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How to Sell Smarter Government Spending

How might we build more sustainable communities? As it has many times in its 100+ years, the Government Finance Officers Association had an idea. Inspired by Nobel Prize-winning research, GFOA leadership created a framework for helping local governments rethink how public funds get spent. If adopted, it could stabilize revenue and strengthen infrastructure, while building public trust. The first step? Get GFOA’s 20,000 members to buy in.

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With our pals at Greater Good Studio leading research, we discovered that, to encourage its adoption and create new advocates, we had to package the framework wisely. We began with the name: Financial Foundations for Thriving Communities. After developing a familiar, yet fresh look and feel, we got to work producing a cohesive package of strategic environmental, print and digital materials.

GFOA Process 1 Timeline

How might we make the framework as accessible, memorable and compelling as possible?

GFOA Workshop 1
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Financial governance has never looked so spirited. Targeted toward second-generation users—i.e. GFOA members’ local and professional networks—the intro video walks through the framework one step at a time, energizing it through thoughtful animations.


Dynamic infographics lay the foundation for introducing each of the framework’s five pillars, set against a gridded backdrop, reminiscent of actuarial graph paper. Coming in at a tight two minutes, it offers viewers a sense of growth within a supported structure.

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Joining GFOA’s already impressive library of publications, the new Financial Foundations book is chock full of in-depth research, guiding questions and case studies for those ready to dive deeper.

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GFOA Book 2 Interior

In designing the cover and inside spreads, we balanced visuals and copy to avoid the dreaded wall of text, for an overall engaging read that goes above and beyond the standard finance textbook.


The Financial Foundations microsite feels both at home within and distinct from, an intentional decision to reflect the framework’s origins and aspiration to live beyond the organization. It houses relevant resources and features concise, collapsible case studies for a dash of storytelling without taking visitors out of the experience.

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With its annual conference on the horizon, GFOA was eager to unveil and evangelize the framework in-person to thousands of members. We designed the space to optimize flow, creating zones for different types of learning as well as an interactive installation.

GFOA Diagram 2 Path
GFOA Diagram 1 Interactive Wall


Transparency being one of GFOA’s core values, we invited attendees to share which of the five pillars they planned to prioritize in 2020, then plot it on a map near their home communities. As regional trends emerged, so did the opportunity to identify peers in different areas of the country with similar challenges, creating new connections.

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GFOA Booth 2 Bumpers

attendee interaction: FIND YOUR STRENGTHS

On the wall’s opposite side, attendees had a chance to call out which areas their communities had a handle on, deepening the opportunity for GFOA members to seek out each other’s counsel and celebrate their strengths.

GFOA Booth 3 Gallery v2
GFOA Booth 4 Stickers
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As the Financial Foundations Framework continues to take hold, new design challenges will surely arise—How might we measure its impact and efficacy? What barriers do different cities face when trying to evolve their financial practices? With each new question comes new potential to help GFOA reshape our communities’ futures, one step at a time.