No Offense, but We Need a Plan B: Nonprofits Hedge against Tech Failures on MN Giving Day

By U.S. Navy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

November 14, 2017; Star Tribune

NPQ reported last year on Kimbia’s tech meltdown on May 2nd that took out giving days all over the country. That wasn’t the first such glitch; Minnesota’s annual extravaganza of giving, which also makes use of Kimbia, has seen failures in three of the past four years. Last year, though the effort raised more than $20 million, online donors were caught up in a seven-hour tech miasma.

Now, though many value their participation in Give to the Max Day, some are unwilling to place their faith in the infrastructure of the challenge and have established their own online platforms while maintaining a link on the GiveMN.org website. For instance, though Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is making active use of the energy and focus around Give to the Max, the pop-up window with that phrase that appears on their site goes to their private donor page. (They explain that they’re making use of a “two-pronged approach.”)

Paul Sorenson of the Animal Humane Society, which raised the fifth-highest gross among last year’s Give to the Max Day participants, started early as a hedge against another meltdown. “We haven’t been able to rely on the technology. This is an opportunity to control all the pieces and tell our own story,” Sorenson said. “We’re trying to have the best of both worlds.” The Humane Society was not sure last year if it would opt in after it was left trying to contact its 110,000 donors about the snafu as it was happening. In the end, their donations were down by 20 percent from the previous year.

Still, these are bigger nonprofits; one wonders how smaller organizations are covering themselves.

“We know that we have not always met expectations,” said GiveMN Executive Director Jake Blumberg, who holds no grudges about the various failsafes; in fact, he has a Plan B of his own in the form of a backup site.

“At the end of the day, our mission is to grow giving and ignite generosity—and as long as giving is happening, whether that’s through our platform or another, we’re happy,” he said, adding that GiveMN may need to cut ties with Kimbia if problems reoccur this year.—Ruth McCambridge