Great Lakes Protection Fund

Brand communication for a publicly capitalized private corporation.

The Great Lakes Protection Fund is the first private, permanent endowment created to benefit a specific ecosystem. Developed to address the ecological problems of the largest single source of freshwater in the world, the governors of the Great Lakes states created GLPF to help protect and restore their shared resource. Its mission: to catalyze the continuous development of new technologies, innovative methods, and practical regional actions to improve the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Its ultimate goal: to see its sponsored projects inspire businesses or governments to apply the results on a larger scale.

The Challenge

As the Fund’s low profile outside of its immediate circle made it increasingly difficult to attract the kind of talented and committed people needed to achieve its objectives, it turned to us for help on a number of levels:

  • Develop and establish a clearly defined brand presence.
  • Increase the Fund’s profile among key audiences.
  • Increase understanding of the Fund’s goals and activities.
  • Optimize its internet presence to better connect people and foster the sharing of ideas.

Diving in.

To gain a deeper understanding of the Fund’s mandate, scope and activities, its complex political make-up and the challenges it faced, we began by conducting extensive interviews with key stakeholders including former Wisconsin Governor and Fund founder Tony Earl, former and active Board members, grant recipients and grant team leaders, and Fund staff members.

We were also able to access and synthesize existing third-party research focused around the Fund’s brand perception and social media/marketing efforts.

Factoring in the Fund’s desire to make meaningful connections with a broad range of audiences including scientists, engineers and researchers, government, business, non-government organizations, news and other media and the general public, we developed a brand strategy centered around specific problems / desired outcome / solutions and solidified a simple set of guiding principles for developing effective communications:

The Great Lakes Protection Fund is essentially an angel investor that provides seed funding to try out great ideas founded on sound research and careful project design.

It is not a ‘think tank.’ It is a ‘do tank’ that proposes and/or funds solutions for Great Lakes-related problems that no other organization, company or policy group is addressing.

Articulation and Execution

Focusing on the Fund’s core reason for being, we established a brand communication strategy centered on clearly and succinctly articulating its mission, vision, objectives, promise, values and essence. Simple but provocative messaging and positioning—Questions and Actions—provides an accessible and understandable framework that helps the Fund clearly and succinctly communicate its activities, successes and challenges.


Expressed across a range of assets including collateral, website and social media, the Fund’s brand communication program has resulted in a significant increase in overall perception levels, awareness and activity, including year-over-year unique website visit increases of 11% in 2010, 20% in 2011, and 29% in 2012.

The Great Lakes Protection Fund is not a ‘think tank.’ It's a ‘do tank’ that proposes and/or funds solutions for Great Lakes-related problems that no other organization, company, or policy group is addressing.
We established a brand communication strategy centered on clearly and succinctly articulating the GLPF’s mission, vision, objectives, promise, values, and essence.

The Brand Story workbook pulled from stakeholder interviews and synthesized research to define the GLPF's unique position.


Microsite celebrating the GLPF's accomplishments.

Scope of Services


Research, analysis, content strategy


Copywriting, photography


Systems architecture, front-end development, back-end development, content management systems


Positioning, messaging, brand application


Integrated campaigns, digital experiences, print/packaging