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Case study: Barnardo’s gets 17% rise in online donations after web revamp

Back in 2011, Barnardo’s website was attracting visitors, but few were completing their online donation journey by reaching the donate page. Working with Nomensa, the children’s charity used a combination of technology, innovation and audience analysis to optimise the donation process. This case study shows how Barnado’s generated a 17% increase in donations.


The UK’s leading children’s charity Barnardo’s helps transform the lives of the UK's most vulnerable children, by providing the largest number of services on the ground including counselling for children who have been abused, fostering and adoption services, vocational training and disability inclusion groups.

As a key vehicle to donations, the charity recognised that its website was not driving sufficient donations and high abandonment rates suggested that for unknown reasons, a significant number of people were not completing their online donation journey. Traffic Analysis highlighted that a small percentage of the site’s total visitors were reaching the donate page.

It was vital that Barnardo’s improved the overall online journey in order to drive more people to the website through the optimisation of the donate page, and encourage regular, on-going donations. The charity needed to increase digital donations, both cash and direct debit, and because there was an open field on the donate page, the majority of donors were choosing a lower level donation than anticipated.

Improving online engagement

Head of Digital Strategy at Barnardo’s, Silvia Pilotto said: “We saw examples of Nomensa’s work for another charity and after delivering a particularly compelling and innovative pitch on website usability, we commissioned the Bristol-based digital agency to take on this project.

“Nomensa stood out from the competition because it works in a collaborative way by sharing its knowledge and expertise to match Barnardo’s. Their team of psychologists also have a unique way of approaching digital marketing and online behaviour.”

Nomensa began working on the project in September 2011. The company was well placed, having recently been shortlisted for Best Digital/Tech Partner, Charity Facing, for the Institute of Fundraising (IOF) Partners in Fundraising Awards.

Activity commenced with a benchmarking exercise from a user experience and usability point of view. This helped to determine performance, resolve identified improvement issues and enact action plans to enhance engagement performance.

Nomensa also undertook a three month audience identification project to segment and understand visitor profiles and motivations. Significantly, the results illustrated a difference between previously perceived audience profiles and current visitors.

As a result, Nomensa created digital personas to help develop a more customer-focused website, enabling Barnardo’s to visualise what types of people visit the site and the reasons why they donate. This revealed that donors were from a range of social classes and a significant number of key donors belonged to a younger audience, a surprising result which differed from expectations.

Silvia says, “This audience research project provided a clear insight into website visitors, identifying an audience which we had not considered specifically targeting in the past. This provided us with an informed decision as to how we market ourselves in the future.”

Adding the human touch

To increase the number of donations and the amount being donated, Nomensa focused on improving the online engagement of the website. Areas of the website functionality, language and simplified donation journey contributed to the enhanced path.

The language used was adapted to include all target audiences, using a genuine emotive tone, supported with specific information to explain how donations are used. The donation journey was simplified, making it easier for the visitor to reach a gift point and rather than free form value boxes, amount guides were provided that offered a choice of donation levels.

Account Director at Nomensa, Joe Austin, said: “Instead of simply allowing potential donors to key in the amount they want to give, we suggested a series of amounts that they could donate, from a choice of £25, £50 and £100.

“We used emotive language for the content on the giving page and included additional information to explain in detail what each of the amounts will be used for, and by doing this, we found that there was in increase average donation values.”

Charity benefits

The donation page has seen many improvements, thanks to Nomensa’s design optimisations. The result has seen an uplift of three per cent in completing the donation process, emphasising the increased level of motivation resulting from the newly designed webpage.

Barnardo’s has received a significant increase in average cash donation values with people donating an average of £58.34 on the enhanced website form, an improvement of 17 per cent on previous donations. The charity has also seen a 16 per cent uplift in donors reaching the start of the donation journey.

Going forward

Nomensa will be conducting further research projects and testing exercises over the next year to help refine the charity’s overall donation experience and optimise the digital journey even further.

Silvia says, “Thanks to the on-going website strategy project, we have seen an increase in donation by 17 per cent. We consider Nomensa to be an extension of our team, they really ‘got under the skin’ of our online audience, helping us to fully understand their motivations.

“Due to the success of the project, additional budget has been allocated to optimise the website even further. We are also working closely with Nomensa to develop the next step in donation strategy; responsive design for mobile.”

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