2006: NHKA

Where we learned to care.

A mainstream Afrikaans church was one of our first major clients. In that complex, highly emotive environment, we learned countless lessons, grew up really fast, and won our first international award for one of the most beautiful, best conceived brands DevCom has ever developed.

The Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika (NHKA) conducts social development and charitable work through a network of entities collectively known as Diakonale Diensorgane.

Under this main brand are:

  • Ondersteuningsraad (the main welfare organisation),
  • Bejaardesorg (the entity caring for the elderly),
  • DPS Huise (the children’s homes), and
  • The Africa Institute of Missiology (AIM), which trains black theology students.

In the early 2000s, the church decided to extend its reach and impact. The NHKA had to engage differently with the world outside if it wanted to tap into the corporate and general public donor community to raise the funds and support that would enable this.

DevCom was appointed to come up with a brand name and identity that would be acceptable in the conservative Afrikaans church environment, while at the same time present a self-explanatory and inviting image to the external public.

How we ate an elephant in four bites:

Bite 1: Internal buy-in
The first phase took four months and saw us participating in 40 meetings, consultation sessions, and workshops as we sought to get the opinions and buy-in of 20 internal bodies and commissions within the church. The outcome was consensus around the architecture and purpose of the new brand, as well as the strategy, structure, and goals of the Section 21 company that had to be put in place to support marketing, raise funds, and report to donors on behalf of the NHKA’s charitable organisations.

Bite 2: Research
We researched branding strategies and communication techniques used in the local and international non-profit and corporate social investment (CSI) spheres. A trend we couldn’t ignore was that the large non-profits tended to have a main brand supported by sub-brands for specific functions. We learned that while the NHKA’s existing brands were out of touch with the world, the work they were doing was a perfect fit with the causes that corporate funders liked to support. The outcome of this phase was the birth of to care, the NHKA’s chosen main brand for its service organisations. In line with the above-mentioned trend, we proposed and gained approval for five sub-brands.

Bite 3: Brand development
During this creative phase, a graphic designer was brought in to translate to care into a logo and design elements. Six options were developed and subjected to the NHKA’s consultation process to settle on the preferred logo. Next, we conducted six focus groups with external audiences. We refined the logos based on their reactions. For example, the butterfly that is now part of the to care logo for vulnerable children emerged from focus group discussions, especially those that included children, who thought that the little girl was alone and scared. Adding the butterfly changed that perception. Once the logos were finalised, we developed a full set of corporate identity elements, including a comprehensive corporate identity manual. We also compiled the church’s first single database of all its projects. The information in this one-stop hub was used to populate the website and enabled the DevCom team members, who manned the 0861 to care telephone line, to make it easy for members of the public to find a project they could support. We spent 400 consultation hours gathering and analysing the project information and compiling the database.

Bite 4: Introducing to care
DevCom produced a PowerPoint presentation, a question and- answer document, and a DVD as communication tools to introduce to care to the NHKA’s 110,000 members.

Challenges and results

The church’s culture was the single biggest challenge in this project. Strategic communication practices were foreign concepts in this environment and 500 years of reformation history had instilled a cumbersome decision-making culture that involved endless committees, commissions, and consultation. In the 18 months that we worked with the NHKA, we participated in 117 meetings, consultations, workshops, and presentations. The NHKA was an early lesson in the persuasive value of research.

Although the brief stated that the church wanted to be seen as open and accessible to the general public and corporates, we experienced huge resistance when it came to implementing an English-language solution. In the end, practicality and the proof that came from the research won the day.

There wasn’t much money for the project. The total budget for developing the brand was R20,000 (including design and printing proofs). Our consulting fees over the 18-month period totalled R270,000. To ensure success, we delivered additional services to the value of R300,000.

It was all worth it in the end when the research results were in. Even the doubters had to concede that the to care brand was a powerful tool that worked advantageously. Our internal evaluation questionnaire returned a consolidated score of 125 out of a possible 200 (any score between 66 and 130 is considered successful).

Externally, our success was measured in acceptance, cash, and support; namely:

  • To care received funding from the Telkom Charity Cup and became Lefra Produksies’ CSI partner and beneficiary of its major
    Afrikaans music shows.
  • At the end of DevCom’s contract, to care made it to the first round of due diligence with Jasco Electronics and Wimpy.
  • Partnerships with McCarthy Toyota in Centurion and a number of performing artists were formed to raise awareness and funds.
  • A database of over 200 people with no ties to the church was created within the first three months of to care’s active implementation.
  • DevCom won its first African Gold Quill Award and its first International Gold Quill Award for the quality of work that resulted in the to care brand.
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