A Brand to Build a Network

When it comes to getting funded, nonprofits must overcome a few more hurdles than for-profits, especially when it comes to reaching potential donors.  For-profit companies trying to bring in new customers work hard to leave an impression on their desired audience. Put simply, when they present a strong and consistent view of their brand to the right people, they see success.

While nonprofits can effectively acquire new donors in the same way, they often have fewer means to do so. Without the budget or staffing to create a robust brand, they loose valuable opportunities to reach an audience that cares about the work they’re doing. This affects their ability to retain donors, and therefore to set long-term goals for growth.

When our client, <dev>tech academy, approached verynice with this same issue, we knew we wanted to help. <dev>tech is a nonprofit that provides a comprehensive web development program, job training, and personal finance skills to disadvantaged youth. We were immediately impressed by their ability to create social change by matching two major issues— the tech skills gap and the lack of opportunity faced by youth who cannot afford a college education. In order to help <dev>tech build a support network, we just needed to help them communicate the power of their model to the world. How? By giving them a strong brand strategy and visual identity. 

Instead of taking you through this process ourselves, we asked <dev>tech Co-Founder, Stacy McCoy, to talk about <dev>tech, their work with verynyice, and what she sees for the organization’s future. 

Hi, Stacy! Can you tell us about who <dev>tech serves?
500%.  That’s how much the cost of college has risen since 1985.  Student loan debt is over $1 trillion and is second only to mortgage debt.  It’s not an affordable option for everyone anymore.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many alternatives.  Those without higher education will make on-average less than $30,000 a year and struggle to find a job because unemployment rates are much higher for those without a college degree.  

At the same time, there’s a tech talent shortage.  Code.org estimates that by 2020 there will be 1,000,000 more jobs than students.  And it’s much harder for companies in smaller tech hubs to recruit and retain talent.  <dev>tech academy bridges this gap by helping youth that can’t afford to go to college gain the skills necessary to get a job as a junior developer at a local tech company.  Youth get access to higher paying jobs and a stable career, tech companies get the talent they need to grow and scale, and the surrounding communities experience greater economic development due to the additional money flowing into the local economy.  It’s a win-win-win! 

Are there any differences between the traditional “dev bootcamps” we’re becoming familiar with and <dev>tech’s model?
<dev>tech academy takes the standard for-profit web development bootcamp model, bumps it out to 6 months, and adds a long-term apprenticeship.  This was a novel idea when the model was designed a couple of years ago.  But now these types of models are starting to be tested in a couple of big cities around the country.  But we take it a step further.  On top of providing mentorship and career services, we also provide financial literacy support from opening bank accounts to teaching how to manage money and save.  I would also like to think the curriculum we’ve developed is one of the best.  Finally, we have plans for creating a model that works for rural areas and monetizing the model so that it’s self-sustainable.  But it’s too early to share the details of those. Stay tuned!

Even though the <dev>tech model seems incredibly robust and relevant, were you facing any barriers to getting off the ground?
Though the idea behind <dev>tech academy was formed a couple of years ago when I was living in Los Angeles, I held off on launching it because I knew I would be moving soon.  When my husband and I moved to Durham late last April, I hit the ground running.  Finding advisors and community support was easy.  The pieces of the puzzle quickly fell into place as one after another people offered to help.  Durham is such an amazing city!  But there was one big piece missing: funding.  The cornerstone of the program is a bootcamp, which requires a skilled teacher to be competitive.  Skilled web development instructors are expensive!  It’s a big ask.  My first venture Give To Get Jobs – which is organized as a for-profit LLC – was self-funded.  Fundraising, especially non-profit fundraising, is completely new to me. And pilot programs are the hardest to fund.   It’s been difficult going from moving so fast to needing to slow down in order to find the right donor(s). 

Now that you have a visual identity, how has that removed some of the barriers you’ve been facing?
Revamping <dev>tech academy’s visual identity was huge for us.  It makes us look a lot more professional, which is important when you’re asking for large sums of money.  It also helped guide a website redesign and will inform all graphic design styles moving forward.  And I’m a lot more confident that we’ll be able to effectively reach our target market with this new identity. 

How about the brand strategy piece? Did that open up new opportunities for <dev>tech as well?The new brand strategy is helpful beyond words.  Working towards that strategy pushed us to dig deep and determine what’s behind the <dev>tech academy brand.  Our brand and brand story is a lot clearer now enabling us to tell the story in a much more effective way.  

Sounds like <dev>tech is headed toward a bright future! How are you visualizing your next steps?The biggest goal is to get the money to pay an instructor.  Once that happens, we can have the program up and running in less than a month and a half.  Everything else is ready to go.  Once we launch the pilot program, the next big step will be to run a successful program.  When we have proof of concept, we’ll be scaling the program rapidly.   And then the adventure will really begin!  It’s a big undertaking, but I can’t wait.  And I can’t thank verynice enough for helping <dev>tech academy as we set out to develop communities by developing tech talent. 

Thank you, Stacy! 

If you haven't taken a closer look at <dev>tech academy yet, check them out here. We couldn't be more excited to see what they achieve next!