The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Twin Cities 2012, March 24-25

Community Neighborhood Housing Services

Paired with Team BIOS

Community NHS is a NeighborWorks America HomeOwnership Center located in Saint Paul and serving Saint Paul and the entire 7-county metropolitan area. Now in our 30th year, we were founded by a group of West Side residents as a 501(c)3 nonprofit lender. We have grown in that time to provide a full range of homeownership services all under one roof. Community NHS is has two major lines of business related to homeownership: counseling/education and lending. We are a HUD approved counseling agency as well as a licensed loan originator. We have been providing excellent services for decades at Community NHS but we have been slow to adapt to the shift to web based marketing and outreach. We are in dire need of a web-page face-lift in order to communicate the information regarding these vital services to the next generation of computer savvy households that need homeownership services.

Our staff of 10 includes counselors who provide guidance in pre-purchase, credit and debt management, homeownership management, and foreclosure prevention. We also have lending staff who assist in providing home improvement and repair financing, and a construction manager who oversees our loan projects to ensure that homeowners are comfortable with the process and receive quality work.

In 2011, Community NHS:

-Graduated 395 households from our homebuyer education workshops

-Created 207 new homeowners

-Provided financing and construction management services to 44 households for repairs or improvements to their home

-Prevented foreclosure of 14 homes through our counseling program

What new functionality we are looking for


Our current site is an organizational mess and difficult to navigate, with links to valuable information hidden within pages most people don't visit. (Want to learn about recycling? No, don't click the recycling menu: the recycling information is in a sidebar on our homebuyer education workshop registration page - if you can even find that.) We are in need of a much cleaner structure and thoughtful organization. Community NHS can offer tremendous resources for homeowners and those wishing to become homeowners someday, but not if nobody can find the information on our site.


We are currently the only organization providing homeownership services in Hmong, but our site offers very little information in Hmong. Having the ability to view the site in Hmong would improve our ability to serve this community.


The site is currently built in/hosted by Moonfruit and runs (I think) in Flash. This makes it relatively easy for our staff members to update individual pages... but it adds to the disorganization. It is also slow to load and does not translate well to mobile devices. (see below)


Ultimately, we feel that our target clients are more and more likely to access information via a mobile device and we want to make sure that our site is optimized for mobile users


Giving clients the opportunity to complete pre-applications and register for programs online would provide greater value to them and help our staff to work more efficiently.


We are establishing regular use of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and would like to produce YouTube videos and a blog. Integrating these with our current site would maximize the impact of all channels.


Finally, it would be really nice if it had some curb appeal. It's a bit of a fixer-upper.

How the new functionality will help

As a metropolitan region, the Twin Cities has been hit disproportionately hard by the recent “housing crisis” and we are experiencing a tremendous need for foreclosure prevention and affordable housing services. The rental market is tight, with low vacancy rates and increasing rents - making homeownership a better option for many renters. Those who already own homes are finding it difficult to finance repairs and necessary improvements due to changes in the lending market.

We wish to reach renters who wish to become homeowners, current homeowners with repair and improvement needs, and those facing foreclosure. Our previous clients are primarily under 40 years old, with incomes under 50% of area median income. 50% are ethnic or cultural minorities. We are aware of the likely shift in demographics for the clients we serve to a younger, more technologically savvy consumer. We envision households in need of the services that we provide will increasingly look to the internet to find these services. As a small staff, we are only able to answer phones and provide live customer support during regular office hours. This highlights the critical importance of our web presence. For many clients, our website will be the first contact with our agency, often outside of regular business hours. If clients have trouble navigating the site, they will likely move on. In addition, the content and functionality of our current website is questionable (at best). How nice would it be for a potential homebuyer or foreclosure client to be able to come to our website and locate useful and up to date information on these topics? And, even better, what if they were able to schedule an appointment with us? These would be a reality if we were granted this opportunity.

A new website that is mobile-optimized, well-organized, fast-loading (easy to view for those who lack broadband access), and easy to navigate will help us reach those who can most benefit from our services. Using the website as an information clearinghouse will also serve clients more efficiently and enable our staff to provide greater service to those who need our assistance.

As we are a small non-profit, we do not have an IT department or even an IT person. We just hope that someone on staff can answer basic computer questions. If we were fortunate enough to receive this opportunity, we would ideally have an easy to navigate, functional, information website that we could then maintain for years to come. We have been providing vital services to the community for decades and it is imperative that we adapt to the changing marketing and outreach forums to be able to reach consumers in the future. At this time, we do not have the internal staff skills to create such a website, nor the funds available to pay for such as site. If we were granted this opportunity, Community NHS would be able to bring our web-site into the 21st century and allow us to get the information about the important services we offer to the next generation of consumers.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

Before & After Snapshots

Thumbnail_cnhsbefore Thumbnail_cnhsafter

18 Messages from Supporters

2012-02-27 16:39:52 UTC

We were referred to Community NHS through a Work-Life Benefit at my employer. Had we not had that resource, we would've searched the web as so many users of the internet do. Having a website that is easy to navigate around to find information is very helpful and time saving! I hope you get a new website for future clients of Community NHS.

