Case Study: CHF

A non-profit that runs like a mission-driven business had an unprecedented vision of rebuilding an artist middle class through MBA-like business training, a startup-focused entrepreneurial community, and cause-based media. To create a groundswell around career growth and prosperity for a neglected minority—professional working artists—required bringing together digital media, digital communities, and digital education to enable an ecosystem that impacts the non-digital world. MadPipe took on this project, and this is what occurred . . .

Creative Director | External CMO

A vision and a line in the sand.

The organization wanted to reach an untapped powerhouse of entrepreneurship that already contributes powerfully to national and local economies with one question: What happens if we equip you the same way we do leaders of any industry and invite your creative intelligence across all sectors of society? MadPipe brought together messaging and a marketing strategy in the form of owned and earned media, and began building learning communities around the organization's ideas. Critically, MadPipe led the capture and effective telling of user stories, so the input could shape the program and users could speak to other users.

A learning community.

We built a digital campus available 24/7 on all devices, and stocked it with industry experts, multiple media formats from video and micro-learning to live webinars and full-on digital courses, expert columns and a podcast that took the information out into the larger industry ecosystem, reaching people in cars, studios, and work environments.

An ecosystem of engagement.

Users engaged either in person or pursued a self-directed path, or both. They formed user groups and, in some cases, were invited to mastermind programs that lasted a year at a time. Those masterminds ("fellows") became our most vocal proponents and advocates to their peers.

A growing platform.

In addition to an on-site platform, we took the community formation to the most ubiquitous social networks like Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook, and additionally planted local communities, to whom we offered community development support, guidance on best practices, and infrastructure tools.

Driven by user stories.

Nothing persuades like words directly out of the mouths of those who experience the new way of doing things.

Other favorite user stories:

A microphone and a meaningful cause.

As an experiment, we launched a podcast on the basis of an enormous under-served audience and feedback from users supporting the idea that what we were offering—entrepreneurial learning and business training—was of critical interest. That experiment became permanent, as we were rewarded with overwhelming validation of that hypothesis. Our listener base grew exponentially, our guests came from every related industry sector, and we began taking on sponsors.

A ubiquitous presence . . .

We made the decision to be EVERYWHERE, so people could find us ANYWHERE.

A groundbreaking industry report.

We knew we were sitting on important data, and we also observed that no one had collected, compiled, and collated all the available data relevant to the organization's mission and undertaking, so we set out to produce the first of its kind industry and research report to share our findings, demonstrate what's possible with the right resources, leadership, and concerted effort, and further engage peer constituents in business, government, and non-profit.

A mobilized army of constituents on fire.

At the heart of everything was the end-user. We encouraged constituents to form in-person meetups and online groups we didn't own or control, but to which we provided assistance in the form of plugging them into other groups with similar goals. The result is a growing ecosystem of 'federated' user groups, which it would be fair to call a "movement".

A now recognized brand in this industry and audience space.

By collaboration with well-known corporations, local government, and other mission-driven organizations, CHF has achieved not only recognition but a general familiarity among its audience.

Sustainable, measurable impact on an engaged audience.

Growth wasn't the only goal, but growth the right way—by providing a superior product, incorporating user voices into development, and fostering self-empowerment among end-users, not greater dependency. The enthusiasm we've seen, felt, and even measured as a result has been its own reward, but we've also been able to change and improve the lives of our audience, which is what it means to be a social enterprise committed to functioning like an efficient business.


In just one year, we’ve doubled our online audience, and the total number of registered members in our Thriving Art Exchange.
  • 98,000 page views
  • 33,000 unique visitors
  • 89 webinars and microlearning videos
  • 11 educational podcasts
  • 21 expert columns and interviews


In 2019, our online audience grew by more than 20%, consuming 17% more content, and we more than doubled the number of registered members in our learning community.
  • 40,000 unique visitors
  • 52,000 page views
  • 33 new course modules
  • 10 educational podcasts
  • 31 expert columns and interviews

Continually growing audience, and growing results.

The data isn't just empirical (numbers). The sheer volume of testimonials and credits supporting the hard data goes beyond the merely rhetorical to inspire volunteerism from participants who trust the intentions of the organization and regard its fundamental operation as a necessary good to be supported. The array of other organizations, private and public, media and industry, for-profit and non-profit, that have recognized, rewarded, and contributed to the work is growing exponentially. Not only has pandemic and recession not diminished that reality, it has accelerated it, precisely because the vision and operation of the organization took into account an environment of punctuated uncertainty, innovation, disruption, and evolving needs.

Core Roles on This Project

Creative Direction & Marketing: Daniel DiGriz
Digital Development: Michelle Ramsay
Data Analyst: Lily Dulberg
Community Concierge: Ella Adkins
Community Development: Shem Cohen
Media Producer: Penelope Thomas
Events Direction: Carolyn Edlund
Executive Direction: Elizabeth Hulings

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About once / month, corporate storyteller and digital ecologist® Daniel DiGriz weaves together interesting business stories, analytics, & examples for organizations committed to achieving their goals.


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