Cloutvocate = Clout + Advocate

Note: all names and visuals used within the platform are either team members from this group or those who have granted us written permission to be featured in an effort to avoid any copyright infringement. The typeface used is Roboto available through Google Fonts.

Context

As an outcome of the current economic crisis, nonprofit organizations have been presented with unprecedented challenges in generating the vital donations they need to ensure their survival and to continue to deliver the programs and services that communities depend on for support. Newly implemented social distancing practices have forced nonprofits to reinvent their modes of awareness and fundraising in order to reach audiences to inspire action and drive the critical donations needed to operate and grow. Drawing funding is an ever-persistent challenge as options for giving diversify and nonprofits struggle to stay digitally relevant with emerging generations of donors.

In today's digital world, influencer marketing is becoming an increasingly beneficial strategy to reach new generations of donors on a global scale. Targeting millennials through influencer marketing campaigns can help nonprofit organizations reach coveted audiences in an organic and captivating way, all while inspiring action to reach critical fundraising goals. The millennial population currently represents the largest segment of social media audiences; thus, leveraging the role of social media influencers as part of a nonprofits awareness strategy can play a vital role in the success of a campaign.

The Problem

When nonprofits and funding sources are not well matched, money doesn’t flow to the areas where it will do the greatest good. For nonprofit organizations, attracting millennials through influencer marketing strategies can be challenging -- finding influencers with similar interests, especially in niche categories, can be difficult; and for a campaign to spark action the message must feel meaningful and authentic to the audience. Sourcing and coordinating mutually beneficial partnerships is a time consuming process that may lead to rejection emails or no response at all. Further to this, influencers may not always be interested in using valuable space on their platform(s) to create custom content promoting a cause, that is, unless they have a personal interest in the mission, or they’re receiving monetary compensation for "paid advertising" integration. This ultimately takes much needed funds away from resources that services and communities depend on. This led us to think...

How might we create a platform that helps the nonprofit sector engage the public to drive critical donations to achieve mission goals and advance the impact that they are looking to have?

The Solution

Introducing Cloutvocate…

A new and innovative matchmaking platform for nonprofit organizations to connect with the right partners to augment campaign awareness and drive vital donations. Using AWS products and services, our team has created a scalable tool to help nonprofits adapt to a changing landscape of patron and audience engagement. This advanced technology has allowed us to re-think how nonprofit organizations can be matched with partners in a way that provides value for all parties involved. Recognizing where friction exists in the current nonprofit-influencer business model, our team has created a platform that integrates a corporate sponsorship component to funnel more revenue into a nonprofit’s cause, incentivize influencers, and align corporations with well-matched social causes and coveted audiences.

Example Scenario

The video above is a demonstration of how an influencer and sponsor can partner together help augment fundraising goals for nonprofit organizations.

Original Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foLlul8Tl3E

This video is listed as available under a creative commons license on YouTube

How We Started

When we began this project we started off by watching the keynote presentation and taking notes to gather insights about the problems nonprofit organizations are currently facing. We decided to use a design sprint methodology to turn these insights into a solution by re-framing key information as How Might We questions which was following by grouping certain themes into an Affinity Diagram, a Note-N-Map exercise, Lightning Demos, and more. Given the massive scope of the problem and the generous amount of information we were provided with at the start, we found that running this process remotely through Miro helped to narrow down big problems into achievable solutions within a short period of time.

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An inside look into our Design Sprint that was used to lead is in the direction of our chosen solution

How It Works

Users are able to sign up as either a nonprofit organization, social media influencer, or corporate sponsor where a series of onboarding questions helps to determine matches based on the user’s chosen parameters.

A nonprofit organization begins by creating and launching a new proposal to a chosen influencer from the list they’ve matched with to determine if their campaign could be of interest to the influencer at that point in time.

The influencer receives the new proposal in their dashboard and is given a chance to review the type of campaign the nonprofit organization has pitched to them. The influencer is able to accept or decline the proposal, and if accepted, they may also decide if they would like to donate a % of the revenue generated from the campaign back to the nonprofit organization in exchange for a tax receipt. Once the influencer approves the campaign, the proposal then enters into the marketplace for a sponsor to buy into.

Once the sponsor receives the proposal, they’re given a chance to review the treatment and decide whether or not buying into the campaign is of interest to them. The sponsor is provided an opportunity to indicate how much of a sponsorship contribution they are willing to make in exchange for brand integration within the content. If approved by the nonprofit and influencer, the sponsor is then able to make their sponsorship payment using AmazonPay that would then be split evenly between a donation to the nonprofit organization and a sponsorship fee to the influencer.

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A user flow diagram of the platform created using Cawemo

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A diagram demonstrating the value proposition of the platform

How We Built It

Cloudvocate is a simple platform built using open source software, open datasets and various services from AWS’s portfolio, including: Strapi and it’s GraphQL API, Angular, PostgreSQL, EC2, S3, Cloudfront, Amplify Console and RDS, all of which are used to empower and deploy this matchmaking platform.

