Last week, you might recall that GiveBIG, the Seattle Foundation’s huge annual Seattle-area nonprofit fundraising drive, suffered from big problems. The new payment processor for the drive, an organization called Kimbia, completely failed, making it impossible for people to donate to their charities of choice. (Though GiveBIG is a local event, it is part of a national program called “Give Local America,” and many other regions reported the exact same troubles as Seattle.)
Once the problems were identified, GiveBIG, which traditionally takes place over 24 hours, was extended another full day. The staff of local nonprofits suffered through 48 incredibly stressful hours, first by deploying their marketing emails and social media campaigns, then by fielding questions from angry would-be donors who could not donate, and finally by redeploying all their marketing for a second time. Over the last few years, GiveBIG has transformed from a fundraising bonus for local nonprofits to a reliable (and often quite large) source of income, and Kimbia’s failure put the bottom lines of many nonprofits in danger.
So, a week later, how has the aftermath been? Todd Bishop at Geekwire writes:
The CEO of the Kimbia online fundraising platform, Daniel Gillett, will forfeit his salary for three months, and the company will donate his normal pay to groups that took part in last week’s Give Local America campaign, which was hampered by problems with Kimbia’s technology.
Kimbia says this is just the first part of a campaign to make restitutions to nonprofits and win back their trust. Meanwhile, Nicole Neroulias Gupte at PhilanthropyNW reports on the Seattle Foundation’s response to the GiveBIG failures, and tallies up the total donations received from Give Local America events around the region.
Meanwhile, nonprofit marketing advisor Kivi Leroux Miller wrote a lengthy post that dissects the winners, losers, and victims of the GiveBIG fiasco. She asks if nonprofit leaders might “use the experience to shore up their own tech prowess, so they aren’t entirely dependent on partnerships with community foundations and tech companies.”
Look: you can’t plan for events that you don’t expect. Sometimes, accidents happen. But this is not the kind of situation that can just be resolved by a single email of apology, or even a symbolic olive branch like the CEO giving up a quarter of his annual salary. (Frankly, with CEO pay as high as it is, three months’ worth of pay doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice.) Transparency and discussion are necessary, and Seattle’s nonprofit leaders — some of whom are the best, most thoughtful people I know — deserve a long explanation about what happened and an overview of how organizers intend to keep it from happening again.
Many in the nonprofit community have expressed distaste for GiveBIG’s feeding frenzy-model of fundraising, calling it “Hunger Games for nonprofits,” or “gladiatorial combat.” Perhaps this next year would be a good time to reevaluate the model, and try to figure out a more inclusive way to raise money for everyone without pitting nonprofits each against the other? Now, when everyone is reevaluating the process, is the best possible time to investigate what GiveBIG means and how the program might be changed to better benefit all the players.