The website for Give STL Day, a once-a-year charity drive on behalf of St. Louis-area nonprofits, experienced technical difficulties for much of Tuesday, though it remains unclear how much they affected donations.
Give STL Day started in 2014, and took in $1.1 million for about 520 nonprofits, and in 2015, it took in $2.1 million for 790 groups, Give STL Day spokeswoman Margaret Welch said.
By 4 p.m. Wednesday, however, Give STL Day estimated the 2016 total came to about $1.6 million after it continued receiving donations Wednesday morning through an improved site and impromptu phone bank.
Kimbia, the company providing technical support to process donations, offered a deep apology to everyone affected.
“We are sorry,” the group wrote on its blog. “(T)he past 10 hours have been some of the most painful of our lives... We understand the frustration this day has caused and it is our sincere hope that people will rally together to continue to show love and support to their favorite nonprofits all over the nation.”
This year was the first time the Katherine Dunham Center for Arts and Humanities participated in Give STL Day, board president Laverne Backstrom said.
She had hoped that the donation marathon would have netted the group about $2,500 for operation costs and to help pay for the group’s 33rd annual dance seminar, but, as of Wednesday afternoon, the treasurer informed Backstrom that the center had received only $170.
Backstrom didn’t know whether the website problems stymied the museum’s chances to collect more money, though she said she was watching her Facebook feed closely Tuesday afternoon and keeping in touch with people who wrote they weren’t able to make a donation. Then, when Give STL Day posted a phone number people could call, she passed it on and didn’t hear from anyone saying they couldn’t get through.
Even though the museum didn’t reach its goal, Backstrom said she hopes the publicity of the event and having the Kathern Dunham center on the Give STL Day’s website will draw more attention to the group.
Mary Anne Gunn, the vice president of marketing for Kimbia, said that it noticed the service delays around 9 a.m. and that they got worse throughout the day. At the end of the day, though, it was able to process $29 million for 47 communities participating in Give Local America, she said, adding that all of Tuesday’s donations were processed by Wednesday morning.
Various nonprofit organizations turned to social media sites to alert possible donors that the website wasn’t working properly.
“People in St. Louis and across the country are being so generous on GiveSTLDay, we temporarily jammed up the Internet,” the St. Louis Community Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes other nonprofits and was the presenting sponsor facilitating Give STL Day, wrote on its Facebook page at 11:18 a.m. Tuesday.
KSDK Channel 5 stepped forward to offer its phone bank and began accepting call-in donations at 2 p.m., the Community Foundation announced.
The station staffed a total of seven phone lines with 25 people from the Community Foundation and “other trusted parties” who worked until midnight, Welch said.
Because the phone lines were busy, Give STL Day was extended into Wednesday.
Around the time KSDK began taking calls, the Community Foundation wrote on Facebook that it would accept donations from 6 a.m. to noon. Then, around 8 p.m., the Community Foundation announced that the extension would be until 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
A shaky website didn’t stop the nonprofits from trying to capitalize on Give STL Day, however, as several let people know that they were staffed to accept donations themselves.
By 4 p.m., the St. Louis Community Foundation announced on Facebook that Kimbia was still having problems with its site.
On Wednesday, Welch, the spokeswoman for Give STL Day, praised the “cooperation, patience and understanding” of the nonprofits and everyone involved.
“You always go into these events with a goal in mind,” Welch said in reference to how much she hoped nonprofits would raise Tuesday. But with the day’s challenges, she added, the goal was to keep the lines of communication open between the phones and donors, which were often busy.
The St. Louis Community Foundation will make a report on the event, but Welch did not say when that would be. By 4 p.m. Wednesday, she estimated that the campaign took in $1.6 million, not including donations made directly to the groups themselves.
Welch said that the website taking donations operated fine in 2014 and 2015.
“We’re going to be in discussions with Kimbia going forward about the day’s events and other issues,” Welch said.
“Give STL Day has always been about our nonprofits,” she said. “We will be looking to our nonprofits” for input for 2017.