Square brings credit card fundraising to a smartphone near you (if you’re US-based)

A couple of months back I heard about the trials of a great smartphone-based service called Square that allows anyone with an iPhone or Android smartphone to take credit card payments – or donations – simply by registering, downloading an application, and plugging a little square card reader into their phone’s headphone jack. At that time, as I mentioned in an article on Smartphone Fundraising, a beta version of the service had been tested for fundraising at events by Charity:Water and also by Reshma Saujani, a democratic congressional candidate for New York’s 14th District whose fundraisers were using it for door-to-door fundraising – and it struck me what a fantastic service this could be for any fundraiser looking to raise donations at events.

Essentially, a Smartphone version of the traditional charity collection tin – for credit cards!

The great news is that the trials seem to have gone really well, and Square is now available for anyone who wants to take credit card payments – and has an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or Android Phone.

The bad news is that it’s only available in the US, with no current plans to bring the service to Europe. Although the question is being asked quite a bit on the @Square Twitter feed – so here’s hoping they do expand it sometime soon.

For a full write-up on the service, have a read of the coverage in the latest issue of Fast Company – or take a look at the Square site at squareup.com.

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Getting excited about smartphone mobile fundraising

Back in October last year when I was over in Holland giving an online fundraising session at the International Fundraising Congress (IFC), I was asked to give a short comment to camera on what I was most excited about in terms of the future of digital fundraising.

At that time, I’d just started to research new ways for fundraisers to make use of the incredibly rich functionality becoming available on the latest generation of ‘smart’ mobile phones, so that’s what I chose to chat about. You can see the result in the video above, this being the first of 30 such short videos being used by The Resource Alliance to promote the 2010 IFC.

For a rather more detailed introduction to the sort of new things fundraisers may be able to do as smartphone adoption continues to grow, I’ve also just written an article for the April edition of the Resource Alliance’s ‘Global Connections’ e-newsletter. Entitled ‘The emerging opportunities for smart fundraisers to use smartphones’, you can read the full article here.

This is a fascinating new area for digital fundraising, so you can be sure that I’ll be posting more about it over the coming months as well as talking about some of the latest examples at the UK Institute of Fundraising National Convention in July.

Meantime, if you are working on any smartphone fundraising yourself, do let me know by leaving a comment below or sending me a message through the ‘Hello and Welcome’ page.

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Forthcoming conference sessions – come and say Hello!

I’m just back from holiday and straight-away immersed in all sorts of client work, as well as getting-down to preparing presentations for several conferences I’m speaking at over the next few months. As it’s often only at conferences that I get an opportunity to meet folks who subscribe to my blogs, I thought I’d give them a quick plug here – then if you’re attending you can come by and say ‘hello’.

The first is the 2010 National Convention for Fundraisers in Ireland, which is being held in Dublin on March 23rd and 24th. I’m presenting late morning on 24th on ‘Community Fundraising 2.0’ – when I’ll be talking through some of the latest online fundraising developments worldwide as well as focusing specifically on some really interesting home-grown Irish initiatives.

Next month, from 14th to 16th April I’m over in Germany at the Deutscher Fundraising Kongress, presenting sessions on ‘Using Research to Generate Supporter Insight’ and ‘Online Community Fundraising’. I know that quite a few German fundraisers do subscribe to my blogs – so hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to meet some of you there.

Then, of course, in July (5th to 7th) it’s the Institute of Fundraising National Convention here in London, where I’m co-presenting a ‘Hot Topic’ session with Jason Potts of Think Consulting – where we’ll be sharing what we think are some of the hottest developments in digital fundraising. Given how quickly things are changing in the digital space, that’ll be one that we prepare right at the last minute!

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The List of Change – new ranking of cause-related blogs

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Last week saw the launch of The List of Change, a new ranking of the top English-language change and cause-related blogs – providing a very handy way to find some new sources of news and information of interest to nonprofit marketers and fundraisers.

The ranking is based on each blog’s Technorati Rank, Technorati In-Links, Bloglines Subscribers, Alexa Points, Google PageRank, and Yahoo In-Links, which are combined to give a score out of 100.

