Housing Up

Enabling a D.C. nonprofit to increase donations and program capacity through strategic storytelling


Housing Up builds thriving communities by developing affordable housing and offering comprehensive support services to homeless and low-income families. Their website needed a facelift to better showcase their organizational impact and to attract donors.


A fresh user experience, information architecture, visual design, and content strategy elevates Housing Up's story to funders, board members and donors, displaying the positive impact they've had as an organization.


Information Architecture · UX Design · Web Design · Content Strategy · Web Development

Amplifying strategic goals.

Housing Up is recognized as a leading nonprofit affordable housing developer in the District of Columbia. Since 2010, they have developed or preserved 372 units of housing for low-income families, all of whom have incomes below 60% of the area median income (AMI).

"Our website developed over the years with no branding or communications strategy to guide the growth. The result was a website that was cumbersome, not visually engaging and the opposite of user-friendly. While the website was the best repository of information about our organization, visitors had a hard time finding information and we had a difficult time telling our brand story. With an increased organizational focus on fundraising and branding, we needed a website that clearly communicated our mission and approach, and made it easy for visitors to learn about ways to be involved with our organization."

Christina Peay, Director of Philanthropy and Communications at Housing Up

Research, Discovery, and Information Architecture
Starting with a needs assessment, we worked with the Housing Up team to outline their goals and objectives of the site, gaps and opportunities, their strategic goals, and how the website could help them achieve their organizational goals.

With a goal of helping Housing Up telling a stronger brand story and get donations, we identified key messaging as the building blocks for the UX.

Identifying Audience Needs

The website needed to be a comprehensive resource of information for all audiences, allowing Housing Up to tell their story while communicating clear action items: donate, volunteer, partner with us, and learn more. Housing Up found that once people understand what they do, they are enthusiastic about supporting the organization. However, it was difficult for users to find this information on the old site. Given the importance of reaching multiple audiences at once, our design decisions were based on bringing the user needs of our three key audiences to the forefront of our website and UX strategy. 

Key Audience 1: Potential donors/partners

Potential donors and partners needed to learn more about Housing Up’s impact as well as how to donate/volunteer. One of the key reasons people donate is because they feel emotionally moved by a family's story. Therefore, along with featuring prominent calls-to-action on the site, we prioritized the emphasis on messaging to illustrate how a donor's dollar made an actual impact on the Housing Up mission.



Key Audience 2: Families needing services

Families needing services had to quickly find the resources they required. Through the site design and architecture, we used strategies such as chunked content to showcase impact, and we modeling the messaging after a conversational interface.



Key Audience 3: Existing donors

Existing donors need to find ways to stay engaged with the organization and stay up to date on Housing Up's work. To meet this audience need, we featured a persistent global element in the footer to encourage sign-ups and social engagement. The latest news section was also directed towards meeting this audience's need, where users could stay up to date on the latest news for Housing Up.


"The Crow and Raven team instinctively understood the challenge most nonprofits face of having to communicate to multiple audiences at the same time, all while telling a compelling story and soliciting support and donations. Crow and Raven built a website solution that seamlessly addresses all of those goals and gives us a powerful communications/fundraising tool."

Christina Peay, Director of Philanthropy and Communications at Housing Up

Enhancing the visual storytelling

Although Housing Up had an existing brand style guide, this needed to be applied within a digital environment to enhance the storytelling capabilities of the website. 

We utilized mood boards as a design research tool to collect relevant examples of visual storytelling strategies and user interfaces that would help achieve the site goals. This enabled us to not only hone in the client’s style preferences for the brand direction but also identify the foundation for design elements we eventually used in the digital style guide (below).


Design for Impact

Using WordPress as the content management system, we created a series of reusable design elements that allowed us to keep the design and development costs low and provide Housing Up with an easy to use administration interface to update dynamic content (likes stats, tables, and illustrations).



Housing Up's role as an organization to ensure families have access to safe, affordable housing and the chance to lead stable, independent lives was contingent on telling their story and soliciting support and donations. Their new human-centered digital presence will help propel not only Housing's organizational impact but their strategic fundraising efforts. 


"We engaged Crow and Raven to solve two key problems: improving the user experience of the website and making the website a better storytelling and fundraising tool. We work with homeless, low-income and at-risk families, so storytelling and building emotional connections for potential supporters are important elements of our communication strategy.

I appreciated the time Crow and Raven took to understand not only our website-related challenges, but more importantly, our organizational mission, goals and audiences. That approach ensured that each step of the process – wireframes, content strategy, design – was in service of the established goals of our organization. Now, we have a website that truly supports our mission in form and function."

Christina Peay, Director of Philanthropy and Communications at Housing Up


Keep up to date with the latest from Housing Up at housingup.org