How building on Heroku opened the floodgates to innovation for charity: water.


charity: water



charity: water was founded in 2006 to help solve the global water crisis. Not only are they on a mission to bring clean water to every person on the planet, but the organization is also committed to reinventing charity for a new generation of donors and fundraisers.

Many people are reluctant to give to nonprofits because they don’t know how their donations will be used. That’s why charity: water makes sure that 100% of public donations fund clean water projects. The organization depends on private donors, foundations, and sponsors to cover everything from staff salaries and basic office systems to office rent and supplies.

The organization's team of nine engineers built and maintain a range of apps beyond their main website. The challenge for charity: water was a set of back-end systems originally built on PHP and Java. The team decided to rebuild charity: water’s entire fundraising system from scratch. But they needed a solution that was flexible enough to support a more agile process, could increase the pace of development, save costs, and easily integrate third-party services, such as its payment processors and general ledger system.

The engineering team was already familiar with Heroku from Salesforce and many of the consulting partners they had worked with recommended Heroku as their go-to PaaS solution.

The team has been migrating parts of its system to Heroku using Ruby on Rails connected to a Heroku Postgres database. The team’s marketing site is currently in PHP running on a traditional hosting solution, and this year they plan to rebuild it on Heroku. Most recently, a system that collects water flow data from sensors installed on wells was built on Heroku. Going forward, anything new will be built on Heroku.


Our experience with Salesforce has been so seamless — it not only saves us time, but saves on opportunity cost.”

The developers love the wide range of Heroku add-ons and they’ve integrated many of them, including Heroku Postgres, Heroku Redis, Codeship, Fastly, Cloudinary, Rollbar, Sentry, SendGrid, Papertrail, SSL, Adept Scale, MemCachier, Redis To Go, Heroku Scheduler, and Deploy.

“Heroku add-ons have saved our team a lot of time and effort. They are really easy to use and easy to integrate.” said Matthew Eckstein, CTO.

The engineers at charity: water take a test- driven development approach, using Heroku’s Review Apps feature for quality control before merging their new code to the master and deploying it to a Heroku pipeline. Each developer is responsible for the end-to-end delivery of the feature he or she is working on. The team takes full advantage of Heroku’s Git integration and runs continuous integration and continuous delivery processes.


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