Common Cause partnered with Blackbaud to create a modern, responsive website with sophisticated, easy-to-use online marketing and advocacy tools for their national office and 35 states.

Common Cause was founded in 1970 as a nonpartisan lobby for citizens to make their voices heard and hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest. With over 425,000 members and supporters, and a presence in 35 states, Common Cause is one of the most active, effective and respected nonprofit organizations working for political change in America. When Common Cause teamed up with Blackbaud Interactive Services, the 40-plus-year-old organization was faced with an aging house file and difficulty in connecting with a younger audience to get involved and take action on democracy issues. Their website was outdated, inaccessible on mobile devices and difficult to manage.

Running on a limited platform, the organization also had difficulty staying relevant and publishing updates on important issues in real time. Complicating the issue, 23 state offices each had their own websites and blogging platforms with inconsistent designs and branding. This led to a disconnected experience for visitors and required a lot of manual effort to maintain.

Common Cause turned to Blackbaud to create a responsively designed website with the desired goals of attracting a younger audience, bringing together disparate state office sites, supporting ambitious advocacy goals, and modernizing email marketing capabilities. The organization selected Luminate Online Marketing to provide a single platform with a sophisticated modern experience and the easy-to-use online marketing and advocacy tools that they needed.

Blackbaud’s Interactive Services team developed a modern, interactive and responsive design – accessible on all devices – with appeal to a broad range of audiences. Visual design, based on extensive user research and testing, unified the national website and 23 state websites in a single platform.

The user experience and design process began with thorough discovery and analytics sessions and in-depth user research and content strategy phases. The aim was to let the information architecture and visual design be powered by data-driven decisions. The project also included the beginning of a search engine optimization effort on critical conversion paths.

Survey results. What are the major reasons you usually visit the website? Which of the following best describes you?

User research was one of the foundational phases of the redesign. With a major goal of continuing to meet the needs of Common Cause’s longstanding constituent base, the Blackbaud team conducted a wide range of user research activities that yielded a rich amount of data and provided deep insights into what audiences were looking for in the Common Cause website experience.

The user research activities featured early on a thorough user survey and later a suite of usability testing and user interviews. The user survey reached more than 2,800 of Common Cause’s constituents and captured their needs and interests related to the website, as well as their motivations for supporting the organization. Usability tests, as well as user interviews, were conducted during the information architecture and visual design phases and reflected constituents’ positive feedback on the new design solution.

Word cloud results from Usability Test

Five-second test results

Bringing content creation power to the people

The new design features expert commentary across the complex issues core to Common Cause’s work – including topics as timely as money in politics and net neutrality – and opportunities for advocates to interact with one another and with experts – such as through sharing comments on Democracy Wire blog posts.

A robust search of the large archive of content enables users to find latest updates on the issues Common Cause addresses – including research, reports, letters, testimony, press releases and multimedia.

An online community offers multiple ways for advocates to connect including seamless integration of social sites and sharing.

The site integrates dynamic, personalized content from the Luminate Online member database, advocacy and fundraising modules, with a dynamic responsive donation form that supports multiple ways of giving, at the state or national level, recurring or one-time, and to the tax-deductible Common Cause Education Fund.

In the States page

“Before Luminate Online and our new responsive website, we were treading water. We are much more nimble now and can quickly react to feedback. We are able to do so much more exciting stuff!”

Marissa Valeri
Common Cause

A Landslide Website Victory for the Democracy Watchdog

With its new responsive website and best-in-breed online tools, Common Cause increased its house file by 30% leading to 45% growth in end-of-year revenue and double the number of end-of-year online gifts! Mobile traffic is up more than 200% and traffic from social sites has increased over 250%. 5,000 new email addresses were acquired in one month alone through an action alert posted on Facebook.

More key website successes include:

  • Total website traffic increased by more than 14%.
  • Unique page views climbed by more than 37%.
  • Social followers on Facebook and Twitter increased by more than 160%.

While they continue to engage and connect with their longstanding constituent base, Common Cause is now able to also cultivate a younger audience of supporters through a modern, mobile design that makes activism attractive and fosters a powerful online community.

From an internal content management perspective, by sharing a consistent look and feel on a unified, easy-to-use platform, national and state staff can now publish issue updates, publish blog posts, create advocacy alerts, and send email easily and in real time, saving hours of time each week.

And to cap off a triumphant website redesign and partnership between Common Cause and Blackbaud, the Common Cause website won the highest level of recognition – the Best in Class Award – from the Interactive Media Awards in 2014.

Power to the people!

Online revenue
increased by
from 2014 to 2015.

Organization Type



*Interactive Media Award winner: Best in Class
Advocacy Campaign
Content Strategy
Email/Newsletter Design
Fundraising Campaign
Information Architecture
Mobile Design
Responsive Design
Search Engine Optimization
Usability Testing
User Experience Design
User Research
Visual Design/Redesign