Improving UX and donor conversion for an earth science research centerLamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

UX, donor conversion case study
For an Earth Observatory housed on the campus of a major university, an outdated website provided a poor user experience, and online donations were low due to lack of conversion optimization.

The efforts resulted in a refresh of the organization’s website—working within the parameters of the existing Drupal theme—which now provides an improved user experience and opportunity for charitable giving abound. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory turned to Kelly Campbell for web design / UX, donor conversion optimization, website project oversight and email marketing consulting.


Charged with short and long term objectives to increase public awareness and contributions from individuals in order to rely less on endowment funding and hold its Open House event annually, Lamont-Doherty engaged Kelly to work address three pain points:

• Optimize the user experience of the existing website:
Working within an existing website theme presents numerous challenges for any university. Web technology quickly becomes outdated, myriad devices require fluid site construction, user behavior pushes UX trends to evolve—the list goes on. On top of these, the donation page was hosted externally and not responsive to mobile devices.

• Increase internal efficiency of—and charitable giving from—email campaigns:
For email campaigns, manual processes included exporting from donor database to email marketing software, deleting previous lists, and hand-coding every monthly newsletter, event invitation, donor solicitation and personalized email. The donor conversion rate from emails that included a CTA was minimal.

• Strategize long-term communications plan, including online giving:
Refreshing the existing website theme aside, the organization needed a larger plan to broaden awareness of the earth science research for which it has been so well known. It needed to understand how other climate change research organizations reach, engage and incentivize contributions from the public, outside of its own scientific community.


Kelly Campbell combined best practices in UX by focusing on increasing legibility and decreasing the number of clicks required by users in order to find information about the work being done at Lamont-Doherty. The solution, which remained within the constraints of the Drupal theme—included drop-down menu items in the navigation, interactive search functionality and both donation and email list subscription CTAs in the header. Font size was increased site-wide, and the homepage was restructured to allow for better engagement with the latest content and new support-focused communications with a strong donor CTA.

A change in email marketing platforms allowed the organization to utilize custom-branded email templates that were automatically responsive to mobile devices—eliminating the need to hand-code and import any HTML. Once donors are imported, simple segmentation eliminates the need to delete lists in order to keep costs down. And donation CTAs appear within each template type, which now click through to a responsive giving page on Columbia University’s website.

LDEO Homepage


Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory now offers a website that is more user-friendly and its email marketing campaigns are more effective. Next steps include the development of a communications-focused site that will engage visitors and encourage donors, while the existing site will continue to be utilized by research scientists and the community. Visit

Kelly Campbell, Nonprofit Consultant
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Kelly is a remarkable talent who has helped us think through a short and long term approach to our web site. She has consistently gone above and beyond the scope and both her technical, design and user experience insights have been impressive. Case study »

Farhana Mather, LDEO
Farhana Mather
Director of Development, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University

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