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Case Study

Donation systems for Doctors Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) is an international organization that delivers emergency medical aid to people in need all over the world. Their online donation system is critical to providing the funds necessary to accomplish their mission.

MFS partnered with us to take over operation and optimization of the U.S. donation platform from an underperforming vendor. We stabilized the platform, fixed a range of technical issues, and built additional features that played an important role in the dramatic increase of online donations during our 10 year partnership.

High-traffic and mission critical donations platform

We inherited a troubled donations platform that struggled under spikes of high volume from MSF USA marketing campaigns. We stabilized the platform and migrated it to a highly available web hosting architecture at Rackspace with an emphasis on performance, maintainability, and redundancy. Over the next decade, we would rebuild the platform entirely, updating from a legacy ColdFusion codebase to the most modern ColdFusion platform. A new PHP-based architecture was slated for future work.

The new donations platform was complex - allowing supporters to give in many different ways - all backed by a fast transactional system. Additionally, it contained marketing tools for customizing landing pages and email marketing campaigns. We provided guidance and implementation of analytics solutions that maximized donations. Pulling many of these subsystems together was a full suite of reporting tools that the MSF USA marketing team used to optimize their campaigns and donation workflow. The marketing team was empowered to quickly launch campaigns in response to emergent events without worrying about missed donations due to failing infrastructure.

We became critical to the operation of this platform and served as technical leads on its operation. As a third-party partner, we were able to navigate the top-down organizational structure of MSF, operating like an in-house startup, working across multiple departments to achieve goals rapidly.

Doctors Without Borders


  • Inherited and improved legacy application
  • Optimized capture forms to maximize conversion
  • Processed millions in donations annually
  • Ensured mission critical, 99.999% uptime
  • Maintained legacy Coldfusion codebase

High-traffic systems with 99.999% availability

The online donations platform was vital to MSF USA operations and unexpected downtime could result in losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars. We delivered a highly reliable, load balanced architecture. Our system architecture featured multiple levels of redundancy assuring that donations could be processed even in times of emergency and high volume.

Secure data management with redundancy

The system integrates with CyberSource for payment processing and ROI Solutions, the database of record, for all transactions. We were responsible for ensuring that data was processed securely, in accordance with PCI compliance requirements, and made it into its correct subsystem.

Custom donation feature with Apple

We developed an iPad-based app for use by volunteer teams accepting in-person donations. Additionally, Doctors Without Borders was one of the earliest organizations to be invited to adopt Apple Pay. We worked closely with the MSF USA marketing team and Apple Pay technical team to implement Apple Pay into the donations process.

A screenshot of a donation page featuring various donation amounts

On a recommendation, we engaged Nylon as our partner, and they quickly became much more than an external partner to us. The Nylon staff did superior-quality work and we were finally able to build the platform we needed. Their team made changes and improvements speedily, and our platform never went down or lagged during a fundraising spike. The Nylon team was truly dedicated to our success, they were also super friendly and easy to work with.

Molly Elliott

Marketing Director @ Doctors Without Borders