The Seattle Foundation's annual Give BIG initiative, which brings more than 1,500 non-profit organizations (in the arts, healthcare, housing, transit, the environment, and every other charitable discipline) for a single day of collective (sort of) fund-raising that my Stranger colleague emeritus Brendan Kiley called "a one-day rodeo of altruism" is happening right now. I would amend Brendan only to say that the event feels more gladiatorial than equestrian, but who cares? Good cause, big money, no whammies, stop.
Whatever you think about the relative merits of Give BIG, however, you can at least agree that it should work well enough to accept money from people who are trying to give it. That hasn't been everyone's experience today. Reports have spread that the donation platform used by the Seattle Foundation has been either broken or extremely slow for much of the day, discouraging would-be donors and terrifying the leaders of small organizations, which can't afford to turn money away. The problem appears to be with the new donation software—the platform is called Kimbia, and its failure is apparently happening nationwide. And it's not simply a question of slow load times from unanticipated traffic. Donations are apparently working for some organizations (I just donated $10 to Hugo House as a test and it seemed to work fine), but not for others.
In public anyway, nonprofit organizers are putting an optimistic face on a huge disaster, encouraging people to donate directly to the organizations' websites.
"Beginning around 9:30 am," wrote Shannon Halberstadt, Executive Director at Artist Trust, "our development staff was unable to log into GiveBIG's new Kimbia platform, and the fields on Artist Trust's public GiveBIG donation page no longer appeared. Seattle Foundation has reported that they are having technical difficulties, asking for patience, and Kimbia has also reported that their system is down nationwide. Our goal was to raise around $12,000 today. Before the system went down we had raised around $2,500 toward a match gift of $5,500. Since around noon we've been sending people directly to artisttrust.org to donate, and a handful of folks have donated via our site.
"We're very appreciative of the culture of philanthropy that GiveBIG helps to build, and there are many donors who wait to make donations on GiveBIG day. Like many non-profits, Artist Trust has come to rely on GiveBIG as a piece of our fundraising efforts. Artist Trust will be able to manage any loss that might occur if GiveBIG's technical difficulties leave us short of our goal, but it is a shame to miss this opportunity to support artists. Fingers crossed we reach our goal regardless."
Halberstadt's sentiments are shared by countless other organizers, who are desperately encouraging potential donors to continue to give directly. You can also try the Give BIG site. If you have a lot of extra time and aren't worried about the possibility that this is worse than just a glitch.
I have misgivings about Give BIG, not because I object to philanthropy—in the absence of meaningful institutional and/or tax support, it's the only hope (though it's always frustrating to nearly agree with a libertarian)—or event the vaguely Hunger Gamesy culture it fosters. The issue is that it places far too many far-too-precious eggs in a single, evidently flimsy basket. This magnitude of charitable giving shouldn't be stunt-based. The goal this year was to raise $20 million. With nine and a half hours left, Give BIG 2016 has raised just over $6.6million.
There are still almost 10 hours left in the donation day, so it's surely possible that the Seattle Foundation and Kimbia will turn the mess around. But there's no mistaking that a mess is what it is. A Seattle Foundation spokesperson just called to tell me they'd be making a statement about the situation shortly. No representative from Kimbia could be reached.