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4 Ways To Ensure Reliability of Your Digital Services for GivingTuesday by Jesse Maddex

In today’s digital economy, seconds matter. For mission-driven organizations, seconds can be a matter of life and death, and service reliability can make or break access to suicide and safety hotlines, disaster relief, time-critical health care, food assistance, and more. That’s where real-time digital operations comes in. At PagerDuty, we’re also helping nonprofit organizations achieve their missions by maximizing uptime at critical times like GivingTuesday, the largest annual global day of giving.

To maximize this critical fundraising opportunity, it is important to ensure your organization has the tools to manage your digital operations most efficiently. Improving incident response and maximizing uptime boosts the overall experience for donors. Furthermore, with a reliable incident management plan and tools in place, you can minimize the need to pull team members away from family gatherings and celebrations throughout the holiday season. Because uptime is money, PagerDuty is proud to support the global generosity initiative #GivingTuesday with digital operations tips and through the efforts of PagerDuty.org.

What Is GivingTuesday?

Nearly a decade ago, people started to look at the holiday shopping season in a different way. Black Friday represented a major shopping opportunity for retailers. The growth of GivingTuesday (which takes place on the Tuesday following Black Friday) from $10 million in nonprofit donations in 2012 to more than $2 billion in 2020 shows that many people in the U.S. and other countries are looking for an alternative to the consumerism of Black Friday shopping.

Today, GivingTuesday’s focus to encourage a day of radical generosity has spread to more than 70 countries. In 2020, GivingTuesday saw 34 million donors give over $2.4 billion to nonprofits and charities, according to Charity Navigator. More than 3,000 organizations rely on this event to raise critical funds that power their direct services to communities and the environment.

On GivingTuesday, your website will likely attract traffic from far more potential donors than any other time of the year. Keeping your digital operations up and running is crucial. More uptime means more donations on this critical day, as well as the ability to focus on delivering great digital experiences as opposed to remediating outages.

Giving platforms Global Giving, Kiva, and DonorsChoose leverage PagerDuty to maximize uptime of their systems to reliably connect donors to projects or causes they care about.

To make the most of GivingTuesday’s fundraising potential, taking the time to prepare your organization is essential.

Getting Ready for GivingTuesday Fundamentals

Site traffic for Charity Navigator, the world’s leading independent evaluator of nonprofits, increased 27% from 2019 to 2020. With significant increases in traffic and donor activity, you’ll want to be sure your website and digital operations are ready for the load.

From a technical point of view, there are a few fundamental ways to achieve high uptime. Start by reviewing your alert management program and services. PagerDuty reduces the noise of less critical alerts so your team can solve real problems fast. Once you filter the noise in your alerts, consider adding automation to your alert management using Event Intelligence.

The next step is to review the key systems likely to face significant strain on GivingTuesday.

  • Donor-facing websites

It is essential to review your organization’s website and any third parties you might rely on, like Charity Navigator. For example, ask about their capacity to handle a sudden increase in traffic. If there are no plans in place, investigate if you need to add additional short-term capacity before, during and after GivingTuesday.

  • Back-end systems

Your back-end systems also need high uptime to track performance, issue receipts and send thank-you messages. For this analysis, focus on back-end systems directly impacted by donor activity, like Classy, Click & Pledge or Give Lively.

  • Uptime of payment processing systems

A sudden increase in payment activity may alarm some payment processors. To avoid surprises, reach out to your payment processing providers early and tell them about your GivingTuesday goals. If you anticipate unusually high payment volumes, set up a secondary payment processing provider.

4 Ways for IT to Prepare and Plan for GivingTuesday

Evaluating critical systems is an excellent first step because it will help you identify vulnerabilities and weak points in your operations. Once you understand those weak points, here are some additional steps to consider.

1. Define your “hypercare” model

Before asking your IT staff to work extra hours around GivingTuesday, have an open discussion with your team about your concerns. You might be worried that downtime will make the organization look bad and cause a critical year-end fundraising goal to fail. Acknowledging these concerns in an authentic way can help ground your proposal to launch a hypercare support model. Use this checklist to help your team prepare.

Meet with IT staff in advance and ask them to be ready for the demands of the holidays. For example, you might temporarily increase your incident response standards to maximize uptime and donations during this crunch period. This might include asking people to expand their on-call responsibilities or work longer hours than usual for a short period of time.

Once GivingTuesday is over, look for ways to reward IT for their extraordinary contribution. At a minimum, offset the heavy demands of hypercare by easing IT workload in the days following GivingTuesday or offering additional time off during the holiday season.

2. Reduce alert fatigue before the holidays

Reducing alert fatigue before the holidays is important because it means your teams can take time off without being interrupted. Specifically, consolidate your alerts and events into a single platform so staff can easily respond. With PagerDuty, you can leverage machine learning and your organization’s business rules to quickly identify which alerts require action and which are noise.

3. Practice makes perfect

Scheduling dry runs and simulations is helpful to prepare your team for the stresses of GivingTuesday. For example, you might simulate a crisis event like your primary payment system failing at 10:00 a.m. on GivingTuesday. Tailor the scenarios you practice based on your organization’s specific technology and weak points. Reviewing past incident reports can give you clues about where to focus your efforts.

To further inform your efforts, read our post: Uptimes During the Holiday Shopping Season.

4. Plan a continuous improvement session

After your organization finishes GivingTuesday, don’t lose the opportunity to improve. Start by reviewing your uptime results and incident response information. Next, reach out to your key stakeholders to ask them how GivingTuesday unfolded. This type of informal feedback is essential because it may reveal technical problems that didn’t rise to the level of a formal incident.

Delivering hypercare and high uptime is much easier when your organization has the right tools. That’s why PagerDuty offers special support for nonprofits.

How PagerDuty Helps Nonprofits

PagerDuty’s commitment to nonprofits goes deep. Through PagerDuty.org, we donate 1% each of company equity, employee working time, and product to accelerate change in our local and global communities. In 2020, PagerDuty gave over $1.1 million to more than 400 organizations and provided discounted product to 255 nonprofit and social enterprise customers.

In addition to grants, matching employee donations, and paid employee volunteer time, PagerDuty also helps nonprofits by making its products available through Impact Pricing. Eligible organizations include 501(c)(3) organizations and B Corporations. For additional information, see the Eligibility Guidelines.

Global Giving, a nonprofit organization that connects donors and nonprofits, uses PagerDuty to ensure its digital services are accessible in communities all over the world. The organization has already achieved impressive results: raising over $500 million for over 25,000 projects worldwide. Kevin Conroy, Chief Product Officer at Global Giving, recently shared the impact of PagerDuty:

“GivingTuesday kicks off the giving season for many nonprofits where they raise 30% or more of their total annual donations. It’s vital to make sure that your donation processor is ready to accept every generous gift from your supporters and that teams find out about any problems when they are only warnings and not waiting until critical failures. PagerDuty helps GlobalGiving stay ahead of the curve so that we can celebrate how much our project partners have raised on ‘Thank You Thursday.’”

How To Work With PagerDuty as a Nonprofit

Make the most of GivingTuesday and the holiday season by maximizing your organization’s uptime. Learn more about PagerDuty for nonprofits and apply for PagerDuty’s Impact Pricing so you can keep your digital operations up and running all year round.

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