Local software company makes Centre Gives event happen

State College software company West Arete created the platform that let the 2017 Centre Gives event go off without a hitch.
State College software company West Arete created the platform that let the 2017 Centre Gives event go off without a hitch. Centre Daily Times, file

When it comes to giving local, it just might be best to turn to locals to make it happen.

In 2016, it seemed like tech might be the enemy of the Centre Gives fundraising event.

Actually, it wasn’t just Centre Gives. It was a problem that hit Give Local America events all over the country, as Texas-based company Kimbia’s program sputtered to a halt hours into the day-and-a-half long crowdfunding appeal.

The Centre Foundation had two options for its next event. Take advantage of Kimbia’s mea culpa, which included the CEO giving up three months pay and offering the fundraising platform free for the rest of the year, and keep going or start trying to track down something that did exactly what they wanted it to do, exactly the way they wanted it.

The foundation didn’t have to look far.

“Last year, the nationwide outage that affected many giving day events was something that galvanized our staff — who have been longtime supporters of Centre Gives and Centre Foundation,” said Scott Woods, CEO of West Arete in a statement in March. “We were confident that we could build a strong product that would ensure giving days like Centre Gives would have the security donors deserve, the results the community depended on, and the gamification that makes these online events such a fun experience for all involved.”

West Arete, a custom software company in State College, already knows a lot about the foundation’s needs since they built the website. They needed something that would work with what they had and augment it for the 36 hours of Centre Gives.

“They needed a high-traffic site,” said Dan Ciletti, director of finance at West Arete.

It also needed to be fast enough to keep donors from getting frustrated. It had to be secure enough to protect the data behind thousands of transactions. It had to be easy enough that anybody could use it.

“We knew how to prevent what happened before,” Ciletti said, calling the finished product “rock solid.”

It went off without a hitch. The 2017 event raised $1.4 million with more than 8,700 transactions from start to finish with no interruptions.

Now the company is hoping to help other organizations with the software. West Arete is marketing the platform, hoping to make local giving easier in other areas, too.

“There are about 150 giving days for community foundations every year,” Ciletti said.

Giving is more than just a business opportunity for West Arete. It’s a motivation, and one of the reasons the Centre Foundation partnered with the company.

“Centre Gives is all about local people supporting Centre County — loving where they live and giving where they live,” explained Molly Kunkel, executive director of Centre Foundation. “West Arete is a local company that not only understands this, but is committed to being a community partner through the projects it takes on and the way the company is run, being B Corp certified.”

B Corporations are businesses noted as having a kind of social sustainability. They are involved in their communities, do work that is impactful, treat employees fairly, have an eye to the environment and other beneficial practices. All that made the foundation happy to give a little something back.

“We’re not only supporting a local company and local jobs, but we’re also investing in technology that is strengthening our community,” Kunkel said.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce