• Zeb Carlson

Case Study: CommonBond Communities

Affordable housing. Just those two words can create stress.

How much is my house worth; I wish I could afford to a bigger apartment; and on and on. Yet for so many people a home is just too far out of reach.

When approached by CommonBond Communities to collaborate on their digital transformation, I was eager to dig in. Our challenge: How can we can raise awareness around the housing crisis in our communities, and how can we activate new donors to get involved?

As with many nonprofits today, much of their funding classifies as "institutional" and there's a shortage of individual donors that support their mission financially. It's not that the money isn't there; Minnesota is one of the most philanthropically responsible states in America. It's all about bringing your mission to new donors in a way they can readily understand and linking it to their motivations.

We created a framework that connected the organization's role and developed personas for the acquisition of new donors. These data-driven audiences utilize owned and third-party data to model population size, affinities, and where to reach potential donors.

During this time, we developed a test & learn approach, creating a message bank that consolidates a variety of statistics and outcomes into an updated language to be used throughout all of their content. During this process, we created donor journeys that bring in tactics such as email, event programming, social media, and donor stewardship.

Having an affordable place to live is the foundation, and having the just-in-case support for when you need a helping hand is what CommonBond does best. Their team of Advantage Services staff include an on-site presence to help kids with schoolwork, support for new Americans, day-to-day assistance for people aged 55 and over, and helping people increase their income or connect to their community. And while they have amazing outcomes from this work, explaining this approach to self-sufficiency isn't always easy.

We created language and assets, such as infographic and a library of updated photography and video, for both internal and external efforts. An important chapter of their message bank, these visuals and copy serve as a conversation starter that creates a better understanding of the complexity of their essential work.

By updating the website copy with a conversational tone and more clear calls to action, while at the same time utilizing SEO best practices, we can find ways to connect with people, either those looking for resources or offering to volunteer or donate. Using the approach we created in the message bank effort, drafting new copy was much easier: We weren't starting from scratch.

By creating a measurement approach that allows an opportunity to provide marketing health checks, we can continue to collaborate to see how our individual tactics roll-up to our overall goals.

One of the most important — and often neglected — steps to digital transformation is training. Through sessions to up-skill staff, teams were supported with hands-on training, complimented with a handbook that offers guidance such as a progress map of the upcoming year and glossary to help when you're stuck.

Regarding success, we have some early indicators that tell us we're heading down the right path:

  • Triple-digit percentage increase in email signups online

  • Increase in social engagements, primarily shares and likes

  • Significant boost in email performance with current contacts

  • Greater staff efficiency with content creation

To learn more or ask a question, please contact me. And take a minute and check out CommonBond's social sites through the links below. And while you're at it, feel free to sign up to volunteer or donate to this fantastic organization. :)

CommonBond Facebook

Instagram: @commonbondcomm




Alicia Cordes-Mayo | Chelsea Dolan | Derek Madsen


Creative Director


Content Manager


Fresh Coast Collective | Devon Meade | Kris Lien | Rachel Carpenter | Matt Biersdorf | Steve Stwalley