Making Waves Foundation

Spring-Summer 2022
Project Type
Fast track
Project Focus
Marketing & Communications
Organization Type
Children, Youth & Families,


Founded in 1989, Making Waves Foundation’s mission is to advance educational opportunities for college-bound underserved youth in Contra Costa County. The Foundation established Making Waves Academy, a tuition-free public charter school providing a rigorous education. The Foundation also provides college coaching, need based scholarships, and financial literacy training. The Foundation supports more than 500 current college students and a growing alumni network of more than 500 successful college graduates. Its students and alumni, known as Wave-Makers, are passionate about recycling their success and giving back in their careers (in business, law, education, medicine) and in their communities.


The core of its new ten-year strategic plan is to scale the impact of Making Waves, initially through expanded programming for students in Contra Costa and ultimately nationally, by sharing its success with others. Making Waves Academy and Making Waves Foundation are two separate nonprofits. Making Waves Foundation supports Making Waves Academy with real estate, fundraising, and other programs. Making Waves Academy students and graduates receive coaching and scholarships through Making Waves Foundation. The Foundation also offers coaching and scholarships to students across the Bay Area and is currently running a pilot program for students at Pittsburg High School. The Foundation’s signature program is its college success program, known as CAP, which is an acronym for College and Alumni Program. Historically, CAP has been branded (logos, signage, social media accounts, etc.) and there is a strong internal sense of pride around CAP. The program is often referred to outside the context of Making Waves Foundation — for example, coaches are often called CAP coaches, students are often called CAP students, and workshops, communication, and activities are branded as CAP. Students and alumni might not fully know about or associate CAP with Making Waves Foundation. However, CAP is not an easy term to search, find online, or share with others in a way that is easily understood.

Project Objectives

Making Waves asked for ACT’s help in updating its current branding strategy and execution with a focus on clarifying its various brand assets (Making Waves Foundation, Making Waves Academy, and CAP). This work will serve as the foundation for the launch of Making Waves’ expansion strategy. Specific questions to address included:

  • How to clarify the three brands from a strategy and positioning standpoint?
  • How to clarify the three brands from a visual and creative standpoint?
  • How to manage the brand moving forward to ensure adherence to the updated brand strategy and standards?

Project Overview

The team assessed Making Waves’ current branding and execution as well as its strategic expansion plan to assist in recommending an updated branding strategy to unify all the current brands with the intention of streamlining messaging, building a strong unified brand, and providing clarity for internal and external audiences.

The project consisted of three key phases. First, ACT conducted stakeholder interviews and an audit of the brand space. The second phase included a series of internal meetings and culminated in a Brand Architecture workshop with the senior leadership team. Finally, the ACT team presented brand recommendations and an action plan.

Key Recommendations

The ACT team recommended streamlining the number of brands and proposed a new brand architecture and naming strategy to help clarify existing and future offerings.