As the morning unfolded for Give Day Tampa Bay on May 3, all was good. Nearly $400,000 had already been raised for area nonprofits.
But then the national Give Day organization’s online donation system crashed.
An hour passed. Then two. No solution was forthcoming from the national organization. So the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, which runs the local event, took action that literally saved the Day.
Marlene Spalten, CEO of the Community Foundation, gave the authority to her staff and its public relations team (B2) to identify a solution and make it happen. In an effort led by Foundation leaders Matt Spence and Wilma Norton, a new website was developed in about an hour. Then, the new URL was quickly communicated on social media to the participating nonprofits, and to the news media in time for late-afternoon newscasts.
When the dust settled and the donations were counted, Give Day Tampa Bay had raised nearly $2.1 million for area nonprofits, exceeding last year’s mark of $1.7 million.
And in the process, the Foundation got positive news coverage in print, radio and TV outlets for how it resolved the situation.
Here are four tips we learned from the situation that may help if you find yourself in a similar predicament:
- Trust your people to fix the problem. As the Foundation’s staff worked through the solution, Foundation CEO Spalten asked smart, tough questions, then trusted her folks to take action.
- Move quickly. This may seem obvious, but in this situation, taking three or four hours to find a solution wouldn’t have been of any help. So it’s important that you make the best decision you can based on current information, and go with it.
- Communicate. Use all forms of communication available to share updates and how you are fixing the problem. B2 provided consistent updates to key news outlets and other constituencies as the Foundation came up with the solution. Then, we wrote a news advisory in 15 minutes after the solution was implemented, and sent the advisory to news media 15 minutes after that.
- Be apologetic. While the technical problems were not caused by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, it was important to let area nonprofits know that the Foundation was truly sorry that this had occurred, and that the Foundation was focused on doing everything they could to mitigate negative fallout.