IMPACT | lwala community alliance

Decreasing child mortality, improving health outcomes.

A refreshed identity and arsenal of communications assets to scale community-led healthcare

 
 

Lwala Community Alliance has been transforming the health and wellbeing of an entire community in rural western Kenya for over a decade. They have big plans to extend their innovative community-led model to a population of one million people (then beyond). But they first needed to diversify individual donors, develop a strategic brand position for institutional funders, and create a holistic suite of communications materials to launch them to global scale.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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INTRODUCTION

The power of community-led impact

 
 

Getting to Lwala requires a flight from Nairobi plus a few hours on the highway and a final bouncy stretch along a rutted gravel road. The landscape is lush and beautiful, with small villages dotting the rolling hills of maize and plantains.

Pulling onto the premises, it’s immediately evident the decade-old organization is both a grounding center and a bright beacon in this rural community. The hospital, outpatient clinic, laboratories, education centers, youth facilities, and staff quarters hum with focused purpose – the bucolic landscape a sharp contrast to the disciplined, professional activities inside.

The story began with Kenyan brothers, Milton and Fred Ochieng. After losing both parents to HIV, they resolved to fulfill their father’s dream of bringing health to their community. So while attending medical school at Vanderbilt University – and with the help of their home village and thousands of supporters in the U.S. – the brothers founded Lwala Community Alliance in 2007 to deliver crucial healthcare, education, and preventative programs to the people of Lwala.

The village that once sold their chickens and goats to pay the Ochieng brothers’ airfare has built a powerful model of grassroots, community-driven health. Local Lwala leaders identify the most pressing priorities and needs, then work alongside the stateside team to design and implement necessary interventions.

As a result, the organization delivers much more than clinical care. They’ve developed education initiatives around water and sanitation, reproductive health, pre-and post-natal care. They’ve established onsite lab testing, created nutrition programs, and equipped community health workers to test, treat, and track their clients. All services are backed by rigorous M&E, giving the community clear insight into what’s delivering improved outcomes.

With so much on-the-ground good already happening, the organization was looking to its next horizon: scale and replication.

 
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SITUATION

Growing grassroots into global scale

 
 

Lwala’s homegrown roots contrast its advanced outcomes and its goals for widespread expansion.

In partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, Lwala laid plans in 2017 to expand their model to the one million people in Migori County – exponentially increasing their reach beyond the village and surrounding population.

But Lwala has their sights set even higher. This expansion is a first step to demonstrating and proving that quality community health development can be achieved in a rural setting, guided by its own people. And more than that – the core elements driving the success of the model can be replicated and extended across the continent and globe.

So along with growing the current operations, Lwala needed to solidify the organization as leaders in innovation – demonstrating to the international development community that their model could contribute to systems-level thinking.

These lofty goals were accompanied by a humble communications strategy and lackluster brand. The visual identity, print materials, and five-year-old website were outdated, signaling a parochial, homegrown NGO. And their donor platforms and systems were antiquated, with donor cultivation efforts constrained by manual retrievals and instinct instead of being guided by data to match their programmatic execution.

Regardless of impact, Lwala was still gaining the foothold they wanted in the ranks of global players, making it more difficult to influence their key audience of thought leaders. So the mandate was clear: Lwala needed to amplify their story, increase their platform, and further develop their funding base. Past efforts had served them well up to this point, but it was time for a re-think and refresh – all with the goal of trumpeting the story of an organization deserving of a spot on the world stage among other best-in-class global health NGOs.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

"As a current Executive Director and former funder, I’ve seen the kind of impact an agency partner can make. Mighty Ally is quite unique in helping us with both high-level strategy and marketing guidance and also on-the-ground implementation. Not to mention that their engagement model is designed to truly meet the realities nonprofits face."

– ASH ROGERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

 

 

 

 
 
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ACTIONS

New audiences, allies, and assets

 
 

Donor diversification
We typically say: “it starts with brand strategy.” And we still believe that’s true. But we also recognize an organization might not have the luxury of spending the up-front time needed on strategy before they have to demonstrate results. So we pulled an audible and jumped straight into donor development to take full advantage of some unique opportunities and the impending holiday giving season.

