To rapidly deploy new features to a nonprofit board management SaaS solution
Built from day one with Platform.sh, leverages capabilities to streamline development and deployment workflow, so engineers can focus on product development, instead of DevOps
Custom website development for nonprofits has served as a staple of digital agency and Platform.sh partner Oxbow Labs’ portfolio for the last 15 years. Founder Winn Jewett and his team make it a priority to acquire a deep understanding of each nonprofit’s unique mission to do good.
For nearly every custom website project, the Oxbow Labs team noted that nonprofit clients requested a set of integrated tools to support their boards of directors, whose responsibilities span strategic direction, planning, strengthening/monitoring programs, and financial oversight. The emerging pattern from these one-off, custom implementations compelled the Oxbow Labs team to create a nonprofit board portal that would positively impact any nonprofit’s governance.
For years, nonprofit boards have used old-school tools to manage board meetings and govern their organizations. Some cobble together solutions from different tools—Dropbox for files, email for communication, fingers crossed for RSVPs—while others rely entirely on physical board packets and in-person meetings. For years, the industry slowly transitioned to more sophisticated tools until March 2020, when COVID-19 accelerated the need for boards to adopt a completely digital and remote solution to governance.
Oxbow’s spinoff company, BoardSpot, fulfills the vision of all nonprofits: to realize the full potential of their boards through access to information and collaboration. To bring the vision to life, the BoardSpot team recognized early on that they’d need to develop the nonprofit board portal with a new set of tools and with features powerful enough to support the needs of enterprise-scale nonprofits, yet intuitive enough for volunteer board members to feel comfortable immediately.
Built with Platform.sh and delivered as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), BoardSpot complements Oxbow’s work and enables an expanded service offering to nonprofits looking for a suite of robust online solutions.
BoardSpot’s ease of use and pricing model has become incredibly popular with large nonprofits across a wide range of industries, including higher education, healthcare, and land conservation.
BoardSpot leverages Platform.sh to run multiple versions of its codebase in several regions throughout the world. Platform.sh integration with GitLab enables code deployments to be automatically pushed to the entire fleet of BoardSpot instances simultaneously, keeping the product in sync for all customers. International customers benefit from the performance improvements and data residency benefits of a server that’s physically located nearby.
“One of the biggest benefits of hosting with Platform.sh is the speed and flexibility that it brings to the development workflow,” says Jewett. “This feature has enabled us to be incredibly responsive to customer requests and suggestions.” An example? The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).
In the early stages of product development, UNCDF approached BoardSpot with a unique challenge. Because of the strict regulations imposed on organizations under the UN, all UNCDF’s online votes need to be certified by an outside member before resolutions can be officially approved. BoardSpot jumped at the opportunity to engineer a simple technological solution to a real-world governance challenge and rapidly integrated vote certification into the online voting system. This feature was then rolled out to all BoardSpot customers who also required that extra level of accountability.
Built around Drupal, BoardSpot heavily leverages Platform.sh out-of-the-box security and compliance features as well as development workflow. “In the BoardSpot development process, we use a deploy hook to strip out all customer data from development environments,” says Jewett.
“It’s absolutely paramount that there's no cross-contamination between organizations and that customer data is never exposed. By taking advantage of Platform.sh capabilities, we can give our dev team access to all of the environments up to the dev branch, with the peace of mind in knowing that data is sanitized throughout the entire workflow.”
At any given time, BoardSpot’s development team simultaneously builds new features that take weeks or months to develop; makes minor improvements that are ready in days; and implements hot-fixes—including security updates from Drupal’s dedicated security team. With Platform.sh, each of these features is provisioned with an identical clone of the entire hosting environment, down to the smallest configuration detail. With such disparate deployment schedules between the smallest and largest features, Platform.sh integration with GitLab makes it easy for merge requests to automatically rebase the Git repository to include recent code changes into long-term feature branches.
"Our engineers are able to work incredibly fast to roll out quick updates and to take the time needed to properly plan and build big new features—all without skipping a beat.”
From the onset, Jewett and team wanted to ensure that the smallest nonprofits—those with few staff and incredibly tight budgets—could afford to have technology supporting their missions. Of the 1.56 million nonprofits in the United States, 75% have budgets less than $500,000.* To support these small nonprofits, BoardSpot introduced a grant program that offers steep discounts (up to 90%), extending access to world-class tools for their boards. “Without the incredible performance of Platform.sh, we wouldn’t be able to afford to provide BoardSpot at such a discounted rate to the smallest of our nonprofit customers,” says Jewett.
In response to the COVID-19 health crisis, BoardSpot rapidly launched a video conferencing feature that’s integrated directly into the product, ensuring nonprofits could continue to conduct meetings securely—even if they weren’t able to meet in person.
I believe nonprofit organizations are some of the most innovative and important entities in our communities, yet often the most underserved when it comes to technology solutions. I’m glad that BoardSpot can provide an important service to these vital organizations.
*Brice McKeever. National Center for Charitable Statistics. The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2018. 13 December 2018.