Case Studies

Graybird supports Foundation for a College Education to build a robust volunteer college advisory.

The Challenge

Walk in the door at Foundation for a College Education (FCE) most evenings and you will find high school students learning in groups, working with tutors, or chatting about what they will wear to Senior Celebration, the annual event honoring its high school graduates. At STEAM, you might catch middle schoolers critiquing each other’s puzzles at the end of their 6-week engineering design project. The hard work and forward motion are palpable. But that’s not what FCE’s logo, website, and marketing materials communicated about this mighty East Palo Alto organization that supports underserved students of color to graduate from four-year colleges. The stone arch, adopted by FCE twenty years ago as the emblem of higher education access, had become tired and cliché. In 2017, Graybird Foundation stepped in with a significant grant to give FCE the identity overhaul it needed.


The Bold Move


Graybird Foundation zeroed in on Trust and Inspiration, two emotions that FCE stakeholders wanted to see in the representation of its new identity. In addition, the logo needed to connect the organization’s name with the complex and demanding process through which students and families navigate along the path to college graduation. Graybird worked with a special marketing committee at FCE to select three logo designs from an initial group of 16. In true form with its value in community, FCE tested these designs with students, parents, staff, tutors, and donors, which informed the final selection of the new logo. The new identity combines the organization’s name in a clear, strong typeface and bold color, carving a direct path to achieve the goal of a college degree.

While the line connects the words College Education directly to the ultimate goal, it moves through the maze, representing the complex process of applying to college and navigating the road to earn a 4-year degree.

3 colors. FCE’s extended name is a graphic mouthful. Using purple and red to emphasize the meaningful words helps the readability of the word mark.

The red center, directly attached to the word College, represents the goal, a college degree.

The two words, College Education, are in the same color so they read as one unit. Red, the strongest color, is used to emphasize the ultimate goal.

Graybird has been the perfect partner. They listened to who we are and who we aim to be, and then deployed their tremendous talent to the task of making our brand match our sense of ourselves. We couldn’t be happier or more grateful!

Julie Lythcott-Haims, FCE President of the Board

Moving Forward

Empowering Staff as Marketers

Like many small, community-based organizations, FCE is powered by hardworking staff dedicated to developing and executing program, and to smooth operation of the nonprofit, but not to marketing it. Graybird designed and produced a comprehensive “starter pack” of critical brand assets including a new website, redesigned business system, and templates for newsletters and invitations. For a period of time following FCE’s new identity launch, Graybird supported FCE staff who conscientiously rebranded several communications vehicles to promote their student-centered programs and the organization in general. With the help of Graybird’s brand identity workshop and detailed brand guidelines, staff members continue to independently create and manage the production of FCE-branded material for both internal and external audiences.

Jill Grossman

Jill Grossman

Founder and CEO

As founder of Graybird Foundation, Jill is thrilled to give back to the Bay Area community that has given so much to so many. At Graybird, she is responsible for strategic planning, identifying opportunities, and executing fundraising efforts.

Jill has played an active role in several projects — most notably as executive producer of the documentary Surviving Skokie and as a task force member of the LifeMoves (formerly InnVisionShelterNetwork) rebranding initiative.

Even before founding Graybird, Jill was involved in several nonprofit marketing projects including the acquisition of two digital mammography systems at the San Mateo County Hospital and the 25th Anniversary fundraising video for ShelterNetwork. As a member of the Crystal Springs Uplands School board of trustees, Jill led the creation of Crystal’s mission statement, tagline and the 2009-2014 strategic plan as well as co-led the marketing/capital campaign efforts for the institution’s new Middle School. Her high technology communications experience includes executive roles at Silicon Graphics, Macromedia and Catapult Partners.

Jill has a BA in History with a minor in Business Administration from UCLA. Apart from Graybird, Jill enjoys hiking, skiing, traveling, movies and spending time with her three fabulous children and extended family. Oh, and she also loves the Golden State Warriors.

See Jill’s full professional background on LinkedIn.

You would never guess

I wear a size 10 shoe

I can’t function without

Music on a hike

Celebrity who would play me in a movie

Sandra Bullock (I wish!)

