A legacy nonprofit repositions for the future

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I had never heard of Bnai Zion Foundation but I was sure that my friends who are active in their local temples would be aware of this organization that has funded over 1,000 buildings and projects in Israel. I asked my friend, Rabbi Billy, and he said, “I've actually never heard of these folks. I visited their website and see they've been around since the very early 20th century!” It’s true, Bnai Zion Foundation has been around for over 111 years —longer than Israel itself. Rabbi Billy told me that, ‘Bnai Zion’ means children of Zion, Zion being another name for Israel. “So, I guess it's meant to refer to the aggregate community of the Jewish people as we relate/connect to the Land of Israel.” It’s always good to ask a rabbi.

I checked in with many other friends and colleagues and consensus was the same: No one had ever heard of them. Clearly, we had an awareness issue on our hands. Bnai Zion Foundation’s leadership admitted that they were not as well-known as they wanted to be, which was why they sought Langton Creative Group’s help to reposition the brand. From the start, we were attracted to Bnai Zion’s nonpolitical and nonreligious mission as well as the opportunity to raise the profile of a worthy organization that is under-valued. It felt a little like discovering a new investment opportunity that nobody knew about.

Questions for a legacy organization

It is really important for legacy organizations to capitalize on their long-term successes. When embarking on a brand repositioning project like this, devote enough time to thoughtfully answer questions like, why has this organization survived so long? Why were they founded? And ultimately, how are they still vital in today’s world?

Even though Bnai Zion Foundation is not well-known in the United States — the source of all its funding — we discovered that it is very well-regarded in Israel where the buildings and capital projects have a major impact on the life of the people. And Bnai Zion Foundation has always positioned itself as a nonpolitical, nonreligious way to support Israel.

Can anything about Israel be nonpolitical and nonreligious?

Bnai Zion Foundation has always focused on work for the community. In 1941 leaders from Bnai Zion Foundation founded “American Red Magen David for Palestine” Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross. Today, Magen David Adom is Israel’s national ambulance service. Bnai Zion continues to support the Bnai Zion Medical Center — a major hospital located near the Lebanon and Syrian borders.

Stephen J. Savitsky, President of the Board, captured the spirit of the organization “Regardless of politics or religious beliefs, we come together to work for the people and the State of Israel.” At Bnai Zion Foundation you don’t have to agree with every political or religious stand in order to share a table. You just have to share your love of Israel. Langton Creative Group used this philosophy as our guide to developing a communication strategy for Bnai Zion Foundation’s new brand platform.

Redesign or Rediscover?

Does a refresh require a completely new logo? How much should it build upon the old logo? In our experience, we see these as common questions facing legacy organizations.

bnai zion logo sketches

Early sketches showing a wide range of concepts for the new Bnai Zion Foundation logo.

For Bnai Zion, we started by exploring a wide range of logo concepts from minor changes to major overhauls. The marketing and development leaders wanted to make a clean break from the old symbol to capture attention and establish a new direction that will attract younger donors and volunteers for Bnai Zion saying, “Show us something really radical.” Meanwhile, the senior leadership was more interested in maintaining a strong connection to current supporters by protecting the heritage of the organization.

The Chairman of the Board made it clear that he did not want to stray too far from the symbol that was engraved on buildings, plaques and certificates all over Israel. There is an emotional connection to the symbol. Yet the symbol had some real problems. The artwork was dated. It was fussy and hard-to-reproduce. The typography was hard-to-read.

We designed a solution that builds upon the philosophy of the organization and circumvents the “old vs. new” argument about changing the logo. We focused on what everyone could agree upon: Make the organization feel more current without throwing away the past. At the same time address the practical issues and equip Bnai Zion with a logo that is easier to use.

Bnai Zion Logo refresh Nonprofit

The logo transition (From Left to right): The original symbol that was hard-to-read and looked dated; The same symbol reversed out of black; The symbol is now made of solid shapes that makes it easier to reproduce; and a positive version that became the basis of a new bolder symbol.

The new symbol strikes a balance between the past and the future. It has a strong visual connection to the existing symbol yet it is more contemporary and will work better online to attract younger donors and volunteers. What’s more, all constituents were pleased.

Bnai-Zion refreshed logo design

The final logo.

A movement that is more than a logo

New logos are not enough to establish a brand platform. We created a Brand Guidebook with a new mission statement that is expressed through all of their communications — especially their website, video and email marketing.

One important point to consider in today’s world is that being nonpolitical and nonreligious about Israel is a point-of-view. We redesigned and reimagined the organization’s “Voice” magazine so it now had an editorial viewpoint. Bnai Zion Foundation does stand for something, they stand for the people and the state of Israel. The Voice magazine was re-launched with bold stories about anti-Semitism that show how Bnai Zion Foundation is fighting anti-Semitism by building capital projects in Israel.

Bnai Zion Voice cover spread

The re-launched Voice magazine remains nonpolitical and nonreligious and while still addressing serious issues like anti-Semitism.

Bnai Zion Foundation now has a new brand and messaging platform, but the real work is just beginning. Everything an organization does and says should reflect the values of the mission. For Bnai Zion Foundation that means supporting Israel in ways that are meaningful. Cheryl Beir, the CEO expresses this as, “I’m the child of a Holocaust survivor. I am my father’s revenge, and as such, I am deeply committed to helping all of the people of Israel thrive.“

To support Bnai Zion Foundation and check out the new website that we designed, please click here.

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Langton Creative Group is a NY communications design firm dedicated to improving the way businesses and organizations interact with their audiences. We were founded as Langton Cherubino Group in 1990.

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