A Culture of Workplace Giving

A Culture of Workplace Giving

Community Non-Profit Organizations

Shift Collaborative has been in business for almost four years, and I believe that we are only at the beginning of defining our company’s culture. This process of defining is likely [we hope] to be an ongoing and evolving process as we grow, expand, and adapt in the creative industry space. One of many things that our small group sees eye to eye on, is making an impact beyond our work, and creating space within the organization for each team member to explore their individual impact in the community.

Doing good is an individual and personal thing. To ask that the entire team to support one charity, or do one good thing together, feels prescriptive. I suppose that that would be better than not doing anything at all.  Workplace giving is a major support pillar for many nonprofit organizations. According to American Charities, $4 billion is raised annually through workplace giving. While money is the visible and tangible asset of workplace giving, we desire our workplace giving to go deeper.

We’ve decided to support each others’ endeavors, and when we can the company also gives back to the change-making activities of a team member or a client. Our team members sit on nonprofit boards, volunteer in the community, speak out on issues of importance to them, and advocate for social justice. The community and charitable activities that team members engage in and what they gain from those rich experiences allow them to see our work at Shift through a different lens.

Here are a few examples

  • Sara Coffey is a co-organizer for TEDxPittsburgh and co-founder of Open House PGH, an intentional community known for their weekly Community Dinner and social justice work. These efforts keep her connected to the community in a way that brings her joy. She gains a perspective on a variety of subjects around diversity, inclusion, leadership, and community sustainability. And, her design work at Shift is reflective of those experiences. Her self-description on Facebook sums it up nicely:

     Living in #Pittsburgh inspiring positivity & motivation through art, health, & social change.

  • Andrew Gordon is involved in the Pittsburgh community through his church, Shadyside Presbyterian Church. He has served as a mentor to members of the youth, and donates money toward the charitable and community-oriented missions of the church. Contributing to Shadyside Presbyterian’s mission of loving and caring for others, both locally and globally, is rewarding to Andrew, as it helps him feel connected to the positive changes taking place in the places where he lives, works, and travels.
  • Therese Joseph gives back to the community through service and encouraging individual growth within her churchtherese-cleaning-up-detroit community, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. An example of this type of impact includes the youth service trip she chaperoned this past June. Partnering with Catholic Heart Work Camp, she led a group of teens from her parish, Holy Trinity Church, to Detroit, Michigan, where they spent a week cleaning up abandoned properties and houses across the city. The service trip served multiple purposes:
    • Their service and hard work helped to prepare the abandoned land and buildings for their next stage of life within the community.
    • The physical illustration of their work as a team and the kind of drastic changes that can take place when there are simply enough hands helping, encouraged local residents to get involved with community organizations to continue the revitalization work after their trip had ended.
    • And most importantly, the service projects, interactions with local residents, and team discussions helped to teach our local teens, the next generation of Pittsburgh change makers, how to see beyond themselves and their screens in order to empathize, love, and serve others, including those whose circumstances may be different from their own personal experiences of life.

Yes, we are a regular office of humans coming and going. Work comes in, work goes out. But we care for our clients; we are excited by the work. Those are the assumed and shared feelings among the team.  The office is also a place for discourse and debate, a thoughtful space to express reactions to what is happening on the streets outside of our windows, what is going on in the city at large, and the good and bad that we see beyond the city and state borders.

I hope these greater connections are always a part of our company culture.

Making our Mark in Downtown Pittsburgh

Making our Mark in Downtown Pittsburgh

Branding Design Events Non-Profit Organizations

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s annual meeting at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Throughout the evening, I loved seeing all the great work the PDP presented to board members, City and County officials, and to Downtown Pittsburgh stakeholders. I’m very much inspired by the great work the PDP does for Downtown Pittsburgh, improving the city we live and work in.

Even better, we get to work with them on many projects. And I also loved seeing all the pieces of design work that the Shift team did for the PDP in the last year. Here are some highlights:


Branding the debut of Picklesburgh – a weekend-long festival celebrating pickles and pickling, which took place on a bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh. The challenge was to develop a brand identity for a new event that had previously had no visibility in the marketplace. Our other challenge was to manage the expectations of the client who needed a compelling brand to find support, raise money and execute an event of that size and magnitude.

