Peer Fundraising Case Study: Integrating Blackbaud / Sphere Friends Asking Friends With a CMS

Legacy, whose mission is to build a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit, engaged us to redesign My Legacy Story. The original flash-based site allowed people to share stories about how tobacco has impacted their own lives, as well as the lives of loved ones. They wanted to redesign the site in HTML, enhancing the user experience and allowing people to fund-raise in honor of the stories they had shared.

Integrating Friends Asking Friends With A Content Management System

Due to the needs of the project, we determined that the site needed a strong Content Management System (CMS), and chose eZ Publish, alongside Blackbaud’s Sphere for Events and Friends Asking Friends (FAF) for the peer fundraising component.

FAF isn’t typically integrated with other CMSes, which presented some unique challenges. To enhance the user experience as visitors transitioned between the CMS and Sphere pages, we implemented a custom JS script which passed data between the two sites. The script dynamically changed forms with jQuery, auto-filled CMS submitted stories into Sphere’s personal fund-raising forms, and other enhancements.

In order to synchronize people’s fundraising pages in the CMS, after people registered on MLS, and then went into Sphere, we used the custom JS script to pass their unique ID back into eZ, allowing the non-FAF portion of the site to show fund-raising progress (including a custom thermometer that we developed) through the FAF API .

HTML Vs. Flash For Browsing Stories On The Homepage

We wanted to create a unique way for people to browse other’s stories, and came up with an interesting twist on the standard slideshow navigation.

While it may have been easier to develop in Flash, we decided to develop it entirely in HTML and JavaScript in order to ensure that it would be viewable on mobile devices.

Maximizing Conversions by Understanding Visitor Behavior From Start to Finish 

We designed the site to identify factors that could help to maximize story submissions and donations to achieve the goal of getting people to share their stories, and raise funds in support of those stories.  Several events were set up in Google Analytics to track which stories on the homepage of the site were most compelling (based on which received the most clickthroughs), and which categories people were most interested in (also based on clicks). The CMS-based portion of the site was on one domain ( while the FAF and donation handling occurred on another domain ( We set up cross-domain tracking so visitor data was tracked as people switched from one domain to another. This allowed Google Analytics to keep track of which websites had referred donors, which stories led to completed donations, and other critical information needed for site optimization.

Campaign Tracking / Sourcing Between Sphere, Google Analytics And The CMS

Understanding how the website impacts visitor behavior is only part of the information needed in the process of maximizing conversions. We must also be able to track the ROI that each marketing campaign has on activities defined as site goals. Using Google Analytics campaign codes allows you to track how people found out about the site, and see which campaigns provide the highest ROI.

In addition to having that information in GA, we also wanted to have that information available in Sphere reporting. To do this, campaign codes are saved into a cookie, and when people create stories or make donations, we pass the campaign code into Sphere as a source code (msource). This allows for Sphere’s reporting functionality to indicate the source of donations and new story submissions, and it’s also possible to segment post-campaign emails to individuals who arrived via specific campaigns. Additionally, we set up CSV exports for all stories on the site, and each story is tagged with the campaign it arrived through.

Share Your Story Today!

Now that the site is launched, we’re looking forward to seeing the stories people share. Share your story about how tobacco had an impact on your life (or that of a loved one), and then let us know in the comments if you have any ideas for further improvements to the site.

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