November 19, 2015

Is Your Nonprofit Site Ready for the Holiday Charitable Traffic?

Is Your Nonprofit Site Ready for the Holiday Charitable Traffic?

The holiday season is the season of giving. Many shower their friends and families with gifts and also give back to those in need. In fact, 42% of people make more charitable contributions around the holidays than the rest of the year (NCCS). Choosing to donate online has become an increasingly popular choice; from 2013-2014, online giving increased by 14% and website traffic increased by 16% (Charity Navigator). We live in a digital world where giving online to charities is now mainstream.

With so many worthy causes just a click away, there is not a more appropriate time to ensure your nonprofit site is well tuned and backed by a stable and flexible IT environment. The following four areas most likely top your holiday list this time of year, so keep in the spirit of giving, and give your site what it needs to prepare for the holiday charitable traffic this season.

iMIS Hosting

iMIS is a software that enables nonprofit organizations to engage members and staff. It’s great for managing donor and member relationships, fundraising, marketing activities, and website administration. While many organizations handle iMIS on their own, others outsource this management to an external hosting provider. Here are some variables to consider and ask about when deciding whether to stay in-house or outsource the work:

  • Cost – Donors contributions are a valuable asset to continuing your nonprofits’ mission, so it’s best to use this money as wisely as possible. Think critically about what your organization can afford and should spend when considering where to manage your iMIS – internally or externally.
  • Maintenance – Is your organization’s in-house IT team capable of maintaining the back-end infrastructure of iMIS? If your IT team is already being pulled in many different directions, then they may not pay the most attention to making sure that your iMIS is the best it can be.
  • Expertise – Outsourcing iMIS hosting to a managed hosting service provider opens you up to a whole team of IT professionals with new information and knowledge at your fingertips. Sometimes, having an outside perspective can be just what your organization needs to take its IT environment to the next level.

If your nonprofit isn’t currently on a management platform, consider doing so to enhance your member and donor experience for the holiday season and into the new year. Partnering with an iMIS implementation company like (C) Systems can make that transition easier on you.

Uptime

There’s no bigger cause of the holiday blues than your nonprofit’s online experience going offline. While keeping your website up and running sounds obvious, the processes necessary to maintain uptime and quickly resolve downtime are often complex, time-consuming, or non-apparent to an organization lacking in-house technical expertise.

In case your organization isn’t well equipped internally for increased traffic, or you have a hosting partner who is a bit of a scrooge, here are our top three focus areas to ensure maximum uptime during November and December’s charitable online giving:

  • Load BalancingWhen you’re driving on a highway, and a lane is shut down because of construction or an accident, the remaining lane becomes a congested mess. This same idea applies to servers; when activity is distributed across a network – the whole system runs much more efficiently and smoothly. In case one server does go down, the load balancer will adjust, and redirect accordingly in order to maintain uptime. This is an important step in distributing requests so that your website will not become overworked and experience dreaded downtime. Is your nonprofit site load balanced?
  • Site MonitoringWhile it may seem tedious to constantly check in with your server, this allows you to make sure that your website is up and functioning as it should be. A plugin or similar service will automatically keep tabs on your site’s uptime, and will alert you when something isn’t quite right. However, proper maintenance isn’t just fixing any bugs that spring up—it’s also regularly checking in with the site when things are running smoothly to understand how your website should function. Monitoring your site will allow you to understand what uptime looks like, making it that much easier to prevent and even fix downtime. Who at your nonprofit is monitoring your site?
  • Stress TestingYour website needs to be able to handle unpredictable amounts of traffic without slumping into downtime. Stress testing allows you to put the pressure on your website in order to see how it reacts to overwhelming traffic. By discovering how it behaves in moments of chaos and crisis, you can see whether it fails, what that failure looks like, and how the website recovers.

Downtime can translate to huge losses, especially during the holiday season when donations are highest. It also means that a nonprofit is wasting its valuable resources by paying for marketing efforts that cannot be supported. Understand your nonprofit site’s traffic capabilities before the holiday rush hits, saving you, your nonprofit, and your site huge losses.

PCI Compliance

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards dictate that any organization that processes or stores credit card information must maintain a secure environment. If your nonprofit processes and stores credit card and transactions for donations, you must comply with PCI requirements. If your nonprofit utilizes a third-party to process member payments and donations, it’s easy and quick to think you’re in the clear. However, it’s important to ask your third-party provider what they are doing to protect this information as well so all your bases are covered and you avoid embarrassing explanations down the road. Learn what compliance looks like for your company:

  • Determine compliance levelAll sites that process payments are not created equally. Since different types of organizations handle different volumes and types of transactions, there are different PCI compliance levels. Each level has different requirements and expectations in order to be PCI compliant. For example, Level 1 companies must have yearly on-site reviews by an internal auditor. By figuring out which level your nonprofit corresponds to, you are one step closer to being PCI compliant.
  • Compliance validationIn order to be considered PCI compliant, you are responsible for showing validation to the acquirer bank. Again, this varies depending on which level your nonprofit is, and the bank has different validation requirements accordingly. Some levels are required to undergo security assessments while others only need to submit a self-evaluation. Confirm which level your nonprofit is, and check with your acquirer bank to be clear on what materials they expect from you so that validation and compliance are as clear as can be.
  • Non-compliancePCI compliance is incredibly important because it allows you to stay in the good graces of credit card companies, the government, and your donors. Also, keeping donors’ credit card information secure is critical. They trust you with their information, and PCI compliance reduces data breaches and keeps your donor base and reputation intact.

Nonprofits that use third-party vendors to process payments, or don’t use them at all, can still benefit from running a PCI Compliance scan. There are certain measurements within the PCI Compliance scan that can reveal vulnerabilities within your IT environment. It’s an added precautionary task that will help ensure your nonprofit is safe and secure during these heavy web traffic holiday season.

Security

Security measures are often tedious tasks that consume IT professionals’ time, but security is crucial and requires the same attention as other tasks. Here are some ways to make security less of a chore:

  • Be diligent and aware – It may be hard for you to believe that hackers want anything to do with your website. However, hackers know that many nonprofits don’t have the resources for strong security systems, and they are willing to exploit your website’s vulnerabilities and your lack of awareness. Be aware that your nonprofit isn’t an exception or invincible to cyber attacks and make sure that everyone in your organization is aware of the threat of cyber attacks this holiday season.
  • Upgrade and update – Hackers take advantage of the fact that many nonprofits are not up-to-date technically. Just making sure that your nonprofit is running on the latest and greatest technical platforms can keep hackers at bay. For example,
  • Use reputable software – Security doesn’t need to be rocket science. Little precautions can keep your site’s security incredibly simple, and there is a whole world of software that makes this possible – so keep in the know with your go-to application partners. Reputable technology systems built for the 21st century will make your nonprofit’s processes more efficient and your data more secure.

 

The holiday giving season is the most wonderful time of the year—especially for nonprofits. You receive the most generous donations during the holidays, which means increased stress on your website. It’s crucial that your IT team and other systems are prepared for seasonal success. For over ten years, Edge has provided managed hosting services for nonprofit organizations, including a 100% uptime SLA agreement and 5-tier security that prevents over 15 million attacks per day.

Keep the holidays happy by preparing your site before the rush hits.

 

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