How Multi-Vendor Cloud & Donation Platform Help Comic Relief Cope With Red Nose Day Surge

Comic Relief CTO Zenon Hannick explains how downtime on Red Nose Day could cost charity tens of millions of pounds and how its IT is set up to avoid that

These spikes in demand also mean cloud is a necessity for the organisation, and helps to minimise the threat of a service outage.

“We are the perfect example of cloud,” says Hannick. “We have no traffic for 11 and a half months and then the campaign starts [and it increases dramatically].

“One of the big advantages of using technology like CloudFoundry is it allows us to switch between different providers. Our website runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS) but our donations platform runs on different providers. Originally it was a private cloud provider but now it’s [public cloud].”

Socially mobile

comic-relief-red-nose-day-2The desire to make it as easy to donate as possible extends to its website and social media. And there is a recognition that online is going to become increasingly important as viewing habits change.

“The linear TV world is changing,” elaborates Hannick. “We’ve raised more than £1 billion in our 25 years, but the next stage is the digital experience. Our TV show is very linear – great comedy and videos that show need where [support is] needed. In the digital space, we need to replicate this.”

When asked if the charity would look to use data analytics to improve the understanding of its donors, Hannick replies “Absolutely”.

“One of the major projects we’re delivering this year is single supporter view,” he says, explaining this will allow the organisation to see if a person is a fundraiser, a donor and which campaigns they support. “We have a lot of data but it’s not so easy to discover [at present].”

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Charitable intentions

Comic Relief will also employ social media listening tools to help it better understand its supporters.

These are measures used by retailers to help drive more sales and although there are some challenges it faces that the private sector might not, many of the questions Hannick faces are the same as CTOs in the private sector – especially with regards to cybersecurity.

“One of the unique challenges for charities is that we don’t have the same money to spend so you must be more cautious,” he says. “We can’t pay as much for talent but we can provide a great sense of purpose and [the opportunity to] make a difference to other people’s lives.”

Comic Relief is a big supporter of Open Source and uses Drupal on its website, and it contributes to charitable technology projects that can be used by other non-profit organisations too.

“But a lot is the same,” he concludes. “When the audience is changing and the tech is changing you need to keep on top of it.”

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