2012-02-24 23:30:11 UTC

Please support urban homeownership and renewal by supporting this organization with a new site!

2012-02-25 00:08:12 UTC

Please give this site the white picket fence it deserves! They have a great mission and their clientele deserve a user friendly site.

2012-02-25 01:23:05 UTC

NHS does some great work - making their website more accessible and easier to navigate will help more people connect with their services!

2012-02-25 01:42:16 UTC


2012-02-25 05:46:42 UTC

Organizations like Community NHS are important in keeping housing affordable, and helping middle- and low-income families have a solid and safe home they can be proud of. My own home was in desperate need of new windows that weren't falling apart and covered in lead paint, and we weren't a position to qualify for financing through a regular lender. But we were able to get the job done because our situation was just right for the type of loans Community NHS has. The downside is that information about these programs can be hard to find. We learned through word-of-mouth and then had to make time during the work day to call and get information about the program. More information online would have made it easier.
Thank you, Community NHS. I hope you get a new site.

2012-02-25 09:44:10 UTC

Great organization! Please help them with a new site to promote! Much deserved!

2012-02-25 11:43:51 UTC

I think an update could be useful and would help clients use the site more effectively -- not to mention grantmakers.

2012-02-25 12:48:58 UTC

Community NHS is a great organization deserving of a new website! They help to fulfill a vital niche in our community: education and affordable financing!

2012-02-25 15:42:18 UTC

Community NHS's mission would be greatly enhanced with a new user friendly web site. Please select Community NHS as one of the nonprofits that receives a new up to date web site. Thank you for your consideration.

2012-02-26 15:43:56 UTC
Steve Boland

Community NHS does great work - but of course you have to know about them to know that. Community added a new staff person to help get the word out (hurray!) but now she and the rest of the team need the tools. Please considering them for the help they need, so our housing and neighborhoods can get stronger. Thanks!

2012-02-26 20:08:22 UTC

NHS is a very helpful organization. They helped me budget, created an action plan, and provided me with helpful tips on how to fix my credit. They deserve a new website!

2012-02-27 14:12:32 UTC
Karen Stang, Carriage Realty

Community NHS does a fantastic job educating first time home buyers! Any clients of mine that have attended their classes are easier to work with and the process just goes smoother. In addition, they have assisted customers who might be facing foreclosure with kindness and respect. Overall, a wonderful organization with talented, passionate staff who always give 110%! They should have a new website to help reach more people!

2012-02-27 15:25:34 UTC
Tina O'Malley Bayonet

I can't say enough to support the efforts of NHS. Having current, updated and hip technology will be a boon to this organization as well as a benefit to all the end users hoping to navigate in a way that makes sense and is useful. Being a serious Nerdmama...I get it that the technology needs to be there. Bring it on...let's see what you can do!!!

2012-02-27 15:46:28 UTC
Amanda Welliver, Community NHS

I've been on the staff at Community NHS for just a short time, but one of the first things that struck me is something that still stands out as making our organization unique: the diversity of our clients and our entire organization. We serve people from all walks of life; young, old, life-long Minnesotans, recent immigrants and refugees, extremely low income, those with above-median incomes, people who have owned a home for decades and people who are hoping to become homeowners someday. As I walk through our offices I'm bouyed by the pictures of the homes and families we have impacted over the years of our existence - such good work happens here! But I'm also reminded that I had no idea this great organization even existed until I saw a job posting, and that preparing for my interview was difficult because the website just doesn't paint a clear picture of the vibrancy of Community NHS and the crucial services they offer.
It's been an honor just to go through the application process for the Overnight Website Challenge, but I don't want it to stop there. Please select Community NHS so that we can create even more homeowners and build stronger communities.

2012-02-27 16:11:01 UTC
Danielle Bade, Carriage Realty

NHS does a great job in supporting and educating our first time home buyer clients. They are wonderful to work with! I think that they definitely deserve and would benefit from a new website.

2012-02-27 20:15:45 UTC
Kevin Stepka, Carriage Realty, Inc.

CNHS organization has helped clients that I have worked with to not only buy their first home but also give them the counseling needed and understanding of the process they were about to embark on. In some cases, home ownership was not yet possible but with their counseling efforts, will be possible in the near future. These resources need to be current, updated and marketed the best way possible to everyone who is thinking of becoming homeowners and all possible support available should be directed to CNHS way.

2012-02-27 21:27:27 UTC
Jason Peterson, Community NHS

Please help us help our clients through the creation of a new website!

Our Mission

Our purpose is to create homeowners and build strong communities. We provide a range of homeownership services including pre-purchase counseling, HomeStretch homebuyer education workshops, and foreclosure prevention counseling. We also provide affordable, below-market rate home improvement financing and grants bundled with construction management services to ensure that the families we serve are able to live in safe, decent, and affordable homes. Our goals through these services are to stabilize and revitalize the neighborhoods and communities we live and work.