How we helped Tommy’s increase donation amounts and streamline processes

Nevena Nikolic Categories: Business Insights, Case Studies Date 02-Apr-2024 4 minutes to read

Tommy's hired us to help them optimize and improve their regular giving upgrades and integrate their databases.

Vizuali Za Novi CS Tommy's

Table of contents

    Over 30 years of charity work. Tommy’s was founded by two obstetricians at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, Dr Ian Fergusson and Dr Anthony Kenney. The two couldn't accept the fact that premature birth was often surrounded by a great deal of obscurity and uncertainty. They teamed up with a patient, Lucy Nelson, to start a campaign aimed at raising money for pregnancy research projects. The campaign evolved into Tommy’s Charity over time.

    Since then, their contribution has significantly altered the landscape of premature birth research. In 1997, they launched the UK’s first-ever pregnancy research center at St Thomas’ Hospital. They also opened the Maternal and Fetal Research Center in Manchester, Center for Maternal and Fetal Health in Edinburgh, and the National Center for Miscarriage Research – the largest of its kind in Europe.

    To actively support the parents, Tommy’s also opened their Pregnancy Line and the Pregnancy Hub, allowing them to speak directly to their midwives and address their concerns.

    Finally, in 2019, they founded the Tommy’s National Center for Maternity Improvement, which focuses on the advancement of maternity services.

    The challenge: Increasing monthly donations, while keeping the process user-friendly

    As a charity organization, Tommy’s encourages their audience to financially support crucial research on miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth. One of the many tangible benefits a supporter’s donation can achieve is that only £20 monthly could provide specialist care for 5 families at risk of pregnancy complications.

    However, average donations from regular givers were not as propitious as expected. They were looking for a method that would be both user-friendly and efficient, and that could encourage donors to easily upgrade their regular gift amounts.

    The problem: The lack of process automation

    The client has three services (APIs):

    1. Blackbaud SKY API – for collecting giver information
    2. GoCardless API – for donation processing
    3. Adestra – email marketing automation service

    The main problem the client faced was the lack of automation. Most processes, such as searching for clients or contacting them, were typically performed manually. That required a lot of legwork, increased the workload for employees, and, of course, did not drive the results they expected.

    So, why exactly did they contact Vega IT?

    First, they wanted to create an automated process for updating GoCardless with the contact information from Raiser's Edge for regular givers. They wanted us to develop a regular giving import process that is currently up and running.

    Second, Tommy’s wanted us to create a simple method for existing givers to upgrade their donations.

    A three-person team as Tommy’s firepower

    The project required extensive experience in Drupal development and APIs. We stepped in as a reliable extension of their team, providing them with all the roles they needed to get the project off the ground. Our team consists of two back-end engineers and a project manager.

    The solution: Database integration with token generation

    Automated data transmission between Blackbaud Sky API and GoCardless API

    Since there was no connection with Blackbaud on their website, our task was to create that connection and add it to the donation flow. This would allow us to write it into the Blackbaud SKY API and connect the donor from Blackbound SKY APY with the donation that was performed via GoCardless.

    Consistent donation data across all databases

    We created a unique URL for each user based on their emails. The information about donors is extracted from the database, and the form fields are completed automatically.

    Blackbaud SKY API updates donor data. GoCardless is where donations are increased, and this is where the giver information is updated, as well. Adestra records all donor information to send an automatic "thank you" email once a donation is made. Tommy’s is GDPR-compliant, and all the practices that we have implemented so far are designed to meet the highest data security standards.

    At the end of each day, a CSV file containing information about daily donations is created and sent to all stakeholders.

    Results: Streamlined donation updates and email services

    Throughout both project phases, we successfully fulfilled all of the client's requirements. The client no longer has to manually enter donor information on Blackbaud, as it is now automatically updated.
    We also managed to enhance their email services by automating them. Givers can now enhance their donation amounts with the click of a mouse. As seamlessly and fast as possible.

    And, that’s not all

    The client was looking for a tech partner for this specific task. They found a reliable co-creator. Our team of seasoned engineers and domain experts understood their unique challenges, ideas, and desires and worked tirelessly on delivering the best solution to them.
    Most importantly, we went beyond the client’s initial expectations. We offered innovative concepts and shared proven strategies that have assisted Tommy's in enhancing its operations at various levels.

    Looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Tommy’s and Vega IT.

    The full tech stack

    Back end:

    PHP 8.1
    Drupal 9.4
    MariaDB 10.9


    Blackbaud SKY API
    GoCardless API
    Adestra email marketing automation service



    Nevena Nikolic Partner & Project Director

    Nevena appreciates and understands the importance of client-side input, particularly aligned to Umbraco, which reflects her most elemental character traits: Communicative. Organized. And easy to work with.

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