Lwala has historically been sustained by a passionate community of donors, most of whom were introduced to the organization while Fred and Milton were medical students in Nashville. Their financial support was consistent, allowing for steady growth across an entire decade. But as with any investment strategy, the pool of nonprofit donors needed to be diversified. And investing now in engaging these donors would pay off for years to come.

Together with Lwala, Mighty Ally developed a handful of separate strategies – with a range of tactics spanning traditional, email, social, digital, and influencer outreach – to find new donors and tell the evolving story of Lwala.

Our first project was to help Lwala capitalize on a timely opportunity to engage a younger donor audience and thus grow their social platform. It was serendipitous: a popular former contestant – and NICU nurse – on ABC’s The Bachelor learned of Lwala and was instantly enamored of the model. With a desire to use her vast social platform for good, the reality star offered to host a watch party along with a dozen other cast members. We harnessed this opportunity to plan and execute the event along with a social media campaign designed to capture the hearts and minds of a younger audience.

Through branded images distributed by the cast, a dedicated hashtag, a custom Snapchat filter, and the launch of a text-to-donate platform, we successfully increased access to and garnered contributions from a new pool of young supporters. The Lwala message was amplified to hundreds of thousands of people via social networks, tripling followers within a two-week period.

We then turned our attention to Giving Tuesday and the ever-paramount holiday giving season. Lwala’s year-to-date individual donations were lagging, so there was a lot of ground to make up over November and December to close the year strong and achieve the projected targets.

We identified a need to engage individual donors through a carefully crafted appeal: one that highlighted Lwala’s evidence-based work and measurable outcomes, and that tied this rigorous approach to the stories of individuals impacted by the community’s work. Leveraging the creative campaign concept Help us Grow Where We’re Planted, we paired whimsical drawings made by Lwala schoolchildren with the stunning data that proved a dramatic decrease in the mortality rates of children under five. We also incorporated a simple wooden tree ornament imprinted with another illustration drawn by a child – a memorable leave behind to keep Lwala top of mind for days (years!) to come.

Armed with a mailer, email templates, social media images, and messaging – we led an all-out push across digital and traditional channels. We ran cycles of email A/B testing, looking closely at metrics to drive iterative updates to the emails sent. We also segmented out recipients who hadn’t opened or clicked on previous emails, sending highly targeted and personalized requests to them. And overall, we kept a close eye on engagement and unsub rates to optimize send strategy and frequency.

We aimed to increase overall donations, but also up the average individual donation amount. We applied best practices of online donation form design to create a frictionless experience. We triaged a poorly performing PayPal process with a short-term solution in QGiv, then recommended a larger donation system overhaul. After a custom analysis of major donation platforms, we recommended Kindful as being optimal for their needs, then designed a donation interface to encourage increased giving by connecting financial support to real-life outcomes. 

 
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Brand strategy, positioning, and personality

There are countless NGOs – even innumerable healthcare NGOs – that compete for limited support from funders. To break through this noise, Lwala needed a crystal-clear brand strategy and positioning that would appeal to advanced institutional funders. It had to bring to light the inherent strengths of the organization, identify broad funding priorities, and tell a resonant brand story.

To get there, we facilitated in-depth conversations through multi-day collaborative workshops with the teams in both Kenya and the U.S. We detailed and prioritized their target audiences. And we conducted a series of exercises designed to capture the essence of the Lwala brand personality.

Our extensive landscape analysis proved to be the enlightening basis for many of our positioning recommendations. By comparing and contrasting possible key uniques against others in the space, we were able to validate and challenge what was on the table.

For example: while Lwala’s compelling founding story is an important part of the picture, our interviews found that it was not important enough to be a core differentiator. Same goes for their use of community health workers and traditional birth attendants. A lynchpin of the model? Yes. Something that can truly differentiate? Less likely, as other high-profile organizations can claim the same. We did discover that Lwala’s partnership with university research is a unique and compelling value proposition, as is their holistic healthcare approach and propensity for scale. And of course, to break through the melee of NGOs claiming to be community-led, we knew they would need distinctive messaging about what this looks like for Lwala and how it’s different from others.

