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Fundraising Meets Livestreaming — Softgiving Engages a New Generation of Donors at Scale

It's never been easier for fundraisers to engage their communities.

Matt Pfaltzgraf—CEO and Founder of Softgiving,

Turbulent times often have a silver lining. I’ve seen people rise up in the wake of tragedy or unrest to generously support a cause they believe in. The problem is, a lot of people want to help financially but they don’t know where to start. This is why nonprofits need a way to make themselves known and unlock philanthropic giving where people already spend their time: on social media. We founded Softgiving to help charities engage the next generation of donors across all social channels, particularly during livestreaming events. Our fundraising platform empowers the influencers, those who build communities on these channels, to reach audiences in a way we never thought possible.

Turning passion into purpose through fundraising

At Softgiving, we work with social media influencers that range from individuals with a few followers to global celebrities. Our self-service platform, HERO by Softgiving, enables influencers to raise money for 1.5 million charities thanks to our integration with the donor-advised fund, The Givinga Foundation. HERO by Softgiving is 100% free to use meaning no setup fee, no platform fee and no transaction fees. This means that 100% of what’s raised through goes directly to charity.

Many influencers are new to fundraising and need some assistance starting out. Our team helps influencers set appropriate goals and create campaigns that will feel authentic to their audience. We advise on things like content and creative direction, brand partnerships, and gamification elements, as well as incentives and giveaways. Our job is to help them drive donations on behalf of their favorite cause while engaging their community.

Building our app on Heroku gave us the flexibility we needed to architect our ideal service.

Along with consulting, we provide influencers with simplified campaign management tools. With just a few clicks, influencers can create a new campaign and deliver it as a pop-up window that displays on top of their live streams — we call these windows “charity streams” — as well as across their other social media pages and websites. Charity streams run on any livestreaming platform, such as Twitch, Facebook Gaming, or YouTube Live, and donations are processed through popular payment services that make it easy and convenient to donate.

Building our app on Heroku gave us the flexibility we needed to architect our ideal service. We could develop sophisticated features for our users, as well as easily integrate with third-party systems. The developer experience on Heroku is easy enough that we deploy new updates within minutes and automate many aspects of our process, putting much-needed funds faster into the hands of charities.

Expanding our reach with high-impact innovation

Nonprofits often spend an incredible amount of time and resources to build a presence in the online streaming space with minimal results. To help them tackle this challenge, we offer EVENTS by Softgiving, an online fundraising service that creates and manages high-impact online events on behalf of nonprofits and their brand partners. The service helps these organizations reach new donors — including younger audiences that have traditionally been hard to reach — in innovative ways. EVENTS uses Heroku’s managed data services, like Heroku Postgres and Heroku Redis, to store and process campaign data, so that we can make it available through our partner portal.

A surge of giving back in times of crisis and change

By late 2020, the world had experienced a year of unimaginable social and environmental upheaval. Wildfires tore through millions of acres in Australia and then ravaged the Western U.S. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the health or everyday lives of billions of people around the world. In the U.S. and other countries, social justice issues sparked widespread activism. And that’s just the shortlist.

When a world event occurs, everyone rushes to help at the same time. This triggers a spike in demand for our service.

The scope and urgency of these events prompted influencers to get more involved in philanthropic giving. Particularly during COVID’s onset, it was difficult, or even impossible, to hold in-person fundraisers, so we saw an increase in new influencers looking to run campaigns on Softgiving. As a result, our team has had to scale up operations very quickly and find ways to improve efficiency.

Heroku helps Softgiving keep pace with unpredictable scale

The volume of new campaigns presented our team with some challenges. When a world event occurs, everyone rushes to help at the same time. This triggers a spike in demand for our service, and it’s taken a lot of flexibility and creativity for us to be able to respond quickly to those challenges. From a technical standpoint, Heroku has been a big enabler of that flexibility. Its managed platform helped us launch Softgiving quickly and then stay focused on solving the problems of growth and scale. With Heroku, we don’t worry about managing our app’s infrastructure or spinning up new databases. Instead, we can focus on delivering the best possible experience for all users and empowering anyone who wants to do good.

In a live online experience, you get one chance to get it right, and then it’s over.

It’s hard to predict scalability when a growing community of influencers can engage anywhere from a handful to hundreds of thousands of concurrent online viewers. If our system performs poorly, this may result in lost donations or a negative impact on an influencer’s reach or personal brand. In a live online experience, you get one chance to get it right, and then it’s over. Therefore, we put a huge emphasis on the quality of the charity stream experience.

Our team doesn’t need to worry about viewer influx and can handle traffic spikes in real time by easily scaling the Heroku compute resources that power different parts of the Softgiving platform. Heroku provides operational tools to help the team monitor performance and quickly troubleshoot any issues, so that charity streams stay available to viewers throughout an event.

Softgiving’s impact is delivered in dollars

With Softgiving, anyone can make an impact. Our team has seen streamers with a small number of viewers raise from $100 to $10,000. As might be expected, the wider the reach, the more dollars raised.

Because we’re running on Heroku, we are confident our platform can scale to handle any level of demand.

In December 2020, chess streamer GMHikaru partnered with Softgiving to run a charity stream event on behalf of the humanitarian relief nonprofit, CARE. During the event, fans could donate and win prizes like PlayStation 5 consoles and signed chess boards. During the nine-hour stream, GMHikaru and his community raised $360,253. Another gaming influencer, aDrive, raised more than $295,000 over the course of a couple of days. He partnered with a global energy drink brand that made additional donations to product sales; the brand sold $85,000 worth of product and gained thousands of new customers.

With growing need in the world, and greater interest in fundraising through Softgiving, we expect the volume of campaigns to continue to increase. And because we’re running on Heroku, we are confident our platform can scale to handle any level of demand. Charity streams have proven to be an effective way to raise funds, and we look forward to helping even more people support their favorite causes wherever there is need.

Learn the basics of Heroku, how to build high compliance apps for regulated industries with Heroku, or more about Heroku on the Salesforce Platform.

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