How JD Sullivan helped the Grand Rapids Alliance of Cooperative Communities enhance organization branding through website development and a marketing plan.
GRACC is a housing co-op that offers safe and affordable housing. Residents are known as “members,” and the co-op model passes savings onto the members in the form of lower rents. In early 2023, I began to share my knowledge and skills with the Grand Rapids Alliance of Cooperative Communities (GRACC). GRACC wanted to enhance brand awareness of their organization to facilitate fundraising and to building positive vibes with the community.
Improving the Website
It was clear to organization members that the website needed to be updated. I presented a 5 phase development plan for basic pages & content, design, analytics, member portal, and marketing. My plan was approved and this is my work on it:
GRACC.org is on the WIX platform, which I had no difficulty in learning to use.
PHASE 1: Basic Pages & Content
The font size of the organization name took up too much space in the first fold. So I moved it into the header with a smaller font.
The previous website did not have a footer. I added it with a bold design with 3 sections of interest – donations, social media links, and application to join.
The original home page had photos out of context, mission, and vision statement and a lot of empty space. I crafted the home page to give a good overview of the key aspects of GRACC.
It is important for prospective members to know about how cooperative housing has unique expectations different from apartment dwelling. And since this page did not exist, I added it.
Our Houses Page
I fixed misplaced text, changed the layout, added additional info about each house, and embedded a Google map for each.
The old website just had an email address listed. Ease of access is an issue here, so I added a form for visitors to fill out.
There was superfluous information on this page that presented a barrier to getting people to apply. Plus description of the application process was complicated. So I removed the unnecessary information and crystallized the process down to 5 steps instead of 7.
This is a new page and is still under construction as I coordinate with finance lead on processing online donations.
Member Portal Page
This is a new page and content development for it is ongoing. It serves as centralized information for members to have for a handy reference. The Member Portal contains information on conflict resolution, meeting minutes, incident reporting, labor roles and jobs, member profiles, and more.
PHASE 2: Design
One of the most noticeable things about the previous website were the cool colors. I proposed warm and inviting colors of burnt orange, teal, and purple. These colors took the meanings of teal for content for members, orange toward prospective members, and purple toward supporters. I worked on the overall design to help visitors navigate toward the call to actions. And I moved photos to make them more contextual.
PHASE 3: Analytics & Traffic
Researching present analytics service and determining if other analytics services need to be added.
Reviewing all pages for best SEO practices and integrating SEO into blog post process (phase 5).
Integration of social media, newsletter, landing pages.
Reviewing navigation flow. Improvements to Google Business and Graph.
PHASE 4: Member Portal
Adding on-boarding information for new members, conflict resolution documents, and internal communications, adding content for shared labor, including role descriptions. Adding shared resources inventory and documents related to shared governance. I am adding an events calendar, member profiles, educational resources, and community resources.
PHASE 5: Marketing
Created a a blog channel for news GRACC wants to share with the community. Developed a year-long strategic content planning calendar to keep content fresh on social media assets. And, I designed templates for social memes to emphasize key aspects of the GRACC experience. Initiated reputation management regarding online reviews. And I am creating landing pages, testimonials for home page, and adding social share buttons.
I got involved with the Outreach & Fundraising Team. The Team had a lot of great ideas for getting positive messages out about the organization. I pulled those ideas together into a 3 year marketing plan which includes:
- definition of objectives
- organizational summary, SWOT, analysis of target market
- marketing strategies, identifying marketing channels, identifying technology/software
- marketing budget, and proposals resulting in these initiatives:
- Branding – updates to mission, vision, logo, color theme, and tagline
- Online Media – website, email newsletter, landing pages, blog posting, social media integrations, reputation management, mobile app research.
- Creation of @gracc email addresses for members
- Video Creatives
- Developing Grant Writing Skills & Streamlined Infrastructure
- Ad specialties – business cards, t-shirts
- Earned Media procedures
- Paid Advertising – very targeted for cost effectiveness
- GRACC Ambassadors – members equipped with materials networking at community events
- Brand Awareness Surveys