The analysis resulted in a shorter, more resonant list of value props from which we diligently honed the elements we collectively felt would best resonate with Lwala’s audience. Then we wrapped the package by documenting the heart of the Lwala brand personality using archetypes. We deciphered that Lwala possesses a unique combination of Caregiver and Magician: an organization that’s loving and nurturing, but also catalyzes change and makes the impossible possible.

All of this work was condensed into a clear, concise brand strategy blueprint – an implement that would not only steer future comms and marketing efforts, but also serve as an evergreen tool for the many Lwala team members spread throughout the world.

 
 
 
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Ally activation
Our ability to super-serve clients relies on our power to partner with world-class agencies at no additional cost to the client. And most importantly, each collaboration is entirely managed by our team, so strategy stays unified and communications simplified.

Now Lwala’s foundation was laid. With a brand strategy in place, it was time to enlist the ranks of our agency allies in support of this tremendous organization. And in keeping with the guiding principle of Lwala, a true community of creative and technical experts came together to lead the charge.

Our ally engagement began early when we harnessed the talent of LS Creative to design the influencer activation materials and develop the print mailer and supporting assets for Lwala’s holiday giving campaign. Along with Love + Science to optimize their free AdWords grant. We then turned to the team at Ballyhoo Blue Workshop, who skillfully blended visual storytelling, data visualization and infographics, and adept use of photography into a first-rate annual report.

Ballyhoo also immersed into a full brand identity refresh, banking off our strategy, positioning, and personality work to give a new, refreshed face to the organization. Besides an updated logo, they rounded out the brand by creating a full roadmap and diverse set of templates to ensure the Lwala team was stocked with all they needed to bring (and keep) the brand to life. Our goal is to never create a reliance on Mighty Ally or any agency long-term. Instead, we equip clients with enough tools – presentation templates, social media images, discrete creative elements – to produce high-quality materials on their own.

And lastly, we activated the digital wits of LaunchPad Lab to develop and launch a new website. We carefully walked through a measured web development process – starting with a thoughtful sitemap and information architecture, then a wireframe buildout that sketched an ideal user experience. The dev team translated these efforts into a website that’s both visually engaging and highly editable – ensuring the site can be maintained and updated to reflect a growing organization over the long haul.

 
 
 
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RESULTS

Smashing averages, goals, and child mortality

 
 

Over the course of our 18-month partnership, the results we were able to generate alongside Lwala were energizing. They ranged from tactics like behind-the-scenes managing and optimizing email send times, to creative collateral meant for audiences around the world.

We helped Lwala exceed their holiday campaign stretch goal, seeing the average donation more than double the historical average. We did this, in part, by generating more email-driven donations in this campaign than the annual totals of the three prior years combined.

We also helped Lwala increase their digital reach on web and social platforms. Their Instagram audience more than tripled; the legacy Lwala website garnered a 36% increase in visits and a 45% jump in Donate page views vs. the year prior. We also witnessed a 41% increase in new site users from the year prior and 79% higher than the year before that.

Our collaboration also generated many sustainable assets: an annual report (digital and print), a new website, a full suite of templates, a library of creative assets and iconography, and a set of clear brand guidelines.

And while we always get fired up about driving tangible marcom results, it's the impact those results drive that really matters. We were proud to play a small role in the grand effort that resulted in the enrollment of 11, 474 households in community-based care, the full immunization of 95% of children within the service area, a 98% elimination of transmission rate for HIV-exposed kids, and ultimately a 64% reduction in child deaths.

As demonstrated by Lwala, it takes more than a village. Our partnership with this team proved just that: in uniting various communities, joining them across oceans and continents, we can together create lasting and replicable change.

 

$162,000

Generated in one holiday campaign (exceeded stretch goal by 62%)

 
 

41%

Increase in website users compared to YEAR prior

 
 

$585

Average donation amount (double THE historical average of $287)

 
 

$54,951

Driven via email marketing in JUST two months

 
 

3,240

Children receiving healthcare for a year from A SINGLE campaign

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

"Mighty Ally is a true ally in any communication and branding journey. Despite having lots of cases to draw from, they come in with a clean slate. Wanting to hear more rather than impose their perspectives. The conversations and solution building is genuine. I am impressed by how they have helped us bring freshness to our communication materials."

– JULIUS MBEYA, MANAGING DIRECTOR

 

 

 

 
 
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