Any Star Wars fan knows, Monday, October 19, was an epic day: tickets went on sale, a full two months ahead of the release, for the seventh installment of the Star Wars epic. The marketing was tight: for the last year or so, early trailers were teasing fans, and on Monday, tickets sales opened to coincide with the release of the latest trailer during Monday Night Football.
The industry knew this would be an epic event. The ticket sales industry was prepared…and then the “unexpected” expected happened. Thousands, if not millions of Star Wars Fans young and old(er), flooded to online movie ticket sale sites to not just nab tickets, but to nab them for opening day, as any true fan would.
And almost every single movie ticket site crashed. Fans all over the nation (and their loved ones) feverishly clicked ‘refresh’ only to be shown error messages like ‘server error’, ‘site not loading’, or ‘site not available right now.’ Imagine the dismay of those whose anticipation for this day had been building for over a year. Their preparation, their eager fingers ready to click…
Eventually, the ticket sellers had to send apologies and fix their sites, but for many fans the damage was done. They may not have gotten the tickets they wanted. Yes they will still go see the movie, and yes, they will probably return to those movie sites to buy tickets, but that is because they were left without alternatives.
The lessons from this debacle to the nonprofit industry are two-fold:
- Expecting high volumes and preparing for high volumes are not the same things. When preparing for the unprecedented volumes that can result from well-planned giving days or crowdfunding events, it is important to work with vendors and technologies that have proven to scale in similar situations. Take the case of the Alamo Drafthouse, a favorite for true filmgoers that expected the high volumes, but did not test and plan appropriately, as a result their entire system crashed for hours.
- A captive audience should be valued; one bad experience can send them packing, looking for alternatives. Just because you know you have a captive audience, doesn’t mean you get to treat them however you want. The attitude that a donor has no options rarely true these days. So, when we put up incredibly tedious and time consuming donation and registration forms, or make our donors, supporters and volunteers jump through ridiculous hoops to show their support for us because we take their passion for granted—we risk losing them in the long run, as more and more options become available for them to show their support. This explains why emerging service providers are focused on empowering supporters to quickly and easily support their organization of choice—frequently and without input from that organization. We can no longer take our supporters’ willingness to jump through our artificial hoops for granted. Our business practices and technology choices have to be more flexible to make it easier, simpler, faster, and more mobile friendly for supporters. We cannot just assume they will come back. And that is what platforms like Kimbia are doing—simple and flexible technology to create a streamlined donor and supporter experience, while still providing the robust back-end reporting and configuration that today’s marketers and fundraisers need as part of their daily toolkit.
And may the Force be with you.