An Emergency Appeal Breaks Records for the Canadian Red Cross


Engaging Networks donation processing rises to the occasion during Alberta Wildfires

When nonprofits are considering a switch to our platform, one question that always gets asked is whether Engaging Networks has the capacity to handle large spikes in donation volume. Our response is to outline the metrics that we use to measure capacity, the planning that goes into ensuring that our network can handle a drastic increases in traffic, and the testing that we do to evaluate the strength of our network. But there is nothing like a real world experience to tell the story.

When a wildfire broke out in May 2016 in Northern Alberta, Canada, 80,000 residents of Fort McMurray were forced to flee their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs. The Canadian Red Cross (CRC) sprang into action, organizing more than 2,500 volunteers and staff to provide assistance to the displaced families.

The Problem

From the outset, CRC asked for donations to support its relief efforts, and there was an outpouring of generosity from across Canada and around the world. During the first three days of the disaster, CRC experienced an online traffic increase of 2,000%. It was imperative that donors were able to make online donations despite the unprecedented activity.

The Solution

CRC has been a client of Engaging Networks for almost two years. Using our fundraising software, they were able to quickly build and update donation pages, track transactions and report on key metrics. CRC’s payment processor – Paysafe – managed the flow of funds, including accepting and settling donations, and limiting fraud with its proprietary tools.

Recognizing the magnitude of the situation, Engaging Networks activated two additional application servers on the second day of the appeal to be absolutely certain we had backup if needed. During the initial peak 72 hours of the appeal, with front page coverage in national newspapers, extensive reporting on television and radio, and a massive wave of sharing on social media, we were handling as many as 20,000 server requests per minute. We handled 100,000 transactions in a single day, all on top of our regular daily traffic from enterprise clients for which we host over 50 million constituent data records.

The Results

This was the most successful online fundraising campaign in CRC’s history. By the time the Canadian government had announced an end to the wildfires, CRC had raised over $67 million CAD from over 415,000 online supporters through Engaging Networks. Combined with matching donations from the Canadian government and offline donations, CRC distributed more than $200 million CAD to the victims in the form of shelter, food, clothing, transportation and financial assistance.

We are accustomed to preparing for periods of predictable heavy traffic – notably the month of December and #GivingTuesday. The real test of a network’s preparedness comes when unplanned spike occurs. At no point did CRC experience any downtime, and no other Engaging Networks client was impacted by the high volume of transactions. It was a proud moment for the whole team.

Chloe Green is a copywriter and digital campaigner with almost a decade of experience in the charity and political sectors. She’s delivered campaigns, copy and consultancy for a raft of good eggs including Anthony Nolan, the National Union of Students, St Mungo’s, and Hillary for America. She was Social Media Manager at the Labour Party between 2016–2019 and now she’s Head of Creative with the lovely team at Forward Action. She leads on fundraising emails, UX copy, and all creative facilitation. She’s an expert in email list growth, digital strategy, organic and paid-for social media, and digital mobilisation.

Rachel founded the specialist charity web agency, Rechord, in 1999. Between 1999 and 2012 they created hundreds of different web applications for organisations in the UK and internationally.
In 2013 she became the 'Donor Whisperer' and focused on helping small to medium-sized non-profits to reach new donors and activists and from there increase their income. She uses a unique process that combines the benefits of consultancy with capacity building.
Her clients include Traidcraft Exchange, the Overseas Development Institute, Jubilee Debt Coalition, the Leprosy Mission of England and Wales, Tax Justice UK, The Canary, Humanity and Inclusion, the Anti-Tribalism Movement, BRACE, New Family Social, Arseh Sevom - and that's just the last year.
She also feels weird writing about herself in the third person.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Hannah is Senior Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, working on their local campaigning programme, Local Action for MS and also on social care and carers. She’s worked at the MS Society for a year and a half, and was previously at the MND Association and National Voices.

Executive Director of C6 Digital, London based agency

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Having gotten his start organizing with anti-war veterans and working as Sala Labs, Sales Engineer, and Partner Manager, Bryan now brings his expertise to non-profit and mission-driven clients as 4Site Studios Director of Digital Strategy. Specializing in challenging and complex projects, Bryan works with each client to craft holistic approaches tailored to goals, budget, and outcomes.

Mary Margaret Callahan is the Chief Mission Officer for Pet Partners, where she is responsible for leading mission delivery including the therapy animal program and grassroots advocacy program. She joined Pet Partners in 2013 and has worked to establish the organization as both an influencer and a resource within the animal-assisted intervention (AAI) and human-animal bond (HAB) community. In 2018 she was named one of PetAge Magazine’s Women of Influence. Mary Margaret lives on a small farm outside Seattle with her husband, daughter and menagerie of animals including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, chickens, goats and miniature donkeys.

Joe Derry Hall is a freelancer working on creative digital and communications. His interests include tech innovation, upending power and reimagining different futures. Joe has been the winner of a Mozilla Creative Media Award and the joint winner of a BAFTA digital award. He was previously in-house in campaigning and communications roles at Amnesty International, the Climate Coalition, the Ecocide campaign, Save the Children, Scope and others. He is one of the initiators of Right Way Up, an experiment to create a radical, practical new vision for the social change sector.

Anna Chowcat is the Digital Manager at Refuge and oversees the charity’s digital function and output. Since joining Refuge, Anna has been instrumental in introducing a number of digital engagement programmes including digital campaigns, bespoke email supporter journeys and user friendly donate/campaign pages. Before joining Refuge, she has worked in digital engagement and campaign roles at The Labour Party and Leonard Cheshire Disability.