16/12/2014

By Sheila Bouman, EVP and Managing Director, Peer 1 Hosting


There is no shortage of global crises at any given moment. The world seems to be beset by any number of issues affecting quality of life, despite the great work of dedicated charity professionals. Fortunately, the Christmas period is the time for giving, when many choose to support the work of charity professionals around the world.

We’re all more inclined to give generously during the season of goodwill. In fact, many of us plan to donate more this year, which can be both good and bad news for charities.

As you would expect during the holiday season, charities (much like online businesses) experience a rise in visits to their websites, but a sudden influx of traffic to an unprepared charity website can cause it to crash. Increasing brand awareness is fantastic for charities, but you need to ensure that your infrastructure is in place to capitalise on this opportunity.

It is incredibly important to ensure it is as easy as possible for people to donate so that the generosity of others doesn’t slip through the cracks. In peak periods of generosity such as the Christmas or after natural disasters, charity websites need to be ready to deal with the influx in web-traffic. A crashed website can potentially mean six-digit revenue losses, which can have a direct human cost if the charity cannot afford to help the people it is trying to reach.

Seeking to understand the challenges charities face as they face an increase in online traffic and donations, we commissioned research to understand whether British and American consumers planned on donating more during the holidays.

Perhaps the most interesting finding is that less than a quarter of the people surveyed intended to make a donation online, citing slow websites and complicated processes as the reasons. This should be a major concern for charities that will no doubt want to make the most of the season of goodwill, rather than stifle the public’s desire to help.

People now expect to be able to carry out tasks seamlessly online, and this is no different in the charity sector. It is clear that even though the motivation is there, people are struggling to donate to their chosen charities, which means these organisations are missing out on vital donations.

A recent example: Actor Aaron Paul mentioned his wife’s charity during his acceptance speech at the Emmy Awards, creating a rush of visitors that brought the website down for hours. The British Red Cross almost faced a similar outage when visitors rushed to donate after a natural disaster.
With no website available, donations are lost, and the charity suffers.

Suddenly, what seems like a harmless IT issue can result in money lost that could have otherwise been put to a great cause. Donations have the power to transform and unlock a charity’s potential. Charity organisations need to enable people to make donations as easily and securely as possible.

It seems a shame that charities are set to lose out at what should be their best time of year. Worse still, the fact that they have the means to address this issue is particularly concerning. By focusing on their online weaknesses and providing a seamless platform for donors, charities may find that online donations form the bulk of their activity. Whatever the cynics may say, this time of year inspires us to consider those less fortunate than ourselves, so it’s vital that organisations in a position to offer help are not fighting with one hand tied behind their back.