Our Origin Story

by | March 16, 2020

For quite a while now, we’ve been a classic case of the cobbler’s son who has no shoes.

For about a year after our founding, we didn’t have a website. We were too busy doing what we love — working 1:1 with clients. Our work at the time came mostly via personal referrals, and our lack of online presence didn’t seem to hurt us. Over time as our reputation grew, so did our inbound interest from folks who didn’t know us personally, and we launched a simple site to cover the basics. Since then we’ve added a little more content to better introduce ourselves to you; and now, I’m excited to spend more time writing and sharing.

Welcome! Here’s a little more about me and who we are as an agency…

My name is Searcy Morgan, and I founded Matterlab in late 2017 with a desire to unlock greater equity impact in the social sector. I had, and still have, a specific vision of doing that by focusing on nonprofit organizations and foundations that work to transform life outcomes for children and families.

My whole career has been in the public education sector. I carry a deep belief not only that our children — all children — deserve an excellent education, but also that by investing in the children and family in this country from historically under-resourced communities, together we can break generational cycles of poverty and prepare our entire country for a collective future that is more equitable, safe, sustainable, and prosperous.

There is no shortage of incredible organizations founded and entirely oriented around this exact work — from public charter school networks, to after-school programs, to grassroots poverty intervention organizations, to parenting support programs. So many of them do outstanding work. And yet around 2012 I found myself musing more and more often about what the world would look like if each of them was 10% more effective, 20% more effective, 50% more effective — not just in delivering its programming effectively, but in achieving its intended impact. I became obsessed with the idea of defining, and then aligning all planning and measurement to, intended impact.

I had worked in nonprofit marketing, communications, and community engagement for a decade and saw a common theme: incredibly talented and impact-driven creative teams functioning only as in-house agencies responsive and reactive to the needs of other functions. Through observation and experience, I developed a strong point of view that when the creative side of the house carries responsibility for and works primarily toward topline organizational goals, organizations can soar. Add to that equation direct alignment from intended impact down to topline organizational goals, and it seemed shockingly simple — this could be a way to do what I set out to do: unlock greater impact in the social sector.

That’s why we all get into this type of work. We want to make an impact. The way we define that may differ from one person to the next, especially over the lifetime of a career. But the organizations we work for should take a clear stand on their intended impact. Their stories, their staff meetings, their board updates, their decisions to grow, their evaluation of their leadership – all of it should be oriented around that impact.

In the first two years, I often described Matterlab as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Our wolf’s heart is an undying focus on intended impact, org goals that will get you there, and team strategies that drive the goals — all of which marketing and communications, our sheep’s clothing and what we lead with, can help make happen.

The original idea was that Matterlab would provide coaching, capacity-building, strategic planning, and general execution (from concepting to graphic design to copywriting and everything in between) to nonprofit partners who knew they needed to do something differently in order to hit their ambitious goals – in growth, fundraising, program participant recruitment and retention, and talent recruitment and retention.

We’re approaching the three-year mark. We’ve worked with almost 50 partners. We’ve developed incredibly rewarding relationships with so many people from so many backgrounds. We’ve had huge wins and plenty of failures. And we’ve learned a ton along the way.

Even as our vision of unlocking greater impact remains steadfast, our approach to the work continues to evolve. In addition to our existing high-touch, ongoing relationships with partners and our shorter-term support on high-priority projects in the sector, this year we launched our Annual Partnership — a yearlong experience for organizations to better define, measure, and expand their impact. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

Connect your work to your why.

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