September 13, 2022
- Effective Philanthropy
Schusterman Family Philanthropies' new website and reimagined brand embody the organization's legacy while looking toward its future. Chief Communications Officer Roben Smolar shares how this milestone fits into Schusterman's ongoing philanthropic journey and provides an overview of the exciting offerings these updates provide.
On behalf of our team at Schusterman Family Philanthropies, I am excited to share the launch of our new website and reimagined visual brand. We hope these updates give deeper insight into our organization’s philanthropic priorities, share our perspective on the issues we care about, and shine a light on the partners with whom we work and the communities they serve.
Over the course of the 13 years I have been at Schusterman, our work has grown and evolved tremendously—from a primary focus on strengthening the Jewish community, Israel and our founders’ hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to now including a deep and growing focus on advancing racial, gender and economic equity in the U.S.
We set out to create a website and brand that would bring together the full scope of our story, work and values. Among the aspects of this work that I am most proud of is that they reflect both our legacy and our future, helping us to tell the story of who we are today.
From Roots to Branches
In many ways, the heart of the brand story is also the beginning. When Charles and Lynn Schusterman began our organization as a family foundation in 1987, they drew inspiration from Honi the Circlemaker, a character in a Jewish parable who plants carob trees so that future generations can enjoy their fruit. In the spirit of Honi’s giving, the Schustermans decided to build their philanthropy on a commitment to planting a better future for generations to come.
Our very first logo was a simple carob tree, with strong roots, a humble character and optimistic growth reaching skyward. Today, 35 years later, with Charles and Lynn’s daughter Stacy as Chair, our new logo still has the carob tree at its core.
The roots of the tree ground us in our values. These include both the Jewish values that have informed the Schusterman’s philanthropy from the outset—including the pursuit of justice, repairing the world and treating all people with dignity—as well as the organizational values we set in 2018 that include a commitment to equity, impact, humility, optimism and collaboration.
The trunk represents what we are building toward. Over the past year, we have defined our organizational north star that weaves together our work in the U.S. and Israel as helping both countries live up to their highest ideals by creating more just and inclusive societies. We recognize our work is complex—a facet we see as a feature, not a flaw.
Finally, the branches with leaves represent our work in pursuit of our north star, including the people and organizations that make it happen. The branches include advancing racial, gender and economic equity through investments in education, gender and reproductive equity, democracy and voting rights, criminal justice, and Tulsa. They include shaping joyful, diverse Jewish communities and strengthening Israel as the secure homeland of the Jewish people and a thriving, inclusive democracy for all its citizens.
Keeping the carob tree at the core of our brand grounds us in both our legacy and our evolution. Under Stacy’s leadership, we remain committed to deepening the philanthropic work Charles and Lynn began while also exploring new issue areas and funding approaches to expand our impact. This commitment was reflected in our name update last year to Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, which enables us to bring the full scope of our grantmaking to serve more communities and forge relationships with organizations, initiatives and people driving deep and substantive change in our issue areas.
Keeping the carob tree at the core of our brand grounds us in both our legacy and our evolution.
Which leads me to our website and brand—similar to our name change, these updates do not represent a new era of Schusterman’s work; they are the culmination of work we have been doing in recent years to write the current chapter of Schusterman’s story. They are how we tell our story.
Telling Our Story
When deciding how to share this current chapter, we assembled an advisory committee with representation from staff and grantees to receive feedback about Schusterman’s website and brand to date.
We learned a lot. Staff and grantees were consistently inspired by the work Schusterman shared and felt a deep connection with a carob tree as the symbol of Schusterman’s philanthropic identity. On the other hand, our brand was showing its age and didn’t reflect the scope of the issues we sought to address. Grantees struggled to understand how they each fit into Schusterman’s mission, and visitors to our site were unclear about the full scope of our grantmaking priorities.
So, we got to work creating a website and brand that conveys who we are as an organization now, rather than who were or even who we are going to be. Among our many efforts to achieve this vision, we aimed to reach this goal in three ways:
- First, our website is clear about our viewpoints and approaches and highlights even more of the amazing work of our grantees. Each of our portfolios in the U.S. and Israel has its own presence on our website, with sections that clearly lay out our perspectives and grantmaking strategies. There are also more opportunities for storytelling about our grantees and their impact, giving voice to the leaders on the ground making the work happen. Some ways we accomplish this is through sharing news and insights with Toward, our new digital magazine, and through offering free learning materials such as easy-to-read guides and evaluation reports in our new Resource Hub.
- Second, our visual language conveys both the expansiveness of our work and our commitment to advancing equity. Through our expanded color palette and updated fonts, we intend to convey both boldness and a steady, long-term commitment to our priority areas. We also placed a strong emphasis on imagery, ensuring that they reflected the people and communities at the center of our work. Importantly, these updates also enhance the accessibility of our site to ensure all visitors can easily interact with our content. While our focus on accessibility reflects progress, we are committed to continued growth in this area as well.
- Finally, as mentioned above, our refreshed logo pays meaningful homage to Schusterman’s legacy while conveying our forward-thinking strategies and optimistic perspective. Yes, the logo has changed. With its refined shapes and extended branches, the carob tree’s look and feel captures our bold vision for the future and brings our current work together under a broader canopy. But, at its core, our logo remains a humble carob tree, harkening back to what our story today would not exist without: its beginning.
The changes we roll out today are a powerful reminder of the role storytelling plays in all philanthropy.
We took on this work because we believe that when funders take the time to identify their values and priorities internally and then share accurate, up-to-date depictions of their work, they can increase clarity around their investments with the goal of building trust with their partners and the communities they serve. When they center the voices of their grantees, they lift up leaders making a difference on the frontlines.
My hope is that our new brand and website bring us closer to realizing these possibilities as tools to build trust and clarity with our partners, our peers and the communities we work with. And that by telling the current chapter of Schusterman’s story, we are poised to write the next chapter, together.