Africa University Development Office

“The strength of our process was in the pre-work. We dedicated time to discovery, which was time well invested. It made the project so much easier and smoother. The Nonprofit Garden team spent a lot of time with us in advance. They were very generous and offered suggestions and ‘work-arounds’ to make our wishes possible.”
– Andra Stevens, Director of Communications & Creative Services

NetCommunity Web Design: Africa University Development Office


The Africa University Development Office (AUDO) needed a website that would work for their constituent base across the United States and Africa. Their existing NetCommunity™ site, built in 2006, was the web presence for the entire university as opposed to a dedicated giving site for the development office. Access was inconsistent and slow, and navigation was clumsy at best.

The communications team knew the outdated site needed an upgrade to deliver the right content to their ever-growing mobile user base. Moving away from NetCommunity™ was not an option, given the resources already invested in the platform. But finding the right partners to help them develop a modern, responsive site in NetCommunity™ proved a challenge.


“The strength of our process was in the pre-work,” said Andra Stevens, Director of Communications and Creative Services at AUDO.

User feedback shaped the site from the beginning. They began the redesign process by gathering feedback from site visitors and other communications professionals in their network. They kept a roster of people who had commented on the site over the years and reached out to those contacts for user testing and site improvement suggestions. This had the two-fold benefit of making constituents feel valued and generating great ideas for the new site. This crowdsourcing helped AUDO identify pain points and challenged their assumptions regarding navigation and design.

AUDO researched multiple design partners willing to implement a modern, responsive design in NetCommunity™. After other options proved too expensive, or too limiting, they found Nonprofit Garden (formerly Beyond Nines) through a referral from a colleague. Nonprofit Garden was the clear choice with extensive NetCommunity™ web design and programming experience and connections throughout the Blackbaud® community.

“Rebecca and Lisa offered comfort and familiarity with the product. They were confident that we could do 98 percent of what we wanted to in NetCommunity™,” said Stevens.

A thorough discovery process helped the design and development team hit the ground running with a clear picture of AUDO’s NetCommunity web design priorities and wish list. After meeting with Nonprofit Garden and the client, 10 Pound Gorilla delivered two responsive design iterations, including a modern banded design, which AUDO approved.

The team then worked to ensure the design would fit within the constraints of the NetCommunity™ platform. “We didn’t face any limitations or challenges in designing for NetCommunity™,” said Dustin Peterson, Director at 10 Pound Gorilla. “We thought there would be more challenges, but with Nonprofit Garden’s programming expertise and platform capabilities, we were able to implement a design that was functional for the client.”

The resulting product’s user interface design and “less is more” approach was exactly what AUDO needed to create the light, fresh, and easy to navigate site they wanted.


With the guidance of Rebecca Leifert, AUDO was able to launch an independent, responsive website on time and on budget. While the project was not without its challenges, including doing much of the content migration in-house, the success of the project was due to true collaboration of partners.

“There was incredible flexibility and sharing of ideas with the entire team,” said Stevens.

Visit the website at www.support-africauniversity.org.

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