Yesterday, May 3, was Give Local America Day.
In many of the 50+ communities that participated, today — May 4 — is now also Give Local America Day. That’s because Kimbia’s giving platform crashed for most of yesterday, so they had to extend the campaign into today.
Kimbia is going to have hell to pay on this one, but I’ll leave the skewering to others.
Instead, this post is about lessons learned for communications pros. And there will be many that come out of this.
One big obvious one is that you need the ability to redirect quickly all the traffic your campaigns have generated elsewhere when your primary page or even your whole site goes down.
Many — probably most? — of the thousands of nonprofits participating in Give Local campaigns across America were sending donors directly to donation pages on Kimbia’s platform. When the platform failed, they had no easy way to send the traffic elsewhere.
In South Carolina, the Central Carolina Community Foundation scrambled to create a backup site using a Wufoo form for participants in Midlands Gives. This was great Plan B hustle on their part, but it required nonprofits to communicate two different URLs to donors — the main one on Kimbia in hopes it would come back up and the second form at Wufoo.
Here’s the lesson: It would have been so much easier for individual nonprofits if they had set up a redirect with their own domain name, like mynonprofit.org/givelocal or used a link shortener like Bitly and distributed that link (not the Kimbia link!) from the start. Then they could have changed the destination URL from Kimbia to their own donation page or to a backup page like the Midlands Gives form at Wufoo — and all the previous links sent out to donors would still have worked! No need to update donors with a new link, because the correct link is served up behind the scenes.
For massive campaigns like this, you have to assume something will fail, and know how you will put Plan B into effect immediately.
Anastasia Khoo, chief marketing officer from the Human Rights Campaign, has talked about how she redirects her whole website domain, all of hrc.org, to their Tumblr page when the main domain goes down because of extraordinarily high traffic. It’s her go-to Plan B. Sure, the main site going down is still a huge hassle to deal with it, but it’s not a devastating catastrophe, because she has a fast, workable Plan B.
If your regular donation/e-commerce provider goes down, could you quickly redirect somewhere else? At Nonprofit Marketing Guide, we use Infusionsoft/Authorize.net, but also have accounts at PayPal and Square that can be used in a pinch.
If you don’t know how to do this, make it a priority to find out.
There are a few different ways to do it. For example, to redirect your entire website domain, you can do it with the company where your domain name is registered.
If you only want to redirect a subfolder, like /donate or one specific page on your site like donate.htm, you can add a line in your .htaccess file on the hosting server.
You can also use a link shortening service like bit.ly which lets you edit destination links. Or if you own a short domain yourself, you can use a service like ShortSwitch to manage the redirects. We use ShortSwitch to manage links we create for kivilm.com and npmg.us, which are short domains we own.
Here’s a second issue for communicators . . .
Many nonprofits, including some who contacted me for advice yesterday, were afraid to redirect their traffic away from Kimbia — even though the site was down — because only gifts through their platform would be considered for local matches and other contest winnings. Should they redirect to their own donation page to capture the donation and forgo it counting towards the matches, or should they wait it out with traffic going to a broken page?
I recommended they redirect to their own pages and capture the gift. It’s all about the donor relationship, and facilitating that gift is paramount to any particular contest.
Once the dust settles, I’d love to hear from those of you who went through this. What did you learn?