Girls on the Run Bay Area

Spring-Summer 2016
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Market Analysis,
Marketing & Communications
Organization Type


The mission of Girls on the Run Bay Area (GOTRBA) is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. It serves girls in the third through eighth grades in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, and San Mateo Counties. Founded in 2002, GOTRBA is an independent affiliate of Girls on the Run International. With a committed pool of 500 volunteer coaches, it served about 1,750 girls in 123 programs in the 2014-2015 school year. The curriculum stimulates emotional, social, psychological, and physical development along with healthy living education to instill self-esteem and strong values.


The board and staff are committed to a more strategic growth plan leading to serving 3000 girls by 2020. With few resources available to girls at schools in underserved communities, GOTRBA is particularly dedicated to serving under-represented, low-income youth. At least 75% of girls receive financial assistance to make the program accessible and affordable to them; program fees cover about 25% of the annual budget. Growth is currently driven by word of mouth. GOTRBA would like to be more targeted in its growth process with emphasis on expanding programs at schools in higher-income communities, with the hope that these high-income participants and their families might convert into donors, compounding the additional revenue generated.

Project Objectives

GOTRBA asked ACT to create a strategic marketing plan to help the organization achieve its goal of serving 3000 girls by 2020 while improving sustainability by increasing earned income from programs, without compromising its commitment to make its programs accessible to underserved communities.

Project Overview

The ACT team first aimed to understand GOTRBA’s current programs and operations, challenges for growth, and market opportunities. The team then segmented GOTRBA’s five-county territory and made model potential paths to achieve GOTRBA’s program growth goal. ACT then benchmarked best practices for sustainable growth, clarified marketing positioning and messaging, and examined ways to improve operational efficiency through standardization, volunteer leverage, and succession planning.

Key Recommendations

The ACT team proposed a regional growth strategy with a focus on retention in all counties, but new school acquisition in the East Bay, where GOTRBA has low market penetration and unmet demand for after-school programs. Main recommendations included:

  • unify message around empowerment and building healthy, confident girls;
  • ask for donations to fill the funding gap, so no girl is turned away;
  • focus on retention and stakeholder experience—girls, coaches, and schools—through operational excellence;
  • and recruit, train, and unleash volunteers to augment program staff functions by providing the right tools.

Some additional recommendations that were out of project scope included:

  • raise price gradually to reflect true costs, while emphasizing the funding gap to maximize additional donations;
  • translate strategic plan into employee work plans;
  • and encourage peer-to-peer networking to learn from other councils.

Key Conclusions

The ACT team’s internal audit and market review revealed that GOTRBA’s idea of focusing on high-income families to increase earned revenues and sustainability was flawed, given much higher competition from myriad after-school options including sports programs. In contrast, their traditional audience of low-income girls and their families had fewer choices, while the potential to increase contributed income in the Bay Area for empowerment programs for this demographic is significant. Subsequent benchmarking also found GOTRBA among the top councils nationally in fundraising effectiveness. As a result, Phase II of the project focused on increasing marketing, operational and fundraising effectiveness with a unified message to help them scale. The following conclusions were reached:

  • GOTRBA is profitable, has grown steadily, and has effectively transitioned to a fundraising board;
  • growth has been organic, through word-of-mouth, based on outstanding curriculum, programs, and staff;
  • and growth goals are achievable with potential to exceed, but scaling sustainably will require better operational and fundraising efficiency.

Final Report Outline

Review of project plan

Mid-term review highlights

Phase II findings

  • Messaging
  • Marketing operations
  • Benchmarking
  • Operations for scale

Conclusions and recommendations