Further to this, Cloutvocate leverages Amazon Pay to facilitate payments from both influencers and sponsors to the nonprofit organization, as well as donations made by the influencer's viewers to the campaign.

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Challenges

  1. We faced multiple crashes with Strapi and after being confused and diagnosed for a couple weeks, it turned out the problem is that PostgreSQL limits table names to 63 characters (MariaDB also limits to 64 characters, so similar restrictions). Because our table names were long, when Strapi generated "many-to-many" tables, they're then truncated and thus created conflicts. So the solution to this is to rename the collection type names to shorter yet still reasonable ones. The good news is that AWS RDS PostgreSQL is performing really well and there is no problem at all, and we're feeling safe that all data is backed up automatically daily, and AWS RDS also performs weekly minor version updates/patches without us having to do anything.

  2. It was challenging to coordinate schedules with a group of international developers but we were able to get together frequently and work cohesively on our application. Using the quite sparse data that was provided by APIs like CharityNavigator, it was a challenge to decide how best to integrate a matching system into the website. While we decided to use the category tag to pair up users and companies, we also brainstormed ways that we can optimize this for even better recommendations.

  3. We discovered late in the development process, after consulting with Alex D., that there is a bug with the Angular framework that is causing issues with AmazonPay integration. We recognize that in theory the platform integration should work seamlessly; however, because of the framework used for this platform there is a bug that is causing issues. Images have been included below to show the code:

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Above is the code Michelle received from Alex Dinnouti in an email, and after testing this code it was found to be working flawlessly, but when we integrated this into the Angular framework the code seems to be broken. After further dialogue with Alex it was found that there is a bug with Angular. As far as we've debugged the issue is something with execution of the vanila JS functions (like window.open() method) which is creating a problem inside the Angular component.

Accomplishments

From Hendy...

"I only recently knew about AWS Amplify Console, and tried to deploy our Angular app straight from GitLab using AWS Amplify Console. In less than 5 minutes the Angular app was live, and I didn't write any code! That was really cool."

From Kori...

“This was my first time integrating Amazon products into a UI design. In addition to this, it was also a lot of fun giving consideration towards how Amazon's products and services could be utilized to produce a solution that responds to the challenges nonprofits are currently facing”

From Michelle...

"It was my first time working with AWS and databases, and I practiced implementing code with real life situations. Integrating python with API requests to analyze the data and writing SQL code in python to interact with the frontend was an amazing learning opportunity for me."

From Rohit...

“I learned about Graphql and why it is the most awesome query language way to work with. Also, I explored different AWS services and how creating an architecture of these services helps.”

From Romeo…

“Learning more about non-profit organizations and their ecosystem was very interesting and rewarding, not to mention all the cool technologies like AWS Amplify Console, Strapi etc we got to play with in the meantime.”

From Shelli...

“I haven't worked with AWS in the past, so it was really cool to learn about the software and services that they provide and to implement these things into a final product.”

What We Learned

  1. There's an untapped market in the business of making partnerships easier and more flexible for nonprofit organizations.

  2. Building pipelines for Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery is ideal, but amplify completely destroys all complexity in writing config files. I (Rohit) learned how and more importantly why we use load balancers. Also, how to map different services in order to host a server for faster response.

  3. Looking at how to create value from a nonprofit's perspective is more challenging than anticipated -- learning how to guide funds in a single direction rather than a typical "buy something / receive something" transaction is tricky.

  4. Working with a team who bring a wide range of skills to the table is the best way to learn from one another about how different products work, different ways to approach a problem, and gain an understanding for how the different roles are interconnected.

What's Next for Cloutvocate

Further iterations aim to include several new features, including:

  1. Use AI/ML to augment our matchmaking capabilities and provide personalized recommendations to show the most relevant NGOs for a given influencer or influencers for a given NGO (use of Sagemaker and/or personalize).

  2. Integration of a feature showing how the nonprofit utilizes a received donation.

  3. Mailbox and messaging integration to facilitate communication within a single platform.

  4. A content creation studio where all invested parties can seamlessly collaborate in real-time on the creation of content before launching (thus, eliminating longer delays in approval and launch time).

  5. Integration of multiple social media login solutions, including: Twitch, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Currently only YouTube is available due to time constraints; however, our goal is to ensure all relevant platforms are available moving forward.

  6. The opportunity to partner with multiple influencers and/or sponsors to augment the campaign footprint and increase audience traffic to the platform.

  7. The option to match nonprofit organizations with other nonprofit organizations to collaborate and amplify their collective narrative.

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Updates

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Installed, configured, and managed Strapi and GraphQL on EC2, and administered PostgreSQL schema on Amazon RDS. Configured Amazon CloudFront. Deployed and configured AWS Amplify Console to serve our Angular 9 app.

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