As PPGF began to process higher volumes of donations and distribute more funds to charities, its legacy on-premises ERP system could no longer keep up with skyrocketing growth.
2,500%increased capacity to handle number of donations per day
98%faster turnaround to process monthly payments to charities
ExpeditedERP system migration requiring only 6 months to move from on-premises to cloud solution
Business challenge story
A burning need for charitable giving
Under blood-red skies, in scenes reminiscent of “Mad Max”, thousands of Australians donned makeshift masks and drove through thick smoke, searching for safety during the 2019 - 2020 wildfire season. As reports about the catastrophe unfolded, people from around the world responded with an outpouring of donations to help Australians impacted by the fires.
One of the key conduits delivering aid for Australian wildfire relief was PPGF, which enabled fundraising platforms to raise over USD 65 million to help a variety of charities combat the conflagration and provide support to the communities they serve.
PPGF uses innovative PayPal technology to make it easy for donors to support charities on the websites and mobile apps they use every day. PPGF grants donated funds to the charities specified by the donors, without charging a fee for its services. Over the last nine years, PPGF has raised almost USD 1 billion for charitable causes through its platform.
Just as the Australian wildfire season began to wind down, another crisis started in China and soon spread around the world — the COVID-19 pandemic. Local, regional and global charities rallied to help healthcare organizations and people affected by the outbreak. Uniquely positioned to facilitate online fundraising, PPGF processed millions of dollars’ worth of donations for COVID-19 relief during the first four months of 2020.
However, if it wasn’t for a strategic decision made by its management, PPGF may not have had the technical infrastructure to handle the surge it has experienced in 2020. That’s because in early 2019, PPGF was still using a custom-built, on-premise platform that was almost a decade old — and built for a much smaller organization.
Starting in 2017, PPGF experienced an over 500% increase in the number of annual donations, with 4.3 million transactions processed in 2019. When batch-processing monthly payments to charities, PPGF’s legacy system often required two days to complete the work, plus more time for staff to find and correct missing transactions and other errors. The legacy system also did not have the flexibility to quickly onboard new merchant partners or easily enable PPGF to add more countries to its charitable giving platform.
“We essentially outgrew our on-premise system,” says Joshua Tripp, President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of PPGF. “Our transaction volume grew exponentially, and our processes were getting bogged down. On top of that, upgrades were difficult and users had to navigate multiple firewalls to get access. We needed to find a more scalable accounting system.”
Combining the right teams and technologies
When PPGF began exploring solutions, it turned to its parent organization for advice. “We learned that SAP and IBM Services had years of experience implementing SAP S/4HANA at PayPal, and it made sense that our first conversation would be with them,” says Tripp.
Further research led to more insights about operational advantages PPGF could accrue from a cloud-based platform. “We liked the idea of a cloud system that was more accessible and scalable,” says Tripp. “We would also have more frequent upgrades that happen in the background instead of going through disruptive, customized upgrade processes like we did with our legacy system.”
After starting migration to the SAP S/4HANA Cloud system in late April 2019, PPGF saw a major timing challenge ahead, because nearly half of all charitable giving occurs during the last two months of the year. “We were concerned that our existing system would not be able to handle the volume of donations in November and December,” says Tripp. “Could we get the new system done by the end of October to be fully tested, live and ready for the giving season?”
IBM Services took the lead on project management and technical implementation using a one team, best practices approach. At the beginning of the project, PPGF used the IBM® HANA Impact Assessment solution to help define the migration, deployment and transformation roadmap and standardize processes. IBM and SAP team members also deployed assets such as:
- Best Practices for SAP S/4HANA Cloud
- SAP S/4HANA Conversions Lessons Learned
- SAP S/4HANA Conversion Process Flow
- SAP S/4HANA Standard Migration Cockpit
Combined, these steps helped ensure a smooth transition to SAP S/4HANA solutions. “Everyone was very clear about what needed to happen to meet our deadline and make sure we got the right answers at the right time,” says Tripp.
Most of the technical challenges of the PPGF implementation related to APIs and connecting the SAP S/4HANA system with both upfront payment databases and back-end databases providing donation dashboards to charities. “IBM’s experts helped us ensure that the APIs and databases were set up correctly and that the data was flowing in and out of system correctly,” says Tripp. “For us, migration of historical data to the new system was pretty straightforward.”
More bandwidth benefits more causes
Within days of going live, the new PPGF system received its first major test with the launch of PayPal Give at Checkout, a new service that enabled online shoppers to make charitable donations during checkout. During September and October, PPGF averaged about 20,000 donations per day. But now, with the Give at Checkout option being presented to a wide base of PayPal users, donation volumes quickly doubled to over 40,000 transactions a day.
The next test came in early December 2019 with two of the biggest online events of the year. PPGF handled nearly 100,000 transactions on Cyber Monday and over 85,000 transactions on Giving Tuesday without any issues. But as impressive as these transaction figures were, they paled in comparison to what came in 2020. While wildfires raged in Australia, PPGF received as many as 535,000 donations on a peak day and averaged over 100,000 transactions per day during the month of February. The peak donation volume represented a 2,500% increase in capacity required to handle the number of donations per day.
“In our old system, we definitely would have struggled to handle these volumes. It would have taken us days to post that data into our system and process that amount of data,” says Tripp. We were fortunate that we had transitioned to SAP S/4HANA prior to this tremendous increase in donation volume. The platform has scaled nicely.”
Typically, PPGF sends the money it collects from donors to charities in monthly batches. However, with charities needing to respond faster to societal needs in the wake of the Australian wildfires and the COVID-19 outbreak, PPGF needed to respond faster, too. “We are able to integrate data more quickly and have much greater visibility into the donation data in our system,” says Tripp. “This visibility, couple with a streamlined and faster payout process, allows us to be more flexible about making expedited payouts to charities with critical needs.”
The public health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring large numbers of donors through PPGF. “PayPal has launched COVID-19 campaigns on its website in each of the four countries where PPGF operates. Other PPGF fundraising partners have also launched a variety of campaigns and fundraisers to raise funds for critical needs,” says Tripp. “We have seen both the number of transactions and dollar value of donations through PPGF double from February to April 2020.”
PPGF continues to add more merchant partners and charities to its network to enable more giving during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first four months of 2020, the SAP S/4HANA platform allowed PPGF to add 6,000 new charities to its roster and make grants to over 70,000 charities.
Currently, PPGF operates in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia and plans to launch in Ireland later in 2020. “With SAP S/4HANA, it is a pretty standard process to start up a new country,” says Tripp. “We could be up and running in most countries with limited effort and expense, which is exciting for us.”
“We are excited to have the SAP S/4HANA Cloud platform running smoothly for our core operations, and we will continue to work with IBM Services to implement new features to streamline our operations and improve our decision-making,” says Tripp. “In addition, we will likely work with IBM Services to support us in bringing on new customers, creating innovative experiences and expanding to new countries.”
PayPal Giving Fund
Established in 2011, PPGF uses PayPal technology and financial support to raise funds for causes, without charging donors or charities for its services. The organization is an IRS-registered 501(c)(3) public charity and is also registered in the UK, Canada and Australia. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., PPGF generates more than USD 200 million in donations every year for over 60,000 charities. Some of PPGF’s largest partner websites include Airbnb, eBay for Charity, Facebook, GoFundMe, Humble Bundle and Zakatify.