How ACS Helped One Foundation Find Its Vision and Voice

Place-based foundations have a unique capacity to bring people together, address systemic inequities, and improve quality of life for residents. But to continue building that capacity in response to evolving community needs, foundations must be truly and deeply of and for the communities they serve.

When The Arras Foundation in Lancaster, South Carolina, (formally J. Marion Sims Foundation) wanted to transform its grantmaking based on community input and engagement, it partnered with ACS to hone its vision and identity. Today, Arras is a recognized force in the community and the eighth-largest philanthropic funder in the state.

ACS knew from long experience in advocacy, communication, strategy development, and capacity-building that establishing and developing a community-based vision on a solid footing of trust would be paramount for taking the Arras Foundation in the direction it wanted to go.

Over time, this deep, close work resulted in changes to the way the foundation does business externally and internally — touching everything from how Arras is staffed to the process for evaluating grant requests to how it collaborates with other organizations in the community.

Learn how Arras has redefined its place-based philanthropy in our latest case study.

The Debate About School Safety Is No Longer Relevant

The Debate About School Safety Is No Longer Relevant: The Atlantic offers a thought-provoking article about reopening schools within a pandemic and the specific, often ignored, and almost insurmountable challenge of staffing challenges that were tough before the pandemic began. The most salient take away might be the following:

The staffing shortages should, to be blunt, change the entire conversation. The issue should lead off every opinion piece on schools and every school-board meeting, be part of every vaccination discussion. Parents have to grasp how rapidly the shortages can and will disrupt their expectations of where and how their children are educated. Those who support in-person instruction—including many Republican leaders—must understand that relief dollars are a prerequisite. There is no in-person school without staff. Until we reckon with that simple, vital truth, the rest of the schooling debate is but sound and fury, signifying nothing and helping no one.”

ACS has been working on K-12 policy issues for over 20 years and in 2021  will include State budget advocacy, strategic planning, monitoring of Federal policy and media relations for clients like The Ohio 8 Coalition and the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio. The topic of staffing will no doubt remain on the radar.

School and early childhood education are both equally important

School and early childhood education are both equally important, fostering brain development and a foundation for life-long learning.  This Opinion piece in The New York Times argues that our country’s education systems should give them equal weight. Several cities around the US have helped parents of elementary school students with the lack of childcare when their school districts went remote by placing children in open-air, supervised environments. Yet, many childcare providers never shut down and were forced to figure out how to keep their doors open while keeping everyone safe. “The dichotomy we’ve set up between the two doesn’t serve anyone now, but it didn’t work under normal circumstances, either. Separating child care from the larger K-12 educational system forces many of us to live with an expensive, patchwork, private system for children up to age 5,” the columnist Bryce Covert says. Private child care should be considered as essential as public school. Several of ACS’ clients – PRE4CLE, Idaho AEYC, and the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children – work tirelessly to ensure all families have access to affordable, high-quality preschool so that children enter Kindergarten ready to learn.

Congrats! Cleveland Schools Graduate Rate Increases Nearly 30%

Congrats! Cleveland Schools Graduate Rate Increases Nearly 30%

The number of students graduating from Cleveland Metropolitan School District has increased 27.9% since the 2010-2011 school year when the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools was launched. That means CMSD’s 4-year graduation rate has reached 80.1% — among the fastest growing in the state. School District CEO Eric Gordon has called the graduation rate the truest measure of a school district’s performance and how well it is preparing students for college and career. Read more about this remarkable achievement.

ACS Wins Again!

ACS Wins Again!

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC takes Bronze in coveted Stevie® Awards International Business Award for Company of the Year

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) was selected out of more than 3,800 nominations to receive bronze for Company of the Year.

ACS, an Ohio-based minority and women-owned firm that has been in business more than 15 years, received the award for its work in helping non-profit organizations, government agencies, philanthropic organizations and for-profit companies advocate for policy change and communicate effectively with audiences who have the power to effect change. ACS previously won the Bronze Company of the Year Stevie® Women in Business Award in 2018.

One judge commented, “Being able to provide end-to-end consulting, from policy to communication to implementation, ACS provides convenience of both doing business as well as competitive costs to its customers (by reducing overheads required to get various consultants on the same page about the client’s journey – something that is not necessary with a single consultant). The company’s recent growth is also remarkable. ACS has indeed found its niche! The company is poised for great success in the future.”

The International Business Awards (IBA’s) are the world’s premier business awards program. All individuals and organizations worldwide – public and private, for-profit and non-profit, large and small – are eligible to submit nominations. The 2020 IBAs received entries from organizations in 63 nations and territories.

ACS is one of three US small businesses honored with the award; other winners are located in Australia, Italy and Canada. It is an honor for ACS to be acknowledged among such a large field of impressive companies from around the world. The winners were announced by the Stevie® Awards on Thursday, September 10th as part of the 17th annual International Business Awards®.

Cradle Cincinnati and Queens Village

Queens Village

In 2011, Hamilton County, Ohio (Cincinnati), had the second-highest infant mortality rate in the United States. Throughout the 2000s, about 125 infants died per year; 71, on average, were Black. Black mothers said they didn’t feel seen, valued or heard, which they thought contributed to their infants’ outlying mortality rates. In response, Cradle Cincinnati was born. It found the greatest risk factors with extreme preterm births — which are a big contributor to the infant mortality rate — were unexpected pregnancies, stress during pregnancy and implicit bias in prenatal care. In 2018, Cradle Cincinnati launched a $25-million plan to combat infant mortality and learn how racism can lead to extreme preterm birth and infant deaths. One outcome is “sacred spaces” — meetings and events for Black women to be seen, heard and valued that came to be known as Queens Village. Hamilton County saw 14 fewer Black infant deaths in 2019—a 24% decrease in Black infant mortality compared to the previous 5 years. This new milestone comes as a community of partners are focused squarely on improving the longstanding racial disparity in birth outcomes caused by the historical injustices the Black community has faced. ACS partners with Cradle Cincinnati and other infant mortality prevention collaboratives throughout the state through its work with First Year Cleveland. Learn more in this recent news article.

4 Steps to Effectively Engage in Electoral Advocacy this Year

4 Steps to Effectively Engage in Electoral Advocacy this Year

Do you want to educate the public about important issues before the election? But, do you worry that encouraging civic engagement might affect your 501(C)(3) status?

Don’t worry – you can engage in electoral advocacy (performing advocacy efforts that do not support or oppose a specific candidate or party) without affecting your 501(C)(3) status. Our quick guide shows you how.

Follow these 4 steps to help you quickly move to action before the November 2020 election.

View and download all ACS tools here.

Census Count – Hard to Reach Communities

Census Count – Hard to Reach Communities

Ensuring everyone participates in the 2020 Census is no easy feat, so several Cleveland organizations got creative to make sure all communities are properly represented in the count. For example, the Young Latino Network launched the Cleveland Caravan. A pickup truck wove through the streets of a predominantly Latino neighborhood playing a looped message in English and Spanish about how to respond to the Census and to vote. Organizers walked alongside the caravan to distribute information. Other groups in Cleveland have been similarly creative to make sure Cleveland has an accurate count. Check out this story for more on these tactics which can work in many communities.

School Nurse Battle – more than just COVID-19

School nurses have to plan for every possible outcome when students return to school during COVID-19. But what happens when school buildings don’t have nurses? Ohio Association of School Nurses is advocating for a school nurse in every building. Right now, only 50% of Ohio school buildings have a registered nurse; the others rely on school secretaries or paraprofessionals to manage sick children. Learn more at

ACS Client PRE4CLE asks for help to #SAVECHILDCARE in Ohio

Congress is hearing our call to save child care. Both the House and Senate have passed proposals to include stabilization funding for child care in the COVID-19 recovery package, but we need to keep up the pressure to ensure child care relief makes it to final negotiations. The Senate Republican HEALS Act would provide $15 billion for the child care industry. The House passed the Child Care Is Essential Act with bipartisan support, which would provide $50 billion in child care stabilization funding. Our friends at PRE4CLE want you to contact your members of Congress today to ask them to save child care. Through Groundwork Ohio’s VoterVoice platform, you are able to submit one message to each of your members every 24 hours.

#SaveChildCare in Ohio
#SaveChildCare in Ohio