How RaiseDonors Uses Cloudflare to Safeguard Their Site During High-Traffic Events

When nonprofits need to raise funds online, they turn to RaiseDonors. For more than 18 years, organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America have used RaiseDonors to provide a secure transaction pipeline for online donations. Every day, the platform hosts as many as 7,000 active donation pages, each collecting up to tens of thousands of dollars.

RaiseDonors uses Cloudflare to detect malicious bot activity and prevent it from impacting their platform. They also rely on the Cloudflare Content Delivery Network (CDN) and Argo Smart Routing to maintain fast page load times and overall performance. Together, these services help RaiseDonors provide seamless, safe donation experiences during high-traffic fundraising periods.

A donation crisis averted

As a highly visible web application that deals with financial data, the RaiseDonors platform regularly faces attacks from malicious users. For this reason, RaiseDonors uses Cloudflare’s Web Application Firewall (WAF) to protect its platform. During a recent Giving Tuesday—an high-traffic three-day event that is critical to RaiseDonors’ business—the Cloudflare WAF blocked over 18,000 attacks.

In addition, RaiseDonors uses Cloudflare to achieve end-to-end SSL (TLS) for user-created donor pages, many of which live under those users’ own domains. This achievement relies on the Cloudflare SSL for SaaS, which automates the process for purchasing, deploying, and managing SSL certificates for custom vanity domains.

Yet certain security threats require a more specialized response.

One such threat involves attackers attempting to use bots and other automated methods to test thousands of stolen credit card numbers on RaiseDonors-powered donation pages. Before Cloudflare, these attacks left the company with an impossible choice: permit fraudulent donations and expose users to tens of thousands of dollars in declined transaction fees, or implement broad access-blocking rules and risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legitimate donations.

This time, RaiseDonors did not have to make that choice. Thanks to the Cloudflare API, RaiseDonors was able to create access IP rules on the fly that stopped incoming attacks after just 12 fake submissions.

“Cloudflare is a huge asset in helping RaiseDonors stay aware of new emerging threats and ensuring those threats are stopped before reaching our servers,” says Chris Mechsner, RaiseDonors’ co-founder.

Stronger platform performance and flexibility

Historically, improving an Internet application’s security has tended to hurt the speed at which it performs. But the RaiseDonors platform actually loads and functions faster than before, thanks to the robust Cloudflare Content Delivery Network (CDN)—which caches static content at the network edge—and to Argo Smart Routing, which intelligently routes traffic around network congestion.

“Cloudflare Argo Smart Routing ensures that donors are routed to the donation resources in as few hops as possible, minimizing time-to-first-byte. Combined with the caching feature, this allows the donor to load the donation page 28 percent faster than our industry's average. The quick rendering helps with our conversion rates, which in turn helps our clients raise more dollars.”

-Chris Mechsner, Co-Founder, RaiseDonors

RaiseDonors also uses the Cloudflare network and routing capabilities to help its users run more creative and adaptable email campaigns. With Cloudflare Workers—serverless applications deployed to the network edge—the company can run A/B tests for its users and automatically direct traffic to different donation page variants.

And, when a RaiseDonors customer accidentally sent an email with a broken donation page URL to five hundred thousand users, Mechsner was able to quickly create a one-off rule in Cloudflare that redirected traffic to the proper page.

“We could not have [rerouted our traffic] that easily if we were just using Azure,” Mechsner says. “It was a huge value add for our customer, and a huge value add for us—we were able to save the day.”

Staying ahead of emerging threats

As cybersecurity threats become more diverse and complex, so too does the process of defending against them. If an organization isn’t careful, they can quickly find themselves using a dozen or more individual security tools, and devoting significant headcount to managing them.

Cloudflare allows RaiseDonors to cut through this complexity.

“I was not interested in a solution to our security and our scalability that involved more than two vendors,” Mechsner says. “Cloudflare sees a lot more traffic than I do, it sees a lot of the anomalies before anyone else, which is why it’s always making real-time updates to its WAF ruleset and always releasing new feature sets. I don’t see as frequent product releases anywhere in this space as I have with Cloudflare. I love that culture.”

Key Results

RaiseDonors successfully blocked more than 18,000 malicious access attempts during the 72-hour Giving Tuesday event.

Cloudflare’s caching capabilities and Argo Smart Routing make RaiseDonors pages load 28 percent faster than the industry average.

With a more robust platform powered by Cloudflare, RaiseDonors increased its average donation amount by over 40% and conversion rate by more than 13 percentage points.

I was not interested in a solution for our security and scalability that involved more than two vendors....I don’t see as frequent product releases anywhere in this space as I have with Cloudflare. I love that culture.

Chris Mechsner
Co-Founder, RaiseDonors