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Community-led Communications Capacity Building

Making a Case for Community-led Communications Capacity Building

During this time of racial reckoning in combination with the global pandemic and catastrophic climate change, we must seize the opportunity to reinvent, reimagine and more effectively communicate a collective vision—a world of interconnectedness and collaboration, where those most impacted are prioritized and communications and technology are used to "sustain, heal and empower" rather than divide (Design Justice Network Principle 1).

The nonprofit sector is constantly evolving in response to the needs of our communities and planet—finding innovative and often grassroots solutions to our society’s most complex problems. Unfortunately, these same organizations are often forced to not only compete but are also starved of resources, professional development and collaborative opportunities to build, think and learn. 

Unfortunately, nonprofits, service providers and funders have been siloed by issue and geography, operating within a scarcity mindset—competing with each other for resources. This fragmented and competitive approach often sacrifices the needs of the communities suffering the most harm and cannot deliver systemic change. As a sector, we need to reframe our shared values, vision and work through a lens of anti-racism, equity, trust and mutual aid. We need collaborative, systemic-focused, transformational change in order to solve intersectional challenges at the individual, community and national scale.

Communications, is easily the most adaptive tool we have to promote anti-racist, inclusive solutions that center the communities most impacted. Shared communication strategy builds clarity around what is at stake and promotes a comprehensive vision to guide community stakeholders towards a common purpose. 

We need to tell the right message to the right people at the right time, together.

Research repeatedly shows that those organizations with a strong focus on brand and communications strategy are, "stronger, smarter and vastly more effective." - Sean Gibbons, Executive Director, ComNet, The Case for Communications, Stanford Social Innovation Review

However, communications are often overlooked or forced to be an after-thought within organizations that are challenged by limited resources. This leads to less than equitable outcomes at best & harmfully reproductive outcomes at worst. “Today, communications is not just an opportunity for nonprofits; it’s a necessity. Whether we’re fundraising or trying to influence policy, how we reach the right person with the right message has changed profoundly." - Andrew Sherry, The New Communications Imperative, Stanford Social Innovation Review

Our internal data shows, and external studies support, that a focus on communications capacity building creates more resilient organizations as well as more equity-centered leaders.

Join us in co-designing and developing a community-driven communications collective. We as support organizations, funders, service providers and community organizers "must bring leaders together, creating spaces that are conducive to honest discussions, feedback, and collaboration. As the challenges facing our communities become more challenging, we play a critical role in strengthening communications among nonprofits." -Vu Le, The Mycelium Model for capacity builders, professional associations, funders, and other support organizations


Over the last 4 years, rootid—in collaboration with various community partners, as well as input gained through hosted workshops, surveys and individual stakeholder interviews—has co-designed and developed a suite of professional development and communications capacity-building experiences. The flagship of which is rootid's brand and communications strategy cohort model—a 5-working session experience paired with monthly office hours and rootid's 1-on-1 coaching that support nonprofit leaders' journeys toward the development of equitable, inclusive and strategic brand and communications. In conjunction with the cohort, rootid also co-hosts monthly roundtable discussions open to the larger community, where nonprofit leaders come together in a 'solution room' style format to discuss their challenges and work together to think, learn and brainstorm solutions to common cross-sector issues.

rootid has collaborated with over 150 nonprofit organizations in 2020 alone and are grateful for the ongoing partnership of UpMetrics: Data for Good Fund, Giant Rabbit, TechSoup, Kalamuna, Full Circle Fund, and the David Brower Center, just to highlight a few. 

A few sample events: 
Fundraising & Communications Virtual Roundtable: ~45 organizations attended
Year-end Campaign Planning Roundtable: ~25 organizations attended
Nonprofit Technology Summit: ~45 organizations attended
Upcoming 2021 Brand & Communications Coaching Cohort

Quotes from organizations that participated in a few of rootid's programs.

“rootid showed us ways to go beyond a communications strategy, printed or web content, and instead get to the heart of our mission and impact which lies directly in human experiences of reentry and the daily barriers they face. By focusing squarely on elevating those experiences, we were able to come up with a thoughtful and strategic communications strategy that aligned with our mission and that brought the organization’s development and programs team together to streamline our work, elevate the voices of those we serve, and really demonstrate what really matters to the wider public  - which is breaking down barriers to opportunity for all Americans with criminal records.”
- Aiasha Khalid, Deputy Director, Strategy & Impact, Root & Rebound

“Our staff is overburdened, we are on the ground and have to focus on just doing what we do. Having opportunities to talk with other nonprofit organizations, see how we are all managing under the circumstances we are in, and even mentor one another, that opportunity is so helpful.”
-Terri Forman, Executive Director, First Graduate

"rootid’s training allowed me to really understand my organization’s audiences and write messaging that actually worked. Everyone working in communications should do this, and they should do it now – the earlier you do this is better, because it will shake up your communications strategy for the better!"
- Emma Baumgart, Senior Communications Coordinator, Elevate Energy 

"We sometimes get stuck in a land of buzzwords and complex messaging, and rootid helped our organization unpackage who we are, why we matter, and how different audiences perceive our work. rootid ultimately helped us talk about our work in a much more digestible way that shows our unique value-- we can't thank their team enough!"
-Maureen Silva, Director of Development & Innovation, Mandela Partners 

 It’s been a transformative experience for us as a nonprofit. I couldn’t recommend it more.
-Erinn Carter, Co-Founder of Frailty Myths 

It helped us build a roadmap that we can use in our work now, but also for years to come.
-Ben, SFUSD, Restorative Practices

Join us in co-designing and developing a community-driven communications collective. 

Valerie Neumark Mickela - director of strategic initiatives & education, founder

Valerie Neumark

rootid Co-founder and Managing Partner, Valerie is a brand strategist and art director with almost 20 years experience in the corporate, education and nonprofit sectors.

Valerie's diverse professional background spans a wide range of experiences including teaching Kindergarten through Post-secondary art, science and web design; education administration as a Founding Principal of a 6th-12th grade private school and Associate Director of Career Services at Art Center College of Design; design and art direction in the automotive industry; founding board member for two growing nonprofits, and now communications strategy consultant for both local, statewide and national nonprofits/social good companies.

Valerie has her Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts & Media from University of California San Diego and a Master's Degree in Education from Pepperdine University. She was also a 2016 recipient of Pepperdine University's inaugural 40 under 40 Award. In her free time she plays soccer, loves to hike, watch baseball and read Mia Mayhem books to her daughter.