Inspiring Change in Cambodia

Strategy, Messaging, Design, Development

Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) is on a mission to end poverty in one of the most at-risk communities in Cambodia. Founded by Scott Neeson, the charity’s donor base primarily consisted of a small network tied to his connections in the entertainment industry. While this business plan had proven to be successful, it wasn’t sustainable. CCF knew they needed to increase their audience of recurring donors. A new site was the best way to do that. That’s where we came in.

Empathy Only Goes so Far

To fully understand the depth of CCF’s work and the complexity of the community they serve, we headed to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to experience it firsthand. Over the course of six days, our five-person Owen team met with the managers, directors, teachers, and volunteers to learn the ins and outs of the charity and make sense of its 60+ programs. Then, we stepped foot in the community. Walking carefully over the former landfill, the smell of burning plastic hung in the air, rusting shacks shaded families big and small, and bright blue school uniforms swayed on clotheslines above the filth. And yet, the kids who wrapped themselves around our legs met us with the warmest smiles and the biggest laughs. They took our hands, and beaming with pride, showed us where they played, where they lived, and where they learned.

Touching down in Portland once again, it took a long time to process what we’d experienced. All we knew was that we had to tell CCF’s story with as much truth, honesty, and dignity as possible.

Balancing Need and Hope

After a thorough discovery phase and competitive analysis, we knew one thing for sure: Guilt doesn’t drive donations. We couldn’t just lead with the need. But, we also couldn’t lean too hard into hope and aspiration. We’d have to strike a true balance of both in order to communicate there was a problem to be solved, but that it was in fact, solvable. We were on a mission to create a site that would communicate the grit, the hope, and everything in between.

Putting a Mission Into Words

We got started by carving out CCF’s unique tone, voice, and messaging hierarchy. Our goal was to create a voice that would walk the line between need and hope—one that could put words to a history of genocide, tell a founder’s story, and inspire an entirely new audience to take part in the change.

Our next step was to take a good, hard look at the CCF model. Ending poverty is no small task, and it was clear that CCF had been grappling with the complexities of explaining how they approach it for a long time. To simplify things, we took each of the 60+ programs and resorted them into categories inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The result? Four solutions dedicated to addressing the complicated issues of poverty.

Bringing People There

Our site needed to transport our audience to CCF’s community. Photography was our greatest asset. Honest and journalistic, yet inspiring and beautiful, we chose photos that would help our audience understand the reality of life at CCF while creating a connection they couldn’t ignore.

Inspired by Khmer Tradition

Referencing traditional Khmer sculpture, we also created a library of hand-drawn illustrations and patterns with intricate detailing. A warm, primary color palette kept things kid-friendly.

Putting the Pieces Together

After a few months, we’d done our research, honed our strategy, reorganized the site structure, built out wireframes, defined a messaging hierarchy, and created a visual language. It was time to put the pieces together. For each page, we outlined a goal and crafted a story that would inform and inspire.

Driving Donations

Every nonprofit’s objective is to drive donations. So, we did our due diligence, researching best practices for both design and development to make it as easy as possible for our audience to give. The final result was a system that was secure, easy to use, and localized to our audience’s currencies. We also made it easier and faster to create campaign pages. Whether it’s to celebrate the charity’s anniversary or respond to a crisis in the community, CCF will have the ability to feature campaigns on any page and create campaign landing pages whenever they see fit.

Flexibility for the Future

We created a flexible CMS with a library of modules each complete with their own unique set of themes. This made it easy for CCF to DIY their ideal site without the daunting task of customizing every little detail. It would be an understatement to say this was one of the most rewarding projects our team has ever worked on. We’re eager to see how our new family in Cambodia continues their path to a brighter future.