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GoFundMe reinvests in search to help donors find the causes they believe in

There are huge benefits we've found with Algolia. It moves some of the search infrastructure to a managed cloud service. It allows for quick basic implementations as well as ongoing iterations with more advanced feature sets, with limited code changes. And it has a great set of libraries, documentation, and hand-on support to launch a new search experience with confidence.

Mark Peter

Software Engineering Manager @ GoFundMe
gofundme
Use case

B2B SaaS

Headquarters

Redwood City, CA

Customer since

since 2016

Feature usage

Search, A/B Testing, InstantSearch, Query Suggestions

Key results
  • Simplified configuration and maintenance

  • Increased click through rate and conversions for top fundraisers

  • Greater resilience due to cloud-based architecture

Key numbers
  • 1% incremental click through rate from primarily explicit searches

  • 15% increase in engagement

The challenges

  • 1.

    Reduce manual processes involved in configuring search

  • 2.

    Avoid platform crashes or downtime

  • 3.

    Make it easier for donors to find the fundraising campaigns

  • 4.

    Conduct extensive analytics to drive clicks and conversions

The solution

  • 1.

    Quick to implement and easy to configure

  • 2.

    SaaS-based solution for resilience and to reduce maintenance

  • 3.

    A/B Testing doesn’t require any coding intervention

  • 4.

    Hands on Solutions Architect support

The result

  • 1.

    Incremental increase in click through to fundraising campaigns

  • 2.

    High conversions (number of donations) through top fundraiser carousel

  • 3.

    Reduced technical overhead

  • 4.

    Easier onboarding of technical staff

Based in Redwood City, GoFundMe is a company with the vision to “be the most helpful place in the world”. As the world’s largest fundraising platform, GoFundMe enables people to raise money for themselves, their community, or causes they care about. Across the site, you will find individuals fundraising for needs and dreams, ranging from life’s milestones — weddings and graduations — to its hardships — medical bills from accidents or illnesses — to community projects, such as neighborhood gardens, or jerseys for a soccer team. 

GoFundMe provides these individuals with the tools to share their stories and ask for help, with a global audience of potential donors. Users create a fundraiser telling their story with a goal amount they hope to raise, adding photos or videos to illustrate their circumstances and what the funds would be used for. They then promote their fundraiser across social media, spreading the word to friends, family, and donors all over the world. 

“Our mission is to help people help each other, and one of the ways we do that is by matching people with various needs with donors.” – Bryan Sim, Senior Product Manager at GoFundMe

A donation is made through GoFundMe every second, and since its founding in 2010, the GoFundMe community has raised more than $15 billion from over 200 million donations. 

For GoFundMe, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for potential donors to find fundraisers that speak to them. Often, a potential donor will only remember one specific element of a fundraiser. They might have heard about it on the news, social media, through a friend or family member, and only remember the fundraiser’s name, location, or specific details about the cause. Algolia allows potential donors to use these bits of information to track down the GoFundMe campaign they’re looking for, says Bryan Sim, a Senior Product Manager at GoFundMe responsible for Search. 

This unique context is what led GoFundMe to partner with Algolia to free its engineering team from the maintenance of the general search engine infrastructure, and to focus more on the product decisions close to the core of the company’s strategy.

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Algolia’s history with GoFundMe

GoFundMe first began working with Algolia in 2016, replacing its other monolithic search engine software. Algolia’s Software-as-a-Service architecture was a boon for Peter and the team that handles Search functionality at GoFundMe. In addition to reducing the technical overhead of maintenance, being cloud-based provides the resilience Peter needs. 

“What keeps me up at night is part of our technology breaking down. That can happen for all kinds of reasons, which is the benefit of cloud services for basic architecture and SaaS. It becomes their responsibility,” he says. 

“On the search engine side, with our previous provider, we’d have to have a team to run it, and this is extra overhead. And what happens if it fails for some reason? Who’s around to fix it?” - Mike Peter, Software Engineering Manager 

In fact, Peter adds, Algolia required so little maintenance it ran “kind of on autopilot” - allowing the company to focus on other priorities - until 2019 when GoFundMe decided to revisit and reinvest in Search.

Algolia helps GoFundMe reinvestment in search

Once this plan was in motion, Algolia’s client-side libraries allowed GoFundMe to easily add new features like InstantSearch and Query Suggestions. In addition, the flexibility of Algolia’s APIs allowed GoFundMe to create a whole new set of pages; GoFundMe’s “discovery” pages, where donors can browse for campaigns representing different types of causes such as medical, education, environment, and more. This flexibility extends to GoFundMe’s homepage, where Peter’s team has used Algolia to easily implement a carousel that shows featured campaigns. 

Peter praises the strong working relationship with Algolia solutions architects in making the new updates and feature implementations easier. “Elisabeth, our CSM, has been really great and hands-on,” he says. “Weekly check-ins and having a technical person essentially on-call really helped with things like drilling down on specifics around how we wanted the index to work or finding some technical ‘gotchas’. Algolia customer support is in general very good but having that extra level of feedback was great.” Algolia enabled GoFundMe to easily implement these new features, but what proved equally valuable was its out-of-the-box A/B testing capabilities. This helped GoFundMe optimize click through rates and increase conversion soon after integrating Algolia onto their platform. In practical terms, this meant more donations getting into the hands of the people who needed it. 

“This was a feature that jumps out at as one of the hardest to build and maintain in house,” Peter says. “One of the great features of Algolia is the purely back-end A/B Testing. That means we can run tests completely independent of UI changes. I’m a huge fan of that, and it worked really well.”

Algolia powers GoFundMe’s unique search applications

In addition to enabling the quick development of new features, as well as rapid A/B testing, an unexpected benefit of working with Algolia was how much its dashboard helped new GoFundMe product managers and software engineers with onboarding - a feature that would be costly and time-consuming to build and manage in-house, Peter points out. Sim himself was able to use the dashboard to quickly get up to speed when joining the organization in 2021. 

“I was able to quickly understand how people were using Search across the site and get a quick sense of what kind of queries were being made, as well as how to group them by intent,” he says. “This was much easier than having to dig up that information from a data warehouse somewhere.”

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Algolia as a partner in GoFundMe’s future

The next step to improving GoFundMe’s search experience, according to Sim, is to integrate the learnings about users’ search intent, derived from Algolia, into GoFundMe’s search UI. In addition, improving the way GoFundMe leverages Algolia’s ranking factors will help to improve users’ experience when browsing for campaigns on GoFundMe’s “Discover” pages, allowing them to more easily find causes and campaigns that are relevant to them. 

This is especially relevant to GoFundMe as many people today first encounter GoFundMe through referrals - campaigns their friends or family have created - and helping these users discover that they can use GoFundMe as a platform to ask for and offer help, an opportunity that Algolia Search can play a major role in.

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