VSO – Voluntary Service Overseas

VSO fights poverty not by sending aid, but by working through volunteers and partners to create long-lasting change in some of the world’s poorest regions. Our work has helped VSO to recruit the volunteers it needs, communicate its impact, and influence policy.

The primary aim of the site we launched with VSO in 2016 was to improve VSO’s effectiveness at recruiting high calibre professionals as volunteers.

To achieve this aim we integrated VSO’s site built on Drupal 7 with a volunteer applications management system based on Salesforce.

Since 2016 VSO’s priorities have evolved.


The 2020 redesign has enabled VSO to better communicate its messages about impact and policy influence.

While volunteering, and volunteer recruitment, is still at the heart of what VSO is about, the updated design has balanced this with more emphasis on VSO’s:

  • partnerships;
  • influence on policy at national, regional and international levels;
  • evaluation of the work it does; and
  • impact around the world.

Since 2016 new design patterns were introduced as the site expanded. Tactical design ’tweaks’ eroded the strength of the original design and user experiences lost their original consistency.

The streamlined redesign has seen a rationalisation of the patterns used. We’ve developed a component library which plays a vital role in the management of VSO’s digital estate. This library will help to ensure the consistency of user experiences as VSO evolves its future digital presence.

Example from VSO's component library showing a figure pattern
Example from VSO’s component library showing a figure pattern

Migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8

With the end of support for the Drupal 7 codebase fast approaching (support ends in November 2021) VSO wanted to migrate its site to Drupal 8.

Drupal 8 has a new architecture, new codebase, and new templating language compared with Drupal 7. In ‘Upgrading from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8: stroll in the park or mountain trek?’ Headscape’s Chris Scott describes some of the challenges in detail.

With 19 content types, 26 taxonomies, over 30 forms, nearly 90 community-contributed Drupal modules, and 20 custom modules, VSO’s site posed some significant challenges for migration.

A custom, two-way synchronisation with Salesforce, and localisation processes enabling content sharing between VSO’s main international site and its US and Ireland sites, added to the project’s complexity.

A flexible, sustainable platform

We’ve reworked VSO’s site on Drupal 8, launching the new site early in 2020. VSO now has a flexible, sustainable platform for its web presence for many years to come.

Having had to work with a number of different external suppliers on this project has really made me appreciate even more how nice it is being able to work with an agency that you can trust to do what they say they’ll do when they say they’ll do it. And who’ll do it well.

Lee Batchelor, Digital Project Manager, VSO International