It was difficult to tell the whole story of the event with one logo, so we presented a brand that is expansive with different pieces, elements and colors that represent “pickling.” When one thinks of “pickling” they usually think of pickles. But, what the PDP challenged us to do was to look at the vast array of all things pickled, including Asian fare and Eastern European food.

We also needed to illustrate a 30-foot pickle balloon that would be installed over the Rachel Carson Bridge. Aside from the design work, we also helped with fundraising development and built the event website.

The result is a fun brand that ended up gaining a lot of exposure, with lots of local press plus national attention on Good Morning America and The Today Show




The PDP approached us with a concept for a new street activation program funded by BNY Mellon. They came to us with a blank slate and allowed us the freedom to be our creative selves to name and brand the intuitive. The idea was that these funded projects would test out their ideas in a downtown space, completing two goals: one, to fund an innovative project, and two, to activate an unlikely downtown space to attract people to.

The name we came up with was Betaburgh, Come Test With Us. The brand followed similar lines of thinking. The logo depicts beta as a button, which will be pushed to “activate” downtown. The gradient color chosen has an electric and energizing tone, to represent the creative ideas that ensue. 



Clean Team Trash Can Re-design

The PDP Clean Team made a transition in 2015 and needed a new look for the trash cans they wheel around downtown. Not only does the Clean Team keep the city clean, they also help downtown visitors navigate around, by answering questions and offering help. The idea was to depict their efforts through a new trash can design.

This was an interesting request, to design a 3D object with extra meaning, a trash can, that would be prominently displayed around the streets of Pittsburgh. We pitched a few different ideas, and the one that resonated the most was simply ‘Here to Help,’ accompanied by custom iconographic pattern.

I brainstormed all the different things downtown offers and came up with icons to match them. I chose a muted yellow tone that made the design work seamlessly with the yellow trash cans. How could you miss these bright trashcans rolling around the streets? That is the point.

Yellow Artwork 2-edit    Trash Can on Street


Shop & Dine Guide

This project began during the 2015 holiday season, when the PDP came to us for a unique piece to hand out to guests during Light Up Night and Holiday Market events. The piece was to encourage people to shop downtown for the holidays and to highlight retail centers as well as the Peoples Gas Holiday Market™.

We delivered a piece with a special fold and iconic look. Twenty thousand of these guides were handed out over the holiday season. This piece such a success that the PDP asked us to revise it to use year round, and to also include restaurants.

It was a challenge to fit all 300+ retailers and restaurants on a handheld map. Through many versions, we arrived at a color-coded system that provides the viewer with easy navigation, breaking up downtown into districts and corridors. The cover art was revised to incorporate the colors used throughout and iconically show shopping and dining, making this a full guide for Downtown Pittsburgh. Another 20,000 were printed, and the new Shop and Dine guide made its debut during the PDP Annual Meeting. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.10.22 AM

Annual Report & Meeting Collateral

In January we took on the job of creating the PDP’s 2015 Annual Report. We turned their successes and goals into a visually pleasing print piece. We designed a logo, colors, and grid, and matched them with a clean font, and applied it all throughout the 24-page report. I adjusted the size a bit from previous years’ reports, from a typical 8.5 x 11 to a more hand-able 7.5 x 10.5 size, with an additional flap on the front cover to highlight quick facts from 2015. Overall, the design of this year’s report aligns with the innovation the PDP has led in 2015. 

We had our hands full designing not only the annual report, but also all the collateral for the Annual Meeting itself, the invitations, program, and event signage. 

PDP AR Blog image

Throughout the last year it’s been great to help expand the PDP’s brand through these design pieces. We are looking forward to future collaborations, and most importantly Picklesburgh 2016.