Currently the top score of 95 goes to Beths Blog, while at the opposite end of the 127 blog list is The Changebase. Right now this blog – Giving in a Digital World – is hovering mid-table at 66, but things change daily as the various components of the ranking change.

Take a look at the latest full ranking here – and you’re sure to find something of interest amongst the diverse range of blogs listed.

500+ attendees from 42 countries attend the first ever IFC Online eConference

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It’s been an interesting three days this week, with the first ever IFC Online eConference taking place – bringing together an estimated 500+ attendees from 42 countries world-wide, through an entirely online conference.

Unlike traditional ‘real world’ conferences, it’s tricky to be sure just how many people are ‘attending’ an online conference. The IFC Online organisers at The Resource Alliance tell me that 387 ‘sites’ signed-up for the event, but the number of individuals at each ‘site’ who watch the sessions can vary massively – from one individual to, in this case, a group of more than 70 people who gathered together in Jerusalem to attend. So, I’m not sure exactly how many people attended the two sessions I presented, but I did spot around 160 ‘sites’ logged-on in places ranging from the US and Latin America, right across Europe, to Singapore, Korea, and Australia – which made for a good crowd.

If you’ve never attended a big web-based conference like this, and it was my first time – both as an attendee and a speaker, then the screengrab above will give you a bit of a feel for how it works. Presenters speak over VoIP and use Powerpoint presentations just as if they were in a convention centre with people infront of them, and throughout the session people can ask questions and make comments by typing into the Chat/Q&A box. Must admit, when I kicked-off my session it felt a bit odd sitting all alone talking to my Mac – but once the questions started coming-in onscreen the whole thing came to life and it was great fun.

Some really interesting speakers too, including Scott Goodstein, External Online Director for Obama for America, and Premal Shah, President of Kiva. And what was particularly handy is that all sessions are recorded, so attendees can catch-up on any they missed or re-watch any session they found especially useful. (Except for Scott Goodstein’s session, apparently – which is a pain, as I missed that one myself).

So, all-in all, a very interesting and, by the looks of it, successful event – and a great extension to the Resource Alliance’s annual ‘real world’ International Fundraising Congress held each October in Holland.

One other thing that struck me was just how much more Twitter activity was going-on amongst the attendees at this event than at the main IFC just last October – when there were a lone two folks Tweeting for all they were worth. This time, there was a pretty constant stream of Twitter commentary coming through under #ifconline – and even a degree of consternation when Twitter went down for maintenance right in the middle of a session yesterday evening (London time).


Great results from email fundraising appeal by Ecojustice Canada

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With so much buzz these days focusing on Facebook fundraising and Twitter campaigning, it’s nice to hear of a good-old email campaign delivering great results for a nonprofit – in this case for Ecojustice Canada (pointed-out to me by old friend and former colleague Lynne Boardman, now at Harvey McKinnon Associates in Vancouver).

Born out of a desire to help protect an endangered community of Canadian west coast killer whales, the appeal highlighted their plight by explaining that only 83 of the whales remained and asked supporters to take action on their behalf by becoming one of the first 83 people to give a gift to the Honour an Orca Campaign. In return for a donation of $50 or more the donor would not only be supporting a lawsuit to help protect the remaining 83 but they, or a nominated friend or loved one, would also receive a holiday season card and set of wildlife postcards.

The appeal was emailed to just 4,900 supporters and other contacts but returned over 160 donations – beating the 83 target within three days – with an average gift of over $90, raising some $15,000 in total and helping make 2008 the best year yet for Ecojustice’s online fundraising programme. Not only that, they also received a great response to a direct mail campaign sent at the same time, assuaging fears that increased online income might cannibalize offline donations.

Looking at the email, I was reminded of the old direct mail appeal checklist that I often used to use when both briefing and reviewing fundraising appeals for clients:

  1. Need – do you clearly explain the need you want to address?
  2. Solution – do you offer a specific soution to that need?
  3. Cost – what is it that the donor can do to help deliver that solution?
  4. Urgency – why should they respond now and not later (or not at all)?
  5. Donor Context – why is this appeal particularly relevant to this donor?
  6. Donor Benefit – what does the