Faith in the Valley: A Community Symbol Case Study

Faith in the Valley, a grassroots community organization, partnered with Community Symbol to tell its story to the community and bolster its online reputation when they made the bold move to consolidate and strengthen its regional organizing network. This partnership has created a platform to empower marginalized communities in California's Central Valley for racial justice and health equity.
September 19, 2023

Faith in the Valley, a grassroots community organization, partnered with Community Symbol to tell its story to the community and bolster its online reputation when they made the bold move to consolidate and strengthen its regional organizing network. This partnership has tripled the organization’s web traffic, resulted in a $100,000 grant, and created a platform to empower marginalized communities in California’s Central Valley for racial justice and health equity.

Throughout history, congregations have played a significant role as civic institutions in communities of color, uniting people under a shared vision of service, justice and compassion. Faith-based activism has been a driving force behind many of those social movements, most notably with the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the legacy of congregations using community organizing to help communities of color lives on.

The Birth of Faith in the Valley

Founded in 2016, Faith in the Valley is a grassroots community organization that brings together people of faith in California’s Central Valley. Its mission is to unite people of faith and build stronger communities while advancing a movement for racial justice and health equity. The organization focuses on building relational power, reshaping the narrative surrounding people of color, and driving civic engagement efforts to address local community priorities.

Core Campaigns

Faith in the Valley’s core campaigns include:

  • Promoting alternatives to incarceration
  • Ending racial profiling and the criminalization of Black and Brown people
  • Guaranteeing that every Central Valley resident has safe, accessible, sustainable and permanently affordable housing
  • Immigration reform
  • Advancing environmental justice through grassroots activism and policy advocacy

A Partnership with Community Symbol

Faith in the Valley is an anchor organization for PICO California, a faith-based community organizing network made up of nine local affiliates who organize across 18 counties, representing 500 congregations and nearly 650,000 Californians. PICO California was founded in 1994 as a fiscally-sponsored project of the National Faith in Action Network (known then as the PICO National Network).

“I’ve known about Faith in Action for years, having worked for one of the affiliates in a previous job,” said Martin Ricard, our founder. “What drew me to Faith in the Valley specifically was the fact that they had managed to organize thousands of people in a part of California that has historically been at odds with anything related to social justice. I was also inspired by the organization’s founding executive director, Pastor Trena Turner, who is a saint. She was determined to make sure the organization had a successful launch, and she stood firmly in her belief that Faith in the Valley could bring people of all faiths and backgrounds together to fight for social justice, build power, organize communities desperate for change, and transform our democracy.”

In 2016, when Faith in the Valley officially launched, their aim was to consolidate five PICO federations working in the state into a larger, more powerful regional organizing network. With the merging of these different organizations from across the state, Faith in the Valley faced the challenge of creating a coherent public presence while still honoring the communities each of the PICO federations represents. With the need for a new website to represent their organization, Faith in the Valley turned to Community Symbol to help launch this new chapter.

“We were drawn to Community Symbol because of their founder Martin,” said Pam Nelson-Hollis, director of development and communications for Faith in the Valley. “Martin is a communications expert who brings excellence to everything he does. His background in journalism, public relations and social media is the perfect mix for nonprofits like us. He brings wisdom, creativity and strategic thinking, rooted in advancing racial justice.”

The People’s Covenant

Since its launch, Faith in the Valley has experienced rapid growth in regional membership, making it necessary to take an approach grounded in their founding principles and the communities they serve. Bringing together five different organizations under one umbrella meant identifying what brought them together in the first place.

“I wanted to make sure the design and messaging reflected that shared vision,” Martin said. “There was also an opportunity to take their initial ideas about their logo and brand and bring them to life and position the organization online so they could keep climbing in the search engine rankings and get more traffic and engagement in the content they produce.”

In their 2016 founding convention, Faith in the Valley introduced their “People’s Covenant,” the unifying vision that bound the five PICO federations together. The People’s Covenant aims to unite people of faith and community partners within California’s Central Valley in creating a Beloved Community for all people around a set of common values and policy priorities:

  • A “trickle-up economy” that focuses on clean energy job creation
  • A public safety system rooted in community well-being
  • A humane criminal justice system focused on mercy, redemption, accountability, and rehabilitation
  • An inclusive immigration system
  • Access to quality, affordable healthcare for all, regardless of immigration status
  • Safe neighborhoods and affordable housing
  • Excellent schools, robust parks, and recreation opportunities for youth

Finding Impact

We worked closely with Faith in the Valley to launch their new website, produce blog posts, craft email marketing messages, secure donations, manage their social media pages, and streamline their overall communications so that their target audience could feel educated, equipped and empowered.

Martin also found that “we shared the view that relying on stock images wouldn’t allow their target audience to see themselves. So we did a professional photo shoot to feature many of the organization’s leaders showing solidarity and holding signs that showcased their shared values.”

With a new communications strategy in place, Faith in the Valley is able to communicate better why faith-based community organizing is important and how it helps people turn their anger and pain into the change they want to see in their communities.

Since the launch of Faith in the Valley’s new website, web traffic has nearly tripled. With our company producing high-quality content, Faith in the Valley attracted the attention of a key funder who granted the organization $100,000.

“We appreciate all of Martin’s insights and truly enjoy working with his team,” Pam said. “He has helped to ground our communications in best practices and to build out a larger body of communications—blog posts, social media, branding templates, communications guidelines and a plan. We are producing high-quality communications at a level that wasn’t previously possible for us.”

“There are often moments when we have to respond quickly to something happening in our communities. Martin has, on numerous occasions, helped us to quickly and effectively articulate the heart of the matter—what matters most and what’s at stake—moving people to take action,” Pam continued. “Whether he is in proximity to an issue or not, he can make sense of anything for a public audience that may or may not be familiar with the story or issue. He’s a fabulous communicator and a strategic thinker who adds a lot of value to our organization.”

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