Home“They Got Us”

The Power of Collaboration in Communally’s Rebranding Journey

The name has changed, but their mission to end poverty has not. Communally has marked itself The Antipoverty Technology Company.

For the past 25 years, they have taken the lead on offering guidance and support services to allow low- and moderate- income community members to address issues of financial instability.

After an extensive year-long rebranding process with fellow B Corp and SBN Member, Message Agency, Communally is now busy expanding their reach. Using its online services, The Benefit Bank and the MyBudgetCoach platforms, Communally offers community members easier access to public benefit programs and free tax assistance, as well as helping people budget and plan their finances.

In short, Communally marries technology, public policy and outreach to create for resilient and vibrant neighborhoods, giving citizens the tool to escape the Crisis of poverty through Choice.

As one of the first companies to register as a B Corp, Communally is no stranger to the Triple Bottom Line. This year, they were honored by B Lab as a “Best for the World” business in the “Best Overall,” “Best for Customers,” and “Best for the Long Term” categories. I asked Communally CEO Chris Jacobs to share some of what he learned through the collaborative rebranding process as well as what is in store for the anti-poverty technology company.

Bradford: I know you collaborated with fellow SBN member Message Agency to rebrand and design a new website. How was the collaboration process for you? Knowing that you were partnering with a like-minded business, how did you initially approach this project?

Chris: Working with a fellow B Corp was a strong contributor to the success of the rebranding effort. Having Message Agency, a company experienced in rebranding efforts that also fundamentally understands who we are, provided for a positive overall experience. We did not need to spend time explaining to Message Agency the importance of valuing the triple bottom line of people, place, and profit and having a social impact as a core business goal. Throughout the process, we continued to say that Message Agency “got us.”

They constantly challenged us to figure out the balance between our role as a social enterprise with a clear social mission — End Poverty — and our role as one of the earliest civic technology companies in the region.

Bradford: Can you tell us more about what inspired the rebranding? And how did you arrive at the name Communally?

Chris: As we considered the implications of our in-depth analysis, it guided us toward a name and brand that better defined who we are: a partner, or Ally, to community-based organizations that assist those in poverty.

Communally represents both the company today and our vision for its future. A refreshed identity provides a better understanding of what we do for current and prospective customers, as well as our other partners. Having a “.tech” URL and the tagline “The Antipoverty Technology Company” emphasizes the technological component of our work while positioning us as a social enterprise.

The name change and refresh of our brand are also reflective of the work we have been doing in the sustainability movement.

We have become a local leader in promoting Certified B Corps and Public Benefit Corporations. The company has been a B-Corp since 2012 and was one of the first companies to register as a Benefit Corporation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2013.

In changing our name and revitalizing our brand, what has not changed is our approach to our mission. Our focus is ending poverty, not managing it.

Bradford: We know that it’s not always easy to brag about yourself: What is one thing that people do not know about your business that you would like them to know?

Chris: At Communally we have worked very consciously to build a corporate culture that ensures that our internal operations are aligned with our external goals. Not only do we pay family-sustaining wages, we also offer a full complement of benefits that provide multiple options for staff to be refreshed from the stress of work that includes generous sabbatical, parental and personal leave policies. The result is very low staff turnover and a high return rate.

The real measure of our success is how well we have assisted individuals and families in moving from Crisis to Choice.

Since 2006, we have assisted over 1 million household members obtain an estimated $2.5 billion in benefits and supports. And for every $1 spent on TBB (including outreach), up to $43 is returned to the community in the form of benefits payments and tax credits/refunds. For MyBC, an independent evaluation of the service showed a 35% increase in overall financial capabilities for MyBC members.

Bradford: You’ve clearly had success in networking with other businesses in SBN. What other event, program, or member benefit have you found most beneficial, and what impact has SBN membership had on your business?

Chris: One of the biggest benefits of being a member of SBN has been connecting and collaborating with like-minded businesses, such as Message Agency.

The other major benefit has been through SBN’s advocacy work. There is no other part of the triple bottom line, conscious company community that has dedicated resources to ensuring that our voices are heard in City Hall and Harrisburg on issues critical to the social, economic and environmental health life of the region. This has been a key element in our active participation in SBN.

To learn more about Communally, visit https://www.communally.tech/

And to read more about what Communally CEO Christopher Jacobs learned in the rebranding process, check out Generocity’s coverage.