A nerdy thing I love to do

Try to figure out who will win the Oscar in every category every year

My favorite vacation spot is

Sun Valley, Idaho

As a kid I was always in trouble for

Losing things

Favorite part of my job is

Working with my friends

Renee Spooner

Renee Spooner

Chief Marketing Officer

The Graybird Foundation clients inspire Renée to dig deep and make bold marketing moves on their behalf.  After a successful Silicon Valley career in high-tech marketing, she now combines her skills in branding, communications and project management with her passion to mentor nonprofit professionals. Clients on the Graybird roster include Berkeley Symphony, Crystal Springs Upland School, Foundation for a College Education, Gatepath, Golden State Youth Orchestra, LifeMoves, Reach for Home, and Surviving Skokie.

As Chief Marketing Office at Graybird Foundation, Renée is responsible for guiding client marketing strategy, bringing together skilled teams, and mentoring clients as they take ownership of their new brands.  She draws from a background in public relations, customer marketing and product launches, with previous management roles at Silicon Graphics, BEA/Oracle and VMware, and consulting with numerous startups.  Renée’s evolution into the nonprofit sector is her way of giving back.

The travel adventure on my bucket list is

Sailing the South Pacific

Celebrity who would play me in a movie

Joan Cusack

A nerdy thing I love to do

Is recite Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I [ … ] everyday

Pray for my children and my sanity

As a kid I was always in trouble for

Talking too much in class

My favorite restaurant is

Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay

Favorite part of my job

Mentoring up-and-coming marketers

Helen Boyer

Helen Boyer

Chief Operating Officer

As Chief Operating Officer of Graybird Foundation, Helen leads strategic planning, finance, operations and our grant process. She collaborates with project teams, guides client engagements and develops creative solutions that drive the foundation’s programs and goals.

Helen brings two decades of business management and operations experience to Graybird, spanning the corporate, non-profit, public and private sectors. Having lived internationally and travelled to more than 25 countries, she has a diverse professional background ranging from leadership roles in business development, product planning, logistics and process management to assisting underserved children in Ecuador, Costa Rica and Vietnam. Helen’s volunteer service deeply informs her life practice. She is honored to help individuals and businesses in her local community, in addition to her work at Graybird.

Helen graduated from UC Davis, with a BS in Textile Science. When she isn’t at Graybird Foundation you’ll find her riding her bike to the beach, listening to jazz at her favorite café, or up-cycling a new find. And, plagued with a serious case of wanderlust, she is always planning the next stamp for her passport. See Helen’s full professional background on LinkedIn.

You would never guess

I know the words to nearly every song in the musical “Funny Girl”

I can’t function without

My sisters

The travel adventure on my bucket list is

Angkor Wat in Cambodia

A nerdy thing I love to do

File my greeting cards by category

Favorite Podcast/Movie/Book/Play/Artist

Baraka, Shantaram, Into the Woods, Guayasamin

I [ … ] everyday

Chat during my commute with one of my best friends (for 38 years)

As a kid I was always in trouble for

Talking too much, especially to strangers

Favorite part of my job

Working with people who are guided by their hearts

Shelley Willig

Shelley Willig

Head of Education Practice

Shelley is obsessed with education; she believes that increasing the percentage of young people earning college degrees is a solution to many of the major issues plaguing our country today. Combining her 20 years in high-tech marketing with her role as Head of Education Practice at Graybird, Shelley is elated to lead projects for community based organizations working hard to get more students to and through college.

Since 2006, Shelley has been deeply involved in education nonprofits. She manages the volunteer college advising program at Foundation for a College Education where she also works directly with students. Shelley serves on the board of Mid-Peninsula High School, a CAIS school in Menlo Park. Prior to joining Graybird Foundation, Shelley served eight years as the Director of Admission at Trinity School, an independent elementary institution.

Shelley holds a BA in Communications from CSU Fullerton, and a certificate in College Admissions Counseling from UC Berkeley. When she is not touring college campuses, Shelley enjoys hiking, cooking, and dinners on the patio with her husband and four sons.

I can’t function without

The goofiness of my kids and husband

The travel adventure on my bucket list is

Hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro

I’ve always wanted to be


My hidden talent is

Cooking a pretty good meal in anybody’s kitchen with whatever I can find in the fridge and pantry

A nerdy thing I love to do

Read statistics about college admissions

Favorite Podcast/Movie/Book/Play/Artist

Stand By Me/Operating Instructions/Driving Miss Daisy/Elton John

As a kid I 

was never in trouble because I never got caught!

My favorite spot in the Bay Area is

Wunderlich Park Trails

Favorite part of my job

Working with people I admire

Reach for Home — Fund a Need Video