29 September 2016

Make A Donation

Melbourne has given us a very powerful, fault-tolerant and scalable solution that we know we can depend on.

Tell us about Make a Donation. 

We set it up after discovering that many sites like Just Giving and Virgin Money Giving charge up to 6.3% in fees for every donation made. As well as every penny of every donation going to the charity it is intended for via make-a-donation.org, we also pay the bank and processing charges for the charities we work with, saving a further 1.7% on each donation on average. We don’t charge our charities any fees whatsoever and we never will.

In addition to the free fundraising we also help charities by providing free registration pages for their events, data management and marketing support. We give them free access to digital tools so they can spread the word about their campaigns and events. We add value to those we work with. We are not just another fundraising site.

How do we make this happen? We are supported by scores of businesses who pay a small fee to work with us to support what we do and give back something to their local community in the process. The businesses offer vouchers to the fundraisers, in the form of what we call MAD points, to use their products or services.

Why did you choose Melbourne?

I first came across them at a Business Network event in London. I got chatting to Steven Allan and told him how unreliable the hosting company we were using at the time was. He told me about Melbourne and I asked him to look at some different options for us.

Further conversations with other members of the Business Network, as well as my own research, indicated that Melbourne were highly regarded and would deliver on the promises that their SLA’s described.

So tell us about your IT platform. What have you got?

For our site to work for everyone involved – ourselves, the charities, the fundraisers and the supporting businesses – we need to have maximum 100% uptime. So Melbourne looked at how to make both our database and frontend web servers both fault tolerant and highly available. The solution consists of three Galera Database Servers, two Web (Frontend) Servers, two HAproxy Load Balance/Cache Servers, plus a custom OS management solution.

A Galera database cluster was chosen for the database. This spreads the database load over three servers, so if any one of them fails, the remaining servers are still able to cope and handle the workload. The web servers are a replicated pair of servers fronted by a further pair of load-balancers. All of the servers utilise Melbourne’s SAN-backed UltraVM public cloud, ensuring that our solution is not hardware dependent.

By bringing all of these elements together Melbourne has given us a very powerful, fault-tolerant and scalable solution that we know we can depend on.

In addition to all of the above, it’s a managed service which is just what we needed. We get the technical support and back-up from Melbourne so we can concentrate our resources on developing and marketing our website to enable more people to benefit from fee-free giving. Melbourne have designed the solution so that it supports our projected growth over the next 3 to 5 years.

How important is it to have a highly available website?

Our site receives and processes donations 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so downtime is not an option. Our fundraisers and charities want to receive as much support and as many donations as possible so our service needs to be available at any time of day.

As a result we need a flexible solution that delivers a fast user experience on an ‘always available’ website and is robust enough to handle large volumes of donors at any one time.

Also, we can’t predict traffic levels so we need to be prepared for any level of visits to the site. It’s not always obvious if a fundraising campaign is going to take off so we need a solution that can expand to meet demand whenever it happens, without the site hanging or crashing.

What’s your relationship like with Melbourne?

We have a really positive relationship with Melbourne. They listened to what we needed and produced a solution that worked not only for the present but for the future. Plus they have become a sponsor too.

On a day-to-day basis they look after all the technical stuff and we crack on with everything else. If there are any issues they’re usually fixed before we’ve noticed them!

What does the future hold for Make a Donation?

At the moment we have over 2,600 charities on our website. Among the bigger charities which have embraced our new way of fundraising are Cyclists Fighting Cancer, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, St James’s Place Foundation, Dreamflight and Age UK.

More than a hundred of our charities also use our crowd funding option as well which allows them to promote more specific campaigns, such as funding a particular piece of hospital equipment.

We have over 10,500 individual fundraisers using the website. Many of them also do challenges for charities such as for Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and Prostate Cancer UK.

Make a Donation’s vision is for a world where fees for charities are non-existent. Our mission is simple – to revolutionise the future of charitable giving in the UK.