Friends of St. Francis Childcare Center

Fall-Winter 2013
Project Type
Fast track
Project Focus
Marketing & Communications
Organization Type
Children, Youth & Families,


Founded in 1977, the mission of the Friends of St. Francis Childcare Center (FOSF) is to provide high-quality early childhood education services to a culturally and economically diverse urban population, using a model that calls for building a community of learners and participants, including parents and the community. FOSF serves children ages two through five from all of San Francisco’s neighborhoods, including a substantial number of low income families. Primary funding for FOSF’s $700k annual budget comes from tuition, the California Department of Education, and the City of San Francisco.


FOSF’s Board of Directors is under increasing stress to secure the expanding amount of financial support needed each year for the Center to continue its mission of serving a culturally and economically diverse population. FOSF does not have skilled marketing resources and believes that improving its marketing message will lead to additional stakeholder engagement.

Project Objectives

The ACT team was asked to provide a marketing communications message for potential donors and board members, target philanthropic market segments, develop a framework for identifying archetypal board members, and identify information technology gaps for a future consulting project.

Project Overview

The client organization was facing a funding decrease from The City of San Francisco, which over time, could threaten its solvency. FOSF was already breaking even, with zero revenues in excess of expenses. FOSF also wanted to pay its teachers and workers a higher wage, and have additional funds to maintain and improve its facilities. There was a debate between the Executive Director and the board as to how to approach marketing the organization. The board was heavily populated by parents of FOSF students. Half of the student population lived locally, in The Duboce Triangle, part of San Francisco’s famous Castro District. These students had full tuition-paying parents. The other students were from economically distressed families, mostly south of Market Street. Most of these students’ parents paid no tuition, requiring a combination of government funds and philanthropy to make up the difference. FOSF focuses on helping the entire family, with programs for parents such as cooking classes, nutrition education, and referrals to healthcare, housing, and employment. This activity further strained FOSF’s resources.

The executive director was provided with a brief “elevator pitch” emphasizing FOSF’s “entire family” approach, pioneered by settlement houses at the turn of the previous century, such as Hull House in Chicago. San Francisco has a robust philanthropic community, with many benefactors in the performing arts, and other market segments where diversity is strongly supported. Board Archetypes were also provided.

Key Recommendations

  • Leverage FOSF’s own support of diversity when approaching the San Francisco philanthropic community
  • Find a board member from the real estate industry, who might be helpful in fundraising, renting additional space, and physical plant issues
  • Use social media to supplement, but not replace, face-to-face and personal networking of board members

Key Conclusions

FOSF would be warmly received by San Francisco’s philanthropic community, but it isn’t well known. Key FOSF individuals such as the Executive Director should promote the school through word of mouth. In addition, the board doesn’t need restructuring beyond the possible addition of a real estate industry person, preferably a developer.

Final Report Outline

- Marketing Communications Message Delivered

  • Developed in working session with Executive Director at Stanford location
  • Emphasized FOSF strengths such as supporting diversity in San Franciso’s Castro district, and the Settlement House concept, which assists the entire family

- Identified market segments for promotional activity, such as the performing arts community                              

- Board Archetypes Delivered

  • Bridgespan study referenced, which surveyed 457 non-profit board members and executive directors in September 2004
  • Significantly for FOSF, which lacked a marketing communications budget, the Bridgespan study validated the importance of personal networking for recruiting board members and fundraising. This networking is key, regardless of marketing communications spending and social media utilization


Bridgespan Not-For-Profit Board Member Survey; also applied to Summer Search Silicon Valley ACT project. The study identified archetypal board members and their key activities from a sample of n. = 457 in September 2004.

The “Settlement House” model based on Chicago’s Hull House, which focuses on the needs of all family members in distressed or struggling populations, as opposed to a traditional school, which might focus on the students exclusively.

The need for an “elevator pitch” for all directors of non-profits, whose skills might be in running organizations, as opposed to selling.