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Brand Remains Central To Evolving Livestrong

By The NonProfit Times - February 28, 2013

“Hell, yes.” Andy Miller answered his own question of whether the Livestrong Foundation will survive after a tumultuous year for the organization. Its branding might just look a little different.

The past year included a name change for the $48-million organization and now a slightly modified new logo, which was unveiled today.

The executive vice president of the Austin, Texas-based foundation stepped in for CEO Doug Ulman at its State of the Foundation assembly this afternoon in Chicago. Ulman was delayed by weather en route from Canada. The annual gathering drew 500 of the foundation’s leaders, partners, grantees and advocates, as well as more than 100 viewers online.

Miller reiterated several talking points that the foundation has pushed in recent months, including that its success has never been based on one person and it’s now pushing forward independently of its founder, Lance Armstrong.

“Our work is too meaningful, our role too unique, the need too great to stand for any other answer,” said Miller, to the question of whether Livestrong will survive. “Our goals for expanding our direct services to support those with cancer include testing the foundation’s navigation services through various expansion models in 2013. And over the next several years, we hope our direct services will be accessed by more than 15,500 cancer survivors a year and that 1.5 million people will use our self-navigation tools each and every year.”

Armstrong, the former cycling champion, founded the eponymous foundation in 1997 after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. After vanquishing the disease, he went on to win seven Tour de France titles only to be stripped of the accolades in recent months and admitting in January that he used performance-enhancing drugs. Amid denials and damning reports about widespread doping, Armstrong resigned from the charity last fall and the organization changed its legal name to the Livestrong Foundation. Armstrong finally admitted to doping during a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey last month.

“The past year did not go as planned,” said Miller, with Livestrong facing “headwinds that were stiff.” But the foundation and its supporters, he said, faced them together.

The logo redesign is subtle but substantive with more of an emphasis on foundation. The logo now features “Livestrong” on one bar above “Foundation,” with the latter slightly forward, suggesting “dynamic movement.” He called it a natural step in the 16-year-old organization’s evolution. Miller also announced this year’s Livestrong Day would be May 17 — nine years to the day after the launch of the iconic Livestrong bracelet, which catapulted the charity into the mainstream.

Miller took aim at critics, making mention of Charity Navigator’s Ken Berger and citing remarks in 2010 in which he essentially said the organization would not be able to thrive if the person behind the spirit of the mission is in trouble. Armstrong’s admissions finally settled some important issues, he said, and the foundation “set an independent course forward” yet still “found ourselves caught in the cross fire of a media frenzy.”

“These experts don’t know anything about our work yet feel entitled to publicly question our sincerity, credibility, and mission,” said Miller. While the foundation was “deeply disappointed” in Armstrong, he said they accepted his apology and decided to move on. “Let’s not mistake what’s really at work here. The foundation really took root because it touched a chord in all of us,” said Miller. He added that even Berger has come around recently, praising the foundation’s moves in recent months.

Through “all of the noise” last year, Livestrong ended 2012 with an “impressive revenue number, exactly in line with our peers in the philanthropic community despite a tough economic environment,” Miller said. The proudest accomplishment, however, was a record number of people served through free, one-on-one cancer support services, he said.

In response to an inquiry about how donations have fared since Armstrong’s admissions, the organization reported that it ended 2012 with more than $48 million in revenue generated, down about 3.2 percent from 2011 “but exactly in line with the average performance of other major public charities in this economic climate and thus represents another financially successful year.”

Miller concluded his remarks by inviting supporters to complete the sentence: “To me, Livestrong means…” on social media outlets.

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