Case Study

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.

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