Why Nonprofit Exchange trusts DigitalOcean to enable its impactful ripple effect

Helpaction website
There’s no way that I would have pushed our platform as an emergency disaster relief platform if I didn’t know, with 100% confidence, that I could trust our infrastructure. And that’s a tribute to DigitalOcean.

Nonprofit Exchange is a technology nonprofit established in 2015 whose mission is to maximize capacity for charitable organizations through custom, low-cost technology solutions.

As long-time customers, Nonprofit Exchange uses DigitalOcean Droplets as a foundation to enable their work, and the work of many nonprofits across the U.S. Executive Director John Hernandez shared that he first signed up for DigitalOcean on a recommendation from colleagues who trusted the technology. Over time, Nonprofit Exchange has increasingly relied on DigitalOcean for three key reasons:

  • Scalability: “The ability to instantly scale our Droplets allows us to feel confident in supporting even more nonprofits and projects—especially when we’re dealing with emergency situations.”

  • Easily-accessible resources: “When a university asked for our help raising money for its gala, we were able to use DigitalOcean’s readily provided information on our server’s infrastructure to quickly and efficiently become a registered vendor.”

  • Platform confidence: “DigitalOcean provides a safe and secure environment where our programs and services can scale. When you have infrastructure that grows with you—one that you never have to worry about—it allows you to focus on the main mission of your organization.”

Building nonprofit tools on DigitalOcean

When John began working with local nonprofits in El Paso, Texas, he quickly realized that many had similar pain points. Prior knowledge of the developer space led him to one conclusion: he could create one technology solution that simultaneously solves all of these pain points. Enter: The Nonprofit Exchange—a nonprofit agency serving multiple charitable organizations with simple technology solutions.

At the time, many existing products available to nonprofits were too expensive, yet not robust enough. The first solution John and his team built was an SMS fundraising platform called Donor Charm, a platform built on DigitalOcean and powered by Twilio. The platform has more than 100 customizable features to support a nonprofit’s mission and fundraising campaigns.

Donor Charm shows the power of text-based donations with engaging visuals. For one hospital foundation whose annual theme centered around butterflies, Donor Charm created a visual of a 3D sky. Every time someone donated, a new butterfly would enter the visual. By the end of the event, the 3D sky was full of butterflies, enhancing the donation—and overall event—experience.

DigitalOcean is the foundation for this product, and ongoing, the platform ensures these kinds of projects always stay online. To date, Donor Charm has helped raise over $3,000,000 in donations and serves more than 200 nonprofits and 10,000 donors.

But the impact doesn’t stop with each fundraising campaign. Nonprofit Exchange also licenses the fundraising platform to other nonprofits around the country, allowing them to enable more nonprofits and fund new project ideas.

Platform flexibility allows Nonprofit Exchange to adapt its tools as community needs arise

In addition to developing impactful tools, Nonprofit Exchange makes a point to foster a community where they can hear from other nonprofits about the areas of greatest need. One of the projects that came out of those community sessions was a delivery program called HelpAction.

HelpAction started as a logistics management tool for nonprofits dealing with emergencies. In 2017, when El Paso was deemed a safe space for migrants, local Facebook pages would be inundated with posts from nonprofits: “We had 300 families dropped off downtown last night. They have no blankets. They have no food.” HelpAction would coordinate the delivery of 300+ meals and blankets to these families.

When Covid-19 struck local communities in Texas, the tool morphed into a neighbor-to-neighbor program that connected people who were quarantining with pantries offering home deliveries. However, once pantries began to struggle with the overwhelming call for home deliveries, HelpAction adapted again. It became a dispatch service—similar to Uber—where pantries could put in a delivery order, and they would be connected to a volunteer who could pick up food from the pantry and take it to the family in need.

Most recently, during the flooding in New Orleans, the historic freeze in Austin, and the tornado season in Dallas, HelpAction again transformed to serve the area of highest need; it became an emergency disaster relief platform.

Having the infrastructure to help more than 1,000 people in Austin in one weekend was critical. Because the Nonprofit Exchange team knew it could trust its DigitalOcean infrastructure to stay up and manage requests instantly, the HelpAction platform was able to step up for the community during these dire emergencies.

“I would not have pushed it out as disaster relief if I didn’t know we could trust our infrastructure,” said John Hernandez. “We pushed HelpAction out the door without any volunteers signed up. We were new in Austin. And the next morning, we woke up to about 700 volunteers. We completed 200 emergency deliveries in one weekend to people stranded at home without power, food, electricity, or water. And we certainly wouldn’t have been able to do that without a stable infrastructure.”

Nonprofit Exchange





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