Obviously Tomlin, a Charitable Project Never Launched

Obviously Tomlin, a Charitable Project Never Launched

Community Non-Profit Organizations

by Eric Sloss

Sparked by Sarah’s recent appointment as a board member of Sojourner House, a faith-based rehabilitation facility for addicted women, we wanted to create an enjoyable fundraising project for this important nonprofit. So we created Obviously Tomlin as a way to engage the public in a charming charitable experience throughout the Steelers season.

It all started after a Steelers pre-season game. I could not help but hear Coach Mike Tomlin’s use of the word obviously. He uses it as a way to emphasize a point. But, sometimes he will say a phrase like, “Obviously, Pouncey has a knee, Bell has an elbow.” Well, obviously Pouncey does have a knee, but Coach means the player has a knee injury. He forgets words in the context of sports nomenclature. Tomlin’s cadence is epic. He uses obviously to change the tone and rhythm of a point and his mood.

I’m in the word business, right? At Shift, we focus on language, creating new content for various clients.  We also created a technology product that analyzes large amounts of text called WordFabric, a language algorithm platform for content creators. We would ask people to donate to Sojourner House every time Coach uses the word  – obviously. The fundraising exercise is less about Coach’s delivery yet raising the awareness of how people use words, especially in the context of sports and our beloved Steelers. Each season a new charity would be selected to benefit.

Pledges would be taken through www.ObviouslyTomlin.com after each game of the season. For example, Sally pledges $5 per obviously for the week 1 game. We would use WordFabric to scan the post-game news conference transcript and pull out how many times the word “obviously” is used. Pledges then turn into donations and the corporate sponsor of the week matches the amount.

Also, throughout the season we would play fun games with matching corporate sponsors asking the public to listen for other words used during the season. For example, we will ask the public to listen to a radio broadcast and every time host Tunch Ilkin says the words “play action pass” a corporate sponsor will match the first donation.

We had a contact at the Steelers who said they would present it to the public relations team. We crossed our fingers and built the site; We had Sojourner House’s approval.

And then the Steelers played the Titans for the first regular season game.

The score: Titans 16, Steelers 9. The Steelers looked sloppy in a lopsided game. Coach Tomlin’s demeanor on the sideline looked miserable. Soon after the game we heard from our Steelers contact saying that it was the worst time to present this to him and he recommended we find another project to work on.

We wondered…what if they won?

Renaissance City Winds Plays Schuller

Community Non-Profit Organizations

by Matt Campbell 

photo by Larry Rippel
photo by Larry Rippel – courtesy of RCW

The Renaissance City Winds, a versatile chamber music ensemble founded in Pittsburgh in 1975, performed a program of Americana at April 28 at Pro Bikes in Squirrel Hill, and at Oakland’s Carnegie Music Hall April 29. Hammer dulcimer player Bill Troxler joined the group for arrangements of folk tunes that evoked colonial America and other time periods.

The Winds perform three to work concerts each year, doing each program twice—in a hall, and a “parlor.” November’s train-themed program was at the Victorian Holmes Hall on the North Side of Pittsburgh, which also features an amazing collection of thousands of toy trains. The intimate settings really make RCW concerts special. The Pro Bikes shop in Pittsburgh, while a surprisingly resonant space, was an exception and the racks of clothes distracted rather than added to the atmosphere.

The program opened with an early wind quintet from 1945 by Gunther Schuller, an American heavyweight. Schuller was a professional horn player and in only his teens was principal horn with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra before moving to the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York. Schuller’s intimate knowledge of the horn and winds showed throughout the charming work. There’s always a little bit of everything in RCW concerts, and the Schuller work featured a bluesy second movement stylishly played, especially by flautist Tom Godfrey’s soulful bends on the blue notes. The group effortlessly tossed off the perpetual motion third movement with its tricky rhythms.

Bill Troxler, a retired president of Capitol College in Maryland, is an expert on the hammer dulcimer, a beautifully sonorous string instrument played with soft hammers that sounds somewhat like a cross between a harp and a banjo; check out this video on YouTube to get to know the instrument. Though the hammer dulcimer was once very popular and could be purchased at Sears and Roebuck, it had almost disappeared in the later 20th century.

Troxler and RCW bassoonist and composer R. James Whipple arranged two suites of folk songs for the hammer dulcimer and winds. Again, there was a little bit of everything as Troxler not only performed on the hammer dulcimer, but he joined the ensemble on drum and a simple flute-like instrument, sometimes alternating between instruments in the same piece! There’s always a story behind the music, and Troxler explained that one tune was about Mary, the Queen of Scots, on her way to be beheaded. Another was an Irish battle tune, in which the “mean” Irish cut off the English general’s head to be sent back to “Eliza [Queen Elizabeth] and her ladies.” These pieces were wonderfully evocative of times centuries past.

The most substantial offering of the evening was Barber’s melodious Summer Music for wind quintet (horn, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and flute). Although much of the wind literature is from unrecognizable names, this is the rare chestnut from a composer in Barber who is recognizable and beloved by all classical music fans. Whipple offered his usual amusing notes, saying he first learned Summer Music years ago during the dog days of summer when it was over 100 degrees. Between the remarks and the ensemble’s clear affection for this piece, it felt like summer had come to Pittsburgh. Renate Sakins (oboe), David Lintz (horn), and Jack Howell (clarinet) along with Whipple and Godfrey showed the comfort that develops when musicians have been playing together for a long time.

One of the challenges ensembles that wind quintets and instruments besides the piano, cello, and violin face is that the staples of the repertoire are often from composers the everyday classical music aficionados don’t know. For instance, one of the great flute concertos was written by Andre Jolivet, an otherwise relatively obscure composer. Though Beethoven, Mozart and other greats blessed the winds with a handful of pieces, groups can’t repeat the same pieces every time.

While there are great works for wind quintets by unknown composers, it’s a tough ask for audiences to come to a concert that will be mostly new to them. That’s unfortunate, because the Renaissance City Winds is a veteran ensemble that exhibits fine musicianship and interesting music.

For now, the RCW are a well-kept secret but that’s a plus for those who do know about them. The audience was able to sit within a few feet of the musicians in a small space, not a cavernous hall. After the concert, concertgoers could mingle with Troxler, who gave an up-close look at his odd-looking trapezoidal hammer dulcimer, and the personable RCW musicians. A summer-themed reception (a nod to the Barber) featured fried chicken, chips and watermelon, and even some bottles of Yuengling and apple pastries.

The Winds will be back in the fall for their 2013-2014 season. Visit www.rcwinds.org for more information.

Simple Human Rights Campaign Generates Big Awareness

Non-Profit Organizations Social media

by: Paul Carboni, A Fellow at Shift Collaborative and Senior at Carnegie Mellon University

A couple weeks ago you probably signed into Facebook and quickly noticed something was different. If your wall was like mine, you noticed that the myriad pictures of your friends and family were gone. They were replaced by miles of red and pink railroad tracks running down your news feed. And unless you already knew what was going on, you probably took a couple seconds to Google the explanation.


Which of course, is exactly what Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group based in Washington DC, wanted. In late March they pushed for Facebook users to change their profile pictures to the pink equals sign to raise awareness of the Supreme Court’s deliberation on two cases central to marriage equality.

The campaign was a phenomenal success, spanning across the country and generating a 120% increase in profile photo updates on Tuesday, March 26 when compared with the previous Tuesday. That would be kind of like if all the people at your office decided to show up wearing red and pink one day, and a fifth of them brought a friend that did the same.

What’s so impressive about the campaign is how simple it is. By getting people to click a few buttons, Human Rights Campaign was able to both talk to and engage with the Facebook community. It sent a message to LGBT individuals that they were supported, and it got people to align themselves to their cause. The high rate at which the simple logo was remixed shows how much people liked engaging with the message.

Image source: Adweek.com

And that message got out. Google Trends shows a sharp spike in search volume for the terms DOMA, Human Rights Campaign, and marriage equality for March 2013.

Image source: Google Trends

Bravo HRC. Not only have you motivated people to fight for the right side of history, you’ve managed to demonstrate what a successful social media advertising campaign looks like in the process.