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Father Joe’s Villages: A Decades-Long, Extension-of-Staff Communications Journey

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They didn’t have dedicated communications staff when they hired Mixte.

Looking back more than a decade, it’s hard to believe that now. But that’s how this strategic communications firm and Father Joe’s Villages, one of Southern California’s largest homeless service providers, began our journey.

This relationship is also an excellent illustration of why we specialize in our proprietary Extension-of-Staff style and why one of our company values is, “We know that justice and good work both take time.”

Initially, the team at Father Joe’s hired Mixte to provide nonprofit public relations to help the organization protect its brand in local media. But our Mixte Moves, a four-step onboarding process, revealed that the organization needed so much more:

  • Its website was outdated
  • Its large staff and board of directors used a variety of outdated and inconsistent names and logos
  • The email marketing and fundraising platform was expensive and not user intuitive 
  • The once flourishing communications department (seriously, the organization had printed its own newspaper!) had been reduced to an incomplete set of roles and responsibilities divvied among non-comms staff
  • The CEO was in transition 
  • Media coverage of the organization primarily consisted of negative stories or scattered event-related hits 
  • The executive team was not on the same page with communications strategies
But, where do you start?

Little child in graduation cap and gown walking up to podium This is where a truly integrated Extension-of-Staff communications team can make a difference. Because, no matter who you are — a consultant, an in-house communications director, or Superwoman — you can’t do it all at once.

Here’s a breakdown of how Mixte worked hand-in-hand with the organization’s executive team through the years to develop a strategic, robust and effective communications department. For the most part, this is in chronological order, but it’s not perfect. The point is that with a strategic communications consultant on your team, you can create and move toward a big picture communications strategy year over year while simultaneously addressing surprises along the way.

  1. Weekly Braintrust Meetings: From day one, we organized a weekly executive-level meeting to sync on communication priorities, framing, and strategies. This has been tremendously helpful when navigating the pandemic or other public health crises like the Hepatitis A outbreak.

    We eventually supplemented this with a more specific work planning weekly meeting just between our Mixte lead and the comms manager at Father Joe’s. In this meeting, we take the large conversations with the executive team and break action items into smaller steps.
  2. Activate PR to build public trust: With the biggest bang for buck when it comes to reputation building, public relations for a social service nonprofit can tell positive stories that reinforce the value of an organization and its staff. For many organizations, public relations is also something easily and more effectively outsourced. We could activate this immediately for Father Joe’s while also using it as a learning lab to power the rest of our recommendations.
  3. Streamline the brand: For an institution like Father Joe’s Villages, this was not a fast or simple process. And that’s OK. We did the work recruiting and setting up a vetting process to hire a design agency to lead the organization through the rebranding process.
  4. Develop a new website: Once we had an updated brand, we needed to update the main communication clearinghouse for the nonprofit – its website. It had to serve multiple purposes — a place for donors to give; a place for folks seeking service to find help; a place to keep partners and funders updated on progress; and a place for the community to turn to for accurate, dependable information. The organization has since launched an even newer website, which we appreciate so much.
  5. Develop content strategy: Once we had a new website launched, we also had to know how we were going to generate stories to ensure it stayed relevant and timely. Especially with limited resources and small teams, this required creative thinking on how we sourced information (relying on program staff within the organization) and reused content (a press release could be adapted to a blog post, for instance).
  6. Advocate for internal hires: For an organization the size of Father Joe’s Villages, it didn’t make sense to outsource all of its communications, nor did it make sense to divide the needs among non-comms staff. We acted as strategic advisors to the hiring manager for the communications department. And have, through the years, also advocated for an internal hire of a public affairs director. As these folks came onboard, Mixte shifted its role to focus mainly on messaging and public relations.
  7. Improve internal systems: Especially in large, more bureaucratic organizations, the need to understand when and how things get done is critical. It’s also an important part of managing up. Over time, we developed tools with Father Joe’s village to guide how we developed communications (decision trees, approval matrix, campaign strategy plans, how to manage privacy laws, and more)
  8. Get ahead of crises: Some of our best work never makes the light of day. That means that you’ve been transparent and strategic when dealing with myriad possible crises that any organization can face. The fact that we built trust with the executive team through the years has tremendously boosted how effectively we have been able to collaborate and prepare for any crisis.
  9. Evolve the public relations strategy: Every year we track where and how many stories we place,and audit that media report for strategic opportunities. And in the most recent years, Father Joe’s Villages has pushed our team to elevate coverage from local to national outlets. It’s been a fun challenge to ensure our team doesn’t rest on its laurels and that we are evolving the organization’s PR strategy to help it grow and meet its changing needs.
  10. Add capacity in moments of transition: The Great Resignation caught up to us all. In a short period, the organization experienced 100% turnover in its communications department, a first since we got involved more than a decade ago. While the HR department recruited new teammates, Mixte was there to expand our services into writing appeals and blog posts, drafting and posting social media and collecting stories from the campus. 


Sounds easy when we lay it out in a neat list, but we’ve had many highs and lows through the years. That’s the beautiful thing about long-term, Extension-of-Staff partnerships: you can have the courageous conversations about what’s working and not working, knowing that genuine community impact remains our shared, number one priority.

We’re thankful for the opportunity to guide Father Joe’s through inevitable obstacles and opportunities for the past decade plus. We’re thankful for the trust of the team, and most importantly, we are thankful for the success stories f that we’ve heard through the years. 

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