Preparing GiveMN.org for Give to the Max Day 2017

Give to the Max Day 2016 was a day of great success and significant challenges. When the clock struck midnight, nearly 6,000 nonprofits and schools had raised $20.1 million, a record-breaking day for Minnesota. And although donors were able to make gifts through GiveMN.org throughout the entire day, technical issues forced GiveMN to switch to a simplified backup donation page for a quarter of the day, which made many features such as donation reports, management of peer-to-peer fundraising pages, and elements like goal and matching gift thermometers inaccessible while we prioritized the features that allowed donors to complete their transactions quickly, easily, and securely.

The challenges caused by these technical issues didn’t meet our users’ expectations, and they did not meet ours.

As nonprofits and schools like yours plan fundraising efforts around Give to the Max Day, we wanted to be transparent about what we've learned since 2016, our decision-making process in planning GTMD17, and how we are working to ensure another successful giving day, with more reliable technology.

Below, explore answers to some of the questions we've been asked most frequently in the past year, including:

  • What caused the technical issues?
  • What steps has GiveMN taken thus far?
  • Why not just switch technology providers?
  • What technical preparations is GiveMN making for Give to the Max Day 2017?
  • What is the future of Give to the Max Day and GiveMN.org?

What caused the technical issues?

In the months since GTMD16, we have been in constant contact with our technology provider Kimbia, who builds and maintains all of the technical aspects of our fundraising platform. Their team provided GiveMN with an in-depth accounting of the technical issues that forced us to switch to a simplified backup donation page to continue processing donations during the day, summarized below:

Three errors took place concurrently to cause the issues that many donors and organizations experienced. 

1.    When donors log into their personal accounts to view their giving history, the on-screen reports were pulling too much data, and when that multiplied by the number of donors logging in simultaneously on GTMD16, donors experienced slow or inaccessible reports. 

2.    Additionally, a script in the header of each GiveMN.org page that managed when the “Total Raised” number was actively counting donations was written in such a way that caused it to be unnecessarily taxing on the system when visitor volume increased on the giving day. 

3.    Finally, because of the two errors above, the  caching service used to reduce the level of strain on the system did not perform as intended. Although these issues had no impact on the payment processing platform itself, they caused organization, project, and fundraiser, and leaderboard pages on GiveMN.org to load too slowly to meet expectations.

GiveMN and Kimbia staff noticed these issues just after 8:00 am CST and made the decision to switch to the backup site within minutes to ensure our core responsibility for successfully processing donations was preserved for donors. Although this took away many of the extra features some organizations and donors wanted to use, it ensured we would be able to keep processing donations throughout the day. In fact, several million dollars was raised while the backup site was online.

Kimbia identified the sources of the problems in the following hours and worked to fix and test our full site as quickly as possible. Once the switch back to our full site took place around 3:20 pm, GiveMN.org handled higher-than-normal levels of traffic and giving for the remaining nine hours of Give to the Max Day. GiveMN and Kimbia are confident the issues were fixed on Give to the Max Day and will not cause issues for our users in the future.

What steps has GiveMN taken thus far?

On Give to the Max Day, we announced our commitment to cover the full processing fee for the time donors were unable to do so on their own, and we covered the 6.9% processing fee from donations between 8:27:00 am CST and 3:20:37 pm CST on GTMD16.

Our board and staff has also been in consistent communication with Kimbia to learn more about what caused the technical problems and evaluate our future relationship with them as a technology provider. Kimbia has accepted full responsibility for the technical issues and after many weeks of conversations earlier this year, GiveMN has decided to partner with Kimbia again in 2017 while we also listen to our users and partners to plot the best possible future for our community related to Give to the Max Day and GiveMN.org. Read more about this process below.

Why not just switch technology providers?

GiveMN board and staff fully considered all options for 2017, including changing technology platforms, but decided not to do so immediately as we want to better understand the needs of our users, both who use GiveMN.org for Give to the Max Day and throughout the year, and take your needs and guidance into consideration before making any major decisions on our platform.

What technical preparations is GiveMN making for Give to the Max Day 2017?

Our primary objective on Give to the Max Day is to successfully process donations, and we are preparing for GTMD17 with a laser focus on that goal. Here’s how we are preparing our technology for Give to the Max Day 2017. 

1)   No major code disruptions. After Kimbia repaired the technical issues listed above on GTMD16, the site did perform as intended even with higher traffic volume than normal as organizations and donors visited the site to check reports and make donations. After GTMD16, we asked Kimbia to make no major code changes to ensure no other unexpected variables would negatively affect the site for GTMD17.

2)   More rigorous testing. Kimbia has agreed to perform more rigorous testing this year, using lessons learned last year. GiveMN will also work with an independent technology expert to provide oversight to the testing process.

3)   Consulting with other giving day organizers. GiveMN closely monitors giving days across the country, including a handful of organizations that use our donation platform. We continue to share best practices amongst giving days, and learn from each other’s successes and failures.

4)   Donor-first approach. Although the technical issues faced on GTMD16 presented very real challenges, we created the backup donation platform years ago with one major goal – allowing donors to continue to give generously. In spite of last year’s  technical challenges, we were heartened to see donors giving a record $20 million in support of your organizations, and our donor survey revealed that fewer than 10% of donors found difficulty in making a gift. We continue to plan GTMD with a primary focus on donors having a successful and rewarding giving experience.

What is the future of Give to the Max Day and GiveMN.org?

When we surveyed organizations about their recommendations for the future of Give to the Max Day in December 2016—and received responses from nearly 800 organizations—we heard a few messages loud and clear.

First, Give to the Max Day is an integral part of the Minnesota nonprofit sector, our state’s culture of giving, and organizations’ fundraising strategies: 93% of respondents want Give to the Max Day to continue, and 60% believe their fundraising would decrease annually without Give to the Max Day.

With that, we also heard another resounding message: our users rely on GiveMN.org and Give to the Max Day—so it needs to work well on the big day, a sentiment we couldn’t agree more with. More than half of respondents want it to remain the same single-platform giving day model we have presented since 2009, but with repaired and reliable technology. With our 2017 technology partner Kimbia, we are committed to delivering this experience for our users.

We also heard another clear theme in our survey results, as well as numerous conversations and email dialogues after GTMD16—we have a lot to learn from our community about how we can be the best partner possible for the future. We have gathered feedback this year and are reviewing it now to chart our course for 2018 and beyond. This process continues, and we will have more information to share this winter.

© 2017 GiveMN | A registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.