Villa of Hope

funds raised exceeded goal


For 75 years, Villa of Hope (VOH) has helped youth (and their families) regain control over their lives. With a team of dedicated staff, young people are learning to rebuild relationships, make positive choices, overcome chemical dependency and recover their inherent potential.


When VOH was called St. Joseph’s Villa, many stakeholders thought it was affiliated with—and received funding from—the Catholic Church. But that hadn’t been the case since the late 1980s. DS was commissioned by St. Joseph’s to conduct an awareness and perception study.


We discovered that the current name conveyed religion, first and foremost. No surprise there. And because the church affiliation no longer applied, a new name was clearly needed. To help guide the selection, we led the organization through a strategic renaming and branding process.

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 The  result  was  a  new  name:  Villa  of  Hope. 

Next, the website needed an overhaul to reflect the new name and brand. We refreshed the overall design, revamped the site architecture and improved the user experience. By streamlining the website’s content, we could create a cleaner, friendlier design, allowing viewers to focus on key messages and the specific issues facing today’s youth.

Voh Website

The new look and feel embodied the brand promise—

restoring lives to their full potential.

Finally, to better directly engage visitors and highlight Villa of Hope’s brand promise, DS crafted compelling copy and added emotion-laden photography to the design. 
 ​The  new  website  was  a  big  hit. 

After launching, Villa of Hope’s website experienced a healthy gain in web traffic accompanied by a significant growth in unique page visits.

Traffic to the giving section continues to grow, and Villa of Hope has experienced an overall increase in online donations.


VOH also asked us to help raise funds to undertake a
major renovation at its 70-year-old Dewey Avenue campus.

To help raise the much-needed funds, DS designed and planned an inaugural fundraising gala that captured the excitement of an urban street party, which also suggested the Villa’s mission of assisting at-risk youth and their families.

Because it was the Villa’s first gala, attendance estimates varied greatly, so the DS team explored multiple venues, event-flow and catering options. To reduce costs and maximize donations, DS recommended special software that facilitated donations and live/​silent auctions. It enabled guests to bid using their smartphones or the tablets supplied at each table.

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To generate anticipation for this first-ever event, DS planned and hosted a party for table captains—22 key community members and businesses leaders. Local artist and urban activist Shawn Dunwoody enthralled guests with the live creation of large-scale artworks inspired by true Villa stories.

DS also reached out to teen artists at the Villa to bring an authentic youth point of view to the gala’s design and concept.

We created an oversized save-the-date poster featuring a silhouette of one of the Villa’s teens. These were mailed to a select list of 900 potential donors and hand-delivered to the top 100 prospects. The response was overwhelming—the original venue quickly sold out and DS was tasked with finding a larger space.


At the event, excitement greeted guests in the form of Bush Mango, a high-energy drum-and-dance troupe. The evening’s menu continued the street-party groove with southern-style chicken and waffles and mac and cheese.

A DJ kept the crowd grooving all night long. Finally, when the guests left and valets delivered their cars, a boxed thank-you treat was waiting for them on their seats.


The client was hoping to attract 350 guests to this inaugural event. Instead, we achieved a sellout crowd of 550!

The goal for sponsorships was $85,000. A total of $89,225 in sponsorships was secured prior to the event. The cash call goal was $15,000. On DS’s recommendation, it was preceded by an inspirational talk from a young man who has turned his life around thanks in part to the Villa. The subsequent cash call raised a whopping $127,950. The total take for the event was $174,361, more than double what the client anticipated ($72,000).

Every aspect of Villa of Hope’s Portraits of Hope gala—attendance, sponsorships, creative execution, youth involvement, entertainment, messaging, excitement and fundraising—exceeded the client’s expectations and set a new benchmark for not-for-profit fundraisers in the Greater Rochester region. It was also a major factor in winning Marketer of the Year at the 2016 Pinnacle Awards.

The following year, based on the success of this inaugural gala, Villa of Hope returned to DS for creative and event execution. We developed the Living Colors concept.


Color represents joy, life and hope. But for the children served by Villa of Hope, the color in their world has faded. Villa of Hope works to bring the color back. We applied the event concept to all aspects of the gala: from transparent lighting effects and subtle layers of colors to energetic performers.


The Living Colors gala proved to be another highly successful
event for Villa of Hope.

 The  client  was  thrilled 

with both the turnout and the funds,
and attendees raved about the concept, décor and entertainment. 


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