AWS Startups Blog

How FUNDER Inc. is using Elastic Beanstalk and Amazon SQS to power a fresh take on charitable fundraising.

Guest post by Keelan Brown , Co-Founder and CPO of FUNDER Inc .

FUNDER Inc. builds prize draws of any kind, turning them into powerful fundraising tools for nonprofits and the charitable foundations of major brands and sports clubs. Combining technology and entertainment, our goal is to reinvent a time-honored fundraising method. People are increasingly switching off to traditional giving methods due to high-pressure donation tactics. Our goal is to create a value exchange for participants through an enjoyable user experience centered around rewards that backers and supporters genuinely care about. The FUNDER platform autoscales with increasing demand, allowing for both online and physical ticket sales related to live events or ongoing campaigns. This is paired with providing real-time proceeds data and informative content to backers through bespoke front end sites.

From MVP to the Premier League

Our Minimum Viable Product was an augmented version of the half-time draw commonly seen at sporting matches around the UK. The increasing prize total is broadcast to fans playing at home, and throughout stadium multimedia in real-time as tickets are sold. This model provides a fundraising channel that also doubles as a fan engagement tool. We were fortunate to initially partner with EFL Championship side, Brentford FC, and more than doubled their matchday fundraising proceeds in our inaugural season. In addition to increasing charitable proceeds, backers are able to gain insights into specific fundraising initiatives like supporting outstanding young people under the age of 18 who care for family members with an illness, or disability.

Our proof of concept AWS application architecture consisted of modular, fixed instances hosting our CMS, API service, random number generator, and admin portal. These instances were a combination of large and extra large EC2s that were approaching vertical compute limits, especially on busy matchdays when supporters would fill the stadiums and cause a spike in sales traffic.

Leveraging Elastic Beanstalk and SQS

Working with input from Amazon solutions architects we redesigned our platform infrastructure, switching to a container based system running on top of the Elastic Beanstalk environment. Our new infrastructure has allowed us to run multiple fundraising draws at the same time, and scale our sales capacity when needed. Using Elastic Beanstalk simplifies the creation of all the resources necessary to generate the different load balanced server clusters required to run our application. Elastic Beanstalk also lets us use Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) to provide scalable processing of queued jobs, allowing our ticketing transactions to ramp up in an organized fashion. Should future traffic indicate the need for more scaling, it’s nice to know there are services like Amazon Lambda available to handle ever-increasing volumes.

Redesigning our infrastructure allowed us to confidently partner with Premier League powerhouse, Chelsea FC, and the partnership has gone on to raise over £115,000 in total proceeds during its inaugural season. An expanded product suite has also allowed us to partner with charitable organizations like Plan International and Bridges for Music, which are currently raising funds for gender equality and international development.

Restoring trust in fundraising

FUNDER Inc. is currently developing blockchain applications for our platform that tackle two issues facing both fundraising and gaming. These issues are: a lack of transparency into the distribution of charitable proceeds, and the mistrust of methods used to select the winners of prize draws. By introducing cryptocurrency payments and blockchain hosted smart contracts, we aim to show a completely transparent distribution of funds from the time a player purchases a ticket, up until a non-profit receives its supporting contribution. Initially, we aim to restore trust in prize draws by placing payments, eligible tickets and winning numbers on the blockchain for public verification. This will allow us to keep compute heavy resources off chain and still leverage the low latency, high throughput architecture of AWS, while putting the most trust sensitive pieces of data on the blockchain.

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung currently works in startup content at AWS and was previously the head of content at Index Ventures. Prior to joining the corporate world, Michelle was a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, the founding Business Editor at the Huffington Post, a correspondent for The Boston Globe, a columnist for Publisher’s Weekly and a writer at Entertainment Weekly.