The Give Local America campaign, held on May 3 this year, is always an exciting time for small non-profits.  In a 24-hour period, they have the opportunity to raise as much money as possible, compete for prizes and gain valuable matching money through corporate sponsored grants.  Local to Voxus, the campaigns are sponsored by the Seattle Foundation and the Kitsap Community Foundation, usually with great success.

This year was different.  Despite months of preparation, all of the promotion, the training, the calls to major donors, the Facebook posts, the Instagram photos…all of it couldn’t derail the Kimbia debacle.  Kimbia is the Texas-based crowdfunding donation collection and management platform used this year by more than 50 organizations across the country, representing thousands of non-profits.  In the early morning of May 3, the platform crashed…and stayed down throughout most of the 24-hour giving period.

We work in the technology industry.  We know glitches happen.  We also know that, if you offer an online ecommerce platform, you probably shouldn’t roll out new features and an app prior to a major nationwide event. But that’s a story for another time.  Today, we want to examine what Kimbia didn’t do, and learn from it.

Management was suspiciously silent.

No Kimbia executive stepped forward to helm the sinking ship.  You didn’t see any quotes from top leaders in what few interviews they gave, nor did you see any mention of the problem on its social media feeds until very late in the day.  You still won’t see any mention of problems on the Twitter feed for the vice president of marketing.  Lesson learned: social media is an excellent way to immediately get the word out about problems to a constituency.  Use it.

Current information was hard to obtain.

Kimbia didn’t put any information on its website about the outage until four hours after the glitch began.  That information was not helpful at first, but did improve throughout the day.  It ended with a mea culpa of sorts, which you can read here. The problem with this is that the company is not addressing what it plans to do to rectify the lost money that thousands of small non-profits depend on.  Lesson learned: use your website as a communications tool.  A widespread outage means that lots of people will be looking for answers.  And try to offer some solutions.

Keep your stories straight.

In one of the few quotes given by Kimbia’s management, the cause of the problem was stated as too much website traffic; we now know through the company’s detailed apology that it was a hardware failure coupled with the site’s newly-added functionality. Lesson learned: better to say that you are still identifying the problem until you have a definitive answer.

Fair disclosure: I work with one of the small, volunteer-run organizations that depended on this fundraiser to obtain much-needed funds. The organization will be fine, thanks to a generous community. But I have to wonder what will happen in 2017, not so much for us, but for Kimbia.  Because it exclusively targets non-profits for its product, it may be facing more than just a black eye.  All businesses, but especially non-profits, work with trusted vendors.  Kimbia is going to lose business…it’s a question of how much.