Community Foundation Santa Cruz County

Inspiring Community Impact



Since 1983, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has evolved from its modest beginnings to become a center for funding solutions across Santa Cruz County. Today, with over $130M in total assets, they have the resources to help charitable visions get established and grow, improve the effectiveness of local nonprofits, and continue to build their grantmaking.

To accomplish their goals, they needed a modern website designed to create a satisfying experience, inform both donors and nonprofits, and inspire generosity across the county.

Our North Star for the project was "Inspire Community Impact.” The North Star drove the marketing direction of the website giving us all a clear direction when designing, writing, shooting photography for the site, and choosing images.

User Research,

Market & Landscape Research,

Target Audience & Positioning

Who We Serve

To deliver the Foundation’s message most effectively, we investigated the current community foundation landscape across the US. We looked at the visual presentation and for effective ways to deliver content and inspire. Our goal was to create an online experience that felt distinct to Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.

Their positioning was interesting and complex. Community foundations collaborate with each other more than they compete because each serves their local community.

That’s not to say that Community Foundation Santa Cruz County doesn’t have competition. They compete against national and local nonprofits that seek direct contributions as well as advised fund investment products. The Foundation has an intimate understanding of the philanthropic pulse of Santa Cruz County. As a result, they offer a level of personal attention that national and international organizations can’t provide.

Because they give grants to those organizations as well, their audiences are primarily donors. We focused our efforts on this audience, as they support the mission of the Foundation.

Nonprofits that receive funds from the Foundation are a secondary, but important, audience. They require minimal outreach, but still need information. We created a strategy for nonprofits to share the successes made possible by their association with the Foundation.

Cfscc Ui Ux Design Photocollage

UI/UX Design,

Information Architecture

Simple & Direct

The site is in depth and content heavy. A shared goal of ours was to avoid overwhelming site visitors and help get them to the most important interactions and information quickly. To optimize the site for donors, we chose to simplify and prioritize the most important sections of the site, so the main navigation is limited to 4 key sections + a persistent call to action.

A robust footer and intelligent, ranked search allows site visitors to dive quickly and deeply into the site. This results in a site that always feels light and spacious while presenting a lot of important information.

Cfscc Ui Ux Design Homepage Extra

A clean and easily scannable homepage allows visitors to engage with the right content quickly.

Brand Strategy,

Marketing Strategy

A Better Donation Flow

The Foundation oversees over 350 individual funds. The sheer volume of funds was a barrier to people who wanted to give to the causes most important to them. We decided to group similar funds together so that people could give a category of funds, such as a Fund for Women and Girls and a Fund for Health. Reducing the options down to 10 types of funds makes for a simpler process and increases conversion of donations. Of course, supporters still have an option to give to a specific named fund if they wish.

Cscc Ui Ux Design Funds

A streamlined donation experience reduces friction in the giving experience.

Website Design,


Inspiring Confidence

Philanthropy involves two powerful aspects of decision making: emotions and logic. People donate because they care and because donating makes them feel good. They also want to make informed decisions about the reliability and efficacy of the organizations they support. The site design is intended to work on both levels. Working with the Foundation team, we designed a photo-centric site that’s inclusive of the diversity within the entire county. The emotional aspects of the site are largely photo driven. The data pages are minimalist with clear access to in-depth statistical information.

The site was built using a component-first design and development approach in order to provide a ton of flexibility for content creators —something lacking in their previous site. It also gives them the ability to create new, unique pages themselves that match the style of the site without breaking the visual language of the design.

Componetized elements allow maximum flexibility while maintaining consistency.

Art Direction,


It’s About People

We shot photos over two days to give the site a local and human feel. Ultimately, philanthropy is about people, and we wanted to showcase the people behind the Foundation as well as some of the people who benefit from their work. In addition to photos for the site, we shot images to be included in a photo library. The Foundation now has a collection of photos to use in blog posts, presentations, announcements, fundraising efforts, events, and any other use that requires a picture.

We delivered an extensive library of images for CFSCC to use now as well as moving forward.

Content Creation,


Playing Catch Up

While the organization has evolved over the last few years, the messaging on their site hadn’t kept pace. With the overall guidance to Inspire Community Impact, we worked with the Foundation team to rewrite the site from the ground up.

We wanted the language to feel more welcoming and inclusive. We wanted people to be able to give to their passions in any way that they could. Most importantly, we aimed to soften the language and make it more casual. Our goal was to align the experience of talking with the people at the Foundation with the experience of visiting the website. The challenge was to find the right balance of casual yet professional.

Cfscc Ui Ux Design Supportlocalefforts

Brand Style Guide,

Messaging Guidelines

Putting It All Together

In order to clearly define the brand for the entire organization, we created a Brand Manual that describes the correct parameters for use of the various brand elements including the logo, its icon version, and the background patterns used on the site. Each component of the website is defined and the rules for use are called out.

The Brand Manual specifies the brand colors and typography to be used throughout the organization. It also identifies the types of photos to be used across the site and in additional collateral and provides guidelines and examples of different use cases.

Lastly, the overall messaging for the organization acts as a guide for existing and new employees when they set out to create new website elements or produce any other external or internal communications.

Cfscc Brand Identity Brand Manual

The brand style guide helps CFSCC maintain consistency across the organization.

Cfscc Ui Ux Design Business Cards
Cfscc Ui Ux Design Powerpoint Template

Before working with Cosmic, It was hard to know where to start. We felt overwhelmed by the project with lots of pressure to get it right. Cosmic quickly moved us from feeling stuck to making progress towards helping people understand who we are and all the good things we help make happen in Santa Cruz County. The custom photos and conversational tone really convey that the Community Foundation is truly dedicated to our community. How often do you get the opportunity to work with great writers, smart designers, and talented programmers all there to help you move from idea to execution – with elegance?

Susan True

Chief Executive Officer, Santa Cruz Community Foundation


Working with the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County was inspiring for us. As we dug deeply into what they do and how they benefit our local community, our dedication to the project became increasingly personal.

The Foundation is a well-known organization in the community and we were happy to find ways to help them bolster their activities and maximize their fundraising efforts through an updated web presence, clear brand guidelines, and messaging that aligns with the modern organization they’ve become. We are excited to see how our collaboration helps them support local nonprofits more effectively.

Branding & Strategy

  • Brand Strategy
  • Marketing Strategy
  • User Research
  • Market & Landscape Research
  • Content Creation
  • Brand Style Guide
  • Messaging Guidelines
  • Copywriting

Websites & Digital Products

  • UI/UX Design
  • Information Architecture
  • Website Design

Photo & Video Production

  • Art Direction