Minnesota charities stung by a peak-time website crash during "Give to the Max Day" last year will have a new technology firm handling its annual day of mega-giving in 2014.
GiveMN, the St. Paul nonprofit that oversees the one-day online giving blitz, announced Thursday it has contracted with a Texas-based firm called Kimbia to run its giving platform.
The announcement was made at a technology conference sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. When GiveMN director Dana Nelson told the crowd that this year's website would be more "reliable," the nonprofit leaders broke out in applause.
"Hopefully this will turn the ship around," said Cathy Maes, director of Loaves and Fishes, a meals program for Minnesota's needy.
Since 2009, Minnesota has hosted Give to the Max Day, a wildly popular event designed to promote online charitable giving.
Last year, even with a five-hour website crash, it raised $17.1 million from 52,000 donors.
But the downtime left many charities frustrated and worried. Many, such as Loaves and Fishes, rely on the day as a major part of its annual fundraising efforts.
GiveMN recognized the seriousness of the problem and took action, said Nelson. It decided to end its contract with Razoo, a fundraising firm based in Washington, D.C., and search for a national group with a track record for handling the volume of donations that flood the website within 24 hours.
Kimbia processed $25 million in one day last year for the North Texas Giving Day, Nelson said. It was one of eight firms that bid on the Minnesota project, she said.
"The crash we had on Give to the Max Day was such a significant event that our board said, 'We have to get serious about getting the right partner to support the generosity of Minnesotans,' " Nelson said. "We can't allow that to happen again."
Leaders of some of the 5,000 charities and nonprofits that fundraise on Give to the Max Day said they were relieved that new technical support was on the way.
"GiveMN essentially invented a national day of giving," said Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. "People want to see it succeed again."
That said, there is still some concern over the 4.9 percent processing fees on the site, nonprofit leaders said. That fee will remain the same with Kimbia.
GiveMN also announced that it will work with a Minneapolis-based marketing agency called Fast Horse to redesign its website, to make it more user-friendly and innovative.
GiveMN will roll out the new website this summer, said Nelson, initially with a smaller test group. It will be fully operational for the 2014 Give to the Max Day in November.
Before then, a series of educational events will be held for the nonprofits, schools and other stakeholders in the GiveMN process. The first of those events is a webinar slated for April 22.
Charity executives such as Maes say they look forward to the combination of better technology and fresh design.
"Maybe Loaves and Fishes could consider using it [GiveMN] in an ongoing way, not just for one day," Maes said. "I'm excited to see it roll out."