna Foundation

Spitfire has provided strategic communications support to the Surdna Foundation for more than a decade – giving counsel and support on a wide variety of activities at key moments in the Foundation’s history.

 In August 2018, the Surdna Foundation chose Don Chen as its new president. Spitfire created a strategic communication plan to guide the announcement and drafted corresponding deliverables to engage the Foundation’s key audiences. When word of the announcement began to spread internally ahead of schedule, Spitfire worked fast to create a rapid response communication plan and ensure all of Surdna’s most important audiences felt valued and informed. As a result of our efforts, Inside Philanthropy interviewed Chen and My Social Good News, Philanthropy News Digest, Youth Today and the Chronicle of Philanthropy covered the announcement. On social, not only did top influencers like Grist, the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Ford Foundation share and retweet the announcement, but it also received an overwhelmingly positive response and reached a potential audience of more than 3.5 million people. By creating a buzz around the news of Chen’s appointment, Spitfire helped set the new president up for success and further engaged Surdna’s key audiences in its work in a more personal way.

Shortly after Chen took the helm as president, the Surdna Foundation set out to announce refined program strategies. The refined program strategies were the culmination of a year’s worth of work examining the Foundation’s programs to ensure they were as effective and impactful as possible. The Foundation had all the elements necessary for a strong announcement: a theory of change, well-defined program strategies and clear objectives. To ensure the announcement reflected the Foundation’s values, Spitfire interviewed all of Surdna’s program staff, asked thoughtful questions about the refined strategies and examined each program’s theory of change to build a strategic plan for the announcement. We brought these elements together into a single, powerful message - a strategic decision we made to emphasize the Foundation’s bold shift to a racial justice focus. We knew this was an important shift for the Foundation at this moment in its history and knew this approach would cement its brand and raise its profile – strengthening the visibility of its important work moving forward. 

 Having identified a clear messaging strategy that elevates the Foundation’s core belief that racial justice must underpin social justice, Spitfire created a set of materials to guide the Surdna Foundation in making the announcement. The materials included talking points customized for each key audience, including Foundation Board and staff, grantees, non-grantee partners and the media. Spitfire also developed a press release, announcement letters, social media posts and graphics, an email template and Surdna staff spotlights, all built around the core messaging. 

 Thanks to the emphasis on the Surdna Foundation’s commitment to racial justice as the cornerstone for its social justice work, the announcement garnered plenty of attention. 

 Spitfire’s targeted media placement strategy put the announcement in front of the right audiences, through outlets including Inside Philanthropy, NYPhilanthroPost and MySocialGoodNews. The announcement also saw strong engagement on Twitter. 

By transforming what might have been a relatively straightforward announcement into a larger statement about the Surdna Foundation’s commitment to racial and social justice, Spitfire made sure news of the Foundation’s refined program strategies caught the attention of the field and the media.


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Issues Covered

Racial justice