Doctors Without Borders (MSF-USA) Leans on Pantheon for Powerful Communications and Fundraising

Médecins Sans Frontières’ US association partners with Pantheon and Blue State to Rearchitect Mission-Critical Website


Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international humanitarian medical nonprofit. Founded in Paris, France, in 1971, the organization is best known for its projects in conflict zones and countries affected by endemic diseases. 

The non-profit’s American branch is Doctors Without Borders, or MSF-USA. Their digital presence plays a critical fundraising role with donor education and call-to-action funnels. The website helps recruit volunteer healthcare professionals to serve around the world.


Having chosen Pantheon as its WebOps platform, MSF-USA had come to rely on and expect high performance and smooth operations. The marketing team sought to align the site design and functionality more fully with the organization's ambitious fundraising and engagement goals for journalists, donors and healthcare professionals that frequent the site. 

Taylor Darnall, Sr. Website Marketing Manager at MSF-USA, said, “Progress on the website to better educate and nurture relationships with our existing and new supporters and donors had stalled, and it was unclear where we would focus to make improvements. To break through, we required an ongoing process to align our digital experience with a long-term, audience-first strategy and drive outcomes to further the MSF mission.” 

The team analyzed data for donor behavior and found that many visitors did not clearly understand what the organization did. It was clear that the nonprofit needed to optimize the site to attract new donors and field work applicants and educate them on how important their contributions are to the MSF mission. 

With a growing number of team members, partners and contractors, the team also needed a better way to collaborate on website changes and continuous site optimization. This process required consensus building, discovery and measurement informed by data, user research and stakeholder feedback. 


The MSF-USA primary site had a strong foundation on Pantheon. From there, the team decided to implement a continuous optimization approach, applying data-backed changes to increase value and performance and leveraging the platform’s agility to quickly update site content and publish new sites as needed.

The team engaged with Pantheon partner Blue State, a digital strategy and technology firm specializing in online fundraising and constituency development. The agency’s goal was to expand the existing website into a highly engaging, interactive site that would share the organization’s incredible story with internal stakeholders, donors, and volunteers. 

Kaitlin Juleus, VP of Content Strategy at Blue State, said, “The organization values storytelling as an important tool for keeping its donors and volunteers active and engaged. They have no end of stories to choose from, but they need to present them in an attractive design and with continuous optimization.”

Blue State evolved the digital experience for the internal marketing team and site visitors, working with stakeholders to create a new architecture that supports continuous optimization and strengthens the story-led call-to-action funnel design and content. 

Darnall noted, “Clarifying user flows through upper- and lower-funnel content made our website much more navigable. This improvement, and implementing mobile-first page layouts with clearer, more scannable visual elements, helps our visitors to find what they’re looking for and deepen their engagement naturally.” This approach also allowed the nonprofit to quickly communicate relevant events and optimize content to user behavior patterns. 

Pantheon’s agency collaboration tools and built-in multi-user dashboard enabled Blue State and their partner, Axelerant, to work seamlessly with each other, Pantheon, and the internal web team. The same collaborative tools enabled internal stakeholders to monitor and contribute to the new web architecture. 

Pantheon WebOps stability and performance enabled the team to seamlessly migrate content into the enhanced site and gave them confidence in the platform even during the high traffic of peak giving seasons. 

Once baseline web operations were in place, the team increased short-cycle development work to support ongoing optimization. Pantheon simplicity supports regular two-week development cycles with quick developer onboarding using efficient Multidev environments. 

Security and compliance were other major benefits of the web transformation, including the Pantheon platform security and extensive documentation that supports compliance.  

The platform’s stability kept the site highly available to donors. Visitors’ experience has remained consistent even for those accessing the site on mobile devices with shifting hotspots and varying bandwidth. 

Expert Pantheon support was available for any issues. Darnall said, “If we have any questions or requests, Pantheon support is great. Sometimes, I'll pop up with unusual requests or random questions out of the blue, but it doesn’t faze them. Pantheon always gives me the answer I need.” 


The redesigned website now ranks for about 30% more keywords in Google Search Results, which means that MSF-USA stories are able to find the right audience faster.

Updated calls to action (CTAs) intelligently lead prospective donors to optimized funnels. When a global disaster strikes and many new visitors go on the site for more information, they get the latest information and meaningful CTAs on how they can help.

Darnall said, “Fundraising through our site enables the organization to deliver the humanitarian aid that's needed around the world. We communicate with our donors through our amazing stories of doing good in the world, giving them the chance to be part of those stories.”

When the war in Ukraine broke out, MSF-USA noted that improved user experience led to an extraordinary increase in traffic. The team registered a spike of almost a million sessions during the first month of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - a double of its regular traffic levels.

Pantheon stability and security keep the website up and performing no matter what: during heavy traffic, fast-moving global events, continuous optimization, or onboarding new developers. And its ease of use lets the team run a complex website with a turnkey approach.

Darnall concluded, “We’re running a website for a very complex organization with lots of ongoing and developing needs--and I hardly have to think about our WebOps platform at all. Pantheon simply works and lets us support our lifesaving work.” 

Business Outcomes

  • Pantheon keeps the site stable, scalable and high-performing even during heavy traffic spikes.

  • Simple onboarding and automated workflows enable regular development cycles 

  • Redesigned calls to action (CTA) intelligently direct prospective donors to optimized funnels, giving visitors information on how to help when a disaster strikes.

  • Ease of use lets the small web team run a complex website with a turnkey approach. 


  • The original website was not engaging or responsive and often lost the interest of potential donors. 

  • The team needed the capability to continuously optimize the site for donor behavior without sacrificing reliability, scalability or security. 

  • No ability to quickly analyze data and user behavior to drive continuous website optimization.


  • The team engaged Pantheon and partner Blue State to continuously optimize the site into an agile, powerful and highly engaging experience. 

  • The Pantheon platform supported continuous optimization by letting the team quickly adapt content to user behavior. 

  • Security and compliance tools gave the web team peace of mind, and expert Pantheon support solved any questions or issues.

  • Improved CTA design and linked content kept donors more engaged and responsive.

Why Pantheon

  • Pantheon serves nonprofits with its reliable, high-performance WebOps platform. 

  • Simplicity and ease of use enables even the smallest web teams to deliver over-sized results 

  • Pantheon’s collaboration tools enabled clear communications and workflow between agencies and the web team 

Webinar Date Friday, April 22, 2022 - 13:15

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