Firespring, Raikes students collaborate on new giving day software

May 18, 2017      By Victoria Grdina

Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management
Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management

Firespring is a company that’s all about giving back. Its latest project with Raikes School Design Studio students will help nonprofits give back even more to their communities. 

The two teams collaborated to create a more functional software solution for the Lincoln Community Foundation — one that could handle high visitor volumes for a cheaper price. The new platform would allow the foundation to accommodate sharp web traffic increases on occasions like Give to Lincoln Day while keeping costs low the rest of the year. 

“We heard how much [Lincoln nonprofits] were getting charged and were like, ‘Holy cow. You guys are losing a lot of your donation money to this,’” Firespring product manager Andrew Newton said. “We have the means to help them set up the same type of platform, but for dramatically less, so more of the money that they raise goes to the actual people they’re donating to.” 

Firespring then teamed up with Raikes students to build a new website using AWS Lambda, a serverless architecture provided by Amazon Web Services primarily designed for giving day events. Unlike other websites that communicate with one or a few specific servers, a website using AWS Lambda can run its code through Amazon’s mass number of servers when web traffic suddenly spikes. 

“One of the cool things about AWS Lambda is that it has so few components,” senior project manager Wyatt Goodin said. “So much is handled for you, which has its benefits and drawbacks, but it’s an interesting new way of things working. I can see a lot of future applications for it as it becomes more developed and well grounded.” 

Not only will the new platform help cut costs for nonprofit clients, but it may help them gain donations too. Major outages and crashes are possible during periods of abnormally high activity, causing foundations to lose out on even more funds. AWS Lambda is constructed specifically for such occasions.

“We built this from the ground up in a way that essentially can’t go down,” Newton said. “We’re using AWS in a way that is very robust and not prone to having issues that would disrupt the giving day.” 

Newton also said that the technology is new to Firespring, and the team members have enjoyed the collaborative learning experience. They plan to transition the finished product over to Firespring and expand its use with future clients. 

“The hope is that we’ll be able to take what we’re making here and adapt it so another community foundation could use the same thing,” Newton said. “We’re not just helping one nonprofit. It’s something that can benefit the whole community.”