Helping one of the original mission agencies

USPG, one of the oldest Anglican mission agencies around, came to us with a heartfelt plea: Help us…we’ve lost our way.

Recent work on the brand – attempting to win over a younger, broader audience – had failed to resonate with these newbies and even created anxiety amongst the faithful, with a number of long-term donors walking away.

Be honest and get real

The most recent rebrand had led to the achingly cool name of Us. We suggested they quickly revert to their previous name – USPG – and build a strong, solid visual identity around that rename to restore faith amongst the faithful.

Tougher than a new name and visual identity was figuring out how to attract greater number of donors in an already crowded Christian charity space. The truth was USPG were trying to compete with the big players – like Christian Aid and Tearfund – trying to offer all they offer but on a fraction of the budget. They needed to move to a smaller pond.

Ask the audience

While the charity does much great work around the world, we discovered their singular difference over other similar charities was this: USPG only works through the Anglican Church. This got us thinking…who of us doesn’t like to get behind people who see the world how we do. To be part of a tribe that’s out there representing you. Its human nature, isn’t it.

That simple insight pushed us to ask the question: what proportion of the Anglican market could USPG win if they positioned themselves as not just Christian, but explicitly Anglican? To find out, we commissioned an independent survey of 2,000 UK churchgoers and church leaders and put them a straightforward question:

If you were to give to an overseas mission & development charity, which of the following would you be most likely to support:

(a) A charity working through various local partners – including churches, Christian and secular organisations – to meet the needs of people around the world; or

(b) A charity working solely through local Anglican churches to meet the needs of people around the world

From that survey, we discovered a committed core of Anglicans (15%) who would choose to support a charity working solely through the Anglican Church (USPG) over and above one working through a range of partners (Christian Aid, Tearfund, Water Aid, etc).

This statistic was a lightbulb moment. We realised USPG had been struggling to compete in their pursuit of the 85%, but by turning their attention to the 15% they could rightfully claim to be the only mission & development charity filling that gap. We knew it was time to be brave, and go niche.

So what did we do…

The look and feel of the charity had become quite opaque, losing something of the passion and faith under the surface. To fix that, we created a new logo featuring a cross troupe –a device that both clearly marked out the charity’s faith and could also be used to unpack their revamped full name: United Society Partners in the Gospel. We also focused the visual identity around a series of striking, emotive photography that brought more heart into the brand.

We also began exploring how USPG could present their deep connection with Anglican Churches as central to their offering, not just ‘the way we happen to work’. To ground this idea, we came up with Serving Churches, Strengthening Communities – a brand thought to be woven into the copy, choice of imagery, selection of stories, etc. It quickly became the guiding star for communicating what the charity is about, answering the crucial question ‘why’.

We also had a long, hard look under the bonnet of their fundraising activities. We quickly realised there were simple changes the charity could make – like not being afraid to present the need on the ground and speaking to their audience as different segments, not just one homogenous lump.

The results

We launched the new-look USPG at the Greenbelt arts & justice festival, with the help of an immersive ‘walk-through’ exhibition, where thousands of visitors could follow the journey of a family from their home in Syria to a refugee camp in Greece. It was a huge hit with festivalgoers – and a great way to show USPG was a charity with something to say.

Even though the changes to the rebrand were only rolled out in late 2016, but the charity has already seen a noticeable uplift in income and supporter engagement. It took courage to admit past mistakes, and to choose the smaller pond over the bigger one – but those decisions have put USPG on the path to a brighter future.