Deadline Extension

The deadline for this proposal has been extended to January 7, 2022.

About CIIS

Since its founding in 1968, California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) has been at the forefront of cutting-edge thought, integrating disciplines, redefining boundaries, and pushing the academy to look at education differently. Our approach to education is holistic and student-centered. Our curriculum unites the highest values of East/West traditions and global experience. Our learning environment integrates all aspects of theperson: cognitive, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual. We encourage students to look inward while reaching out. At our core, we celebrate the multifarious aspects of people, place, and planet, and are committed to forging a more just and resilient world.

CIIS is a private, non-profit university based in San Francisco, California with 25 academic degree programs,eight certificate programs, eight award-winning counseling and wellness community clinics, research centers—such as the Center for Psychedelic Therapy and Research, and a contemporary arts exhibition program. TheUniversity has more than 1,500 students, 341 staff, including 201 faculty members; and over 8500 alums from48 countries and donors throughout the United States and on most continents.

Project Overview


Since 2015, CIIS has undergone two rebranding efforts, both undertaken in-house with marketing staff. The first iteration was not positively received by the community, in large part because CIIS stakeholders were not involved in the process. The second iteration, completed in 2019, included more stakeholders, but was basedprimarily on an internal discovery process and user research project. Out of this effort new brand standards and a temporary homepage for the website were developed, with plans to further develop thebrand and website.

In September of 2021, CIIS welcomed a new President, S. Brock Blomberg. Under his leadership, CIIS has renewed its roots in the Seven Commitments and expanded its vision and strategic focus.

We are seeking an agency partner/consultant to provide brand building services to help us evolve, articulate, and further differentiate our brand and to develop an integrated communications strategy and implementationroadmap.

We will provide our agency partner/consultant the findings from our internal research, including a partial competitive analysis, content audit, interview quotes and findings, and SEO data reports and website recommendations developed with Carnegie Dartlet, a higher education consulting company. 

We need the next evolution of our brand to speak both internally and externally. Our key stakeholders are: 

  • President Brock Blomberg and his senior leadership team
  • Our Board of Trustees
  • Our four schools and their respective leadership, administration, staff, and faculty
  • Enrollment/Admissions management and program-based admissions, recruiting, and retention staff
  • Our graduate and undergraduate current students across the four schools
  • Prospective graduate and undergraduate students across the four schools
  • Our alumni
  • Our critical Bay Area community supporters (including industry partners, civic associations, majordonors, )



  • Create a coherent brand narrative that unites 50 years of robust integral education and innovative approaches to learning with present market demands and future cutting-edge
  • Audit existing brand and identify opportunities for new markets (e.g., prospective students, newprograms and certificates).
  • Identify relevant trends in higher education, specifically with “sister schools” (see Addendum).
  • Surface insights about our existing community and create new brand
  • Create an integrated brand strategy with an omnichannel implementation


  • Build a best-in-class university brand image and
  • Have strong brand awareness among our key audiences across the Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, the United States, and beyond to serve our critical international students and
  • Consistent enrollment, with growth in identified areas, into the future across all four
  • Through our service delivery — aligned with the goals of our strategic plan — achieve our brandpromise to our critical stakeholders and constituencies.

Guiding Principles

CIIS Seven Commitments. CIIS is committed to a set of core values:

  1. Practice integral approaches to learning and research
  2. Affirm spirituality
  3. Commit to diversity and inclusion
  4. Foster multiple ways of learning and teaching
  5. Advocate sustainability and social justice
  6. Support community
  7. Strive for an integral and innovative governance

We expect these commitments to ground the process, inspire the conversation, and shape the integratedstrategy and design.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We have recently restructured our DEI division, as these values are sources of strength. Our integrated strategy and website must serve a broad global audience and its design,messaging, and content should reflect the diversity of the CIIS community.

Transparency and Honesty. CIIS has been challenged in the past to get out of its echo chamber. We recognize this has held us back from being competitive in the marketplace. We expect and desire to hear hard truths in the service of making the CIIS brand more coherent and its community and offerings more sustainable.

Project Timeline

RFP Available November 15, 2021
Questions Due Rolling (answers posted to website)
Proposal Deadline January 7, 2022
Vendor Finalist Presentations Mid-January 2022
Final Vendor Selected January 31, 2022
Engagement Begins Mid-February 2022
Integrated Strategy Mid-June 2022

Services and Scope

Project and relationship management. Good project management includes expectation setting, planning, attention to detail, and user-friendly project management software. Good relationship management means responsive and open communication, accountability, transparency, a willingness to adapt, and an understandingof client and stakeholder constraints and needs. We prefer in-person or Zoom meetings for kickoffs, workshops, and milestones; regular check-in calls suffice in between milestones. We expect all core team members to join us for weekly project status calls throughout the project lifecycle, and at least one full-time employee as ourprimary point of contact. 

Brand audit and strategic implementation. This will be a four-phase process to include 1) an internal audit to assess brand health, discovery, and research; 2) an external audit of marketplace and competitors; 3) brand strategy recommendation to include mission and vision; and 4) an omnichannel implementation roadmap.

Through an effective, streamlined series of activities, the selected agency/consultant will:

  • Quickly understand who we are, our purpose, vision, culture, philosophy, challenges, coreobjectives, and metrics of
  • Recommend and implement a research study: proposed methodology, process, and approach (primary, secondary, quantitative, qualitative, length of time, number of respondents, hard costs, ).
  • Clearly outline the how and why of your recommended research approach/methodology andhow the resulting insights will inform your go-forward recommendations and provide new, actionable insights that are not already known to CIIS.
  • Develop a coherent brand narrative that can be implemented across all channels.

Key Measures of Success

  • Phases 1 - 3: Stakeholder approval by President Brock Blomberg and his senior leadership team, our Board of Trustees, and our four schools and their respective
  • Phase 4: User and stakeholder interviews/development: internal and external.

Evaluation Criteria

The proposal evaluation criteria committee will comparatively evaluate proposals based on the following criteria: 

  • The team is diverse in skills and experience and includes members with extensive and strong backgrounds in global brands, including Higher Education, and redesigning complex Theproject team is energized, consistently staffed, creative, and available.
  • The team is broadly representative in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religiousaffiliation, socio-economic status, and
  • The examples of past work provided are relevant to this project and highlight the skills of a team thatwill be assigned to it.
  • The proposed approach and timeline is thoughtful, realistic, and creative. It is based on the strengths of your organization and ours, and it lays out a clear path to a successful communications strategy and
  • The three references on similar projects consistently rate services and results as “excellent.”
  • Your methods inspire constructive thinking and demonstrate a striking ability to gain insights around target markets and users, and drive consensus among Strong cultural fit with CIIS isalso important.

Your Proposal

Your firm and team bios. Please provide us with some background on you/your firm and its structure, as well as bios of the team members with whom we’d be working throughout the project, and that team’s structure as it relates to this project. Please disclose any third-party partners you plan to work with.

Relevant examples of your work. Walk us through a few recent projects that are structurally similar to thisone. What was successful about these projects? How did you approach collaboration with the client and othervendor partners? How would your team go about tackling challenges that could arise in the project (and how would you ensure that we wouldn’t face any major roadblocks)?

Inspiration for this project. Please share three brands that you think have a powerful and unique brand storyand innovative storytelling. These don’t have to be brands of your own work, and we encourage you to thinkoutside the realm of higher education. We’d also like you to share your aspirational interpretation(s) of “CIIS” in the context of this project: What could (or should) CIIS’ brand communicate about who we are? How wouldyou creatively approach brand challenges?

Your approach for this project.

  1. Describe how you would approach the deliverables and related activities in the previous
  2. Please specify any support you would need from CIIS to accomplish this
  3. Provide us with an expected timeline, project hours, and cost for your team to substantiallycomplete each phase, deliverable, and sub-deliverable.

References. Provide three current customer references, including the following information for each client: company name; contact name, title, email and phone; and brief description of history with this client.

Presentation. CIIS is looking for a close partner on this project. To gauge alignment with our goals, you will beinvited in for a 45-minute-long presentation. You will have a chance to present your technical proposal and answer questions for the CIIS community, including project and senior leadership. The team that you bringshould be the same team members you expect to lead the redesign project, if selected.

Cutting room floor (optional). Inevitably there will be efforts you would have liked to have included in this proposal but did not think were feasible given time and scope constraints. We would like to know what someof those were. This section is optional. 


Michele DeMarco
Acting Director, Office of Strategic Communications and Relations

Phone: 415-590-1570


Competitors List

  • CU Boulder, CU Colorado Springs
  • Colorado State University-Fort Collins
  • University of Denver
  • Metro State University of Denver
  • University of Northern Colorado) Pacifica Graduate Institute
  • Naropa University
  • Saybrook University
  • Palo Alto University
  • The Wright Institute
  • Lesley University
  • Antioch University (Seattle, LA, Santa Barbara and Online)
  • National University, with JFK School of Psychology at National University
  • Prescott College
  • Fielding Graduate 

Brand Standards

Seven Commitments

  1. Practice integral approaches to learning and research
  2. Affirm spirituality
  3. Commit to diversity and inclusion
  4. Foster multiple ways of learning and teaching
  5. Advocate sustainability and social justice
  6. Support community
  7. Strive for an integral and innovative governance

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