• Zeb Carlson

Case Study: CommonBond Communities

Affordable housing is a broad term, isn't it? It sparks many questions: 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.

CommonBond Communities saw potential around creating a simplified message that resonated with their residents and donors. Our task was to raise awareness of the housing crisis while designing fresh ways for people to get involved.

As with many nonprofits, the balance of institutional funding and revenue from individual donors is imbalanced. 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.

At the same time, we also developed a test & learn approach to how efforts were decided upon and executed, as well as a message bank that consolidated how CommonBond operates and connects with their residents to support good lives. This utilized the case statement format I create with my clients, and helps fill in the donor journeys — including 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. The outcomes of this work can be challenging to explain, which is why we spent time simplifying the nuance of this work into easy-to-explain graphics and more.

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 can be used in so many places across their comms materials.

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 found new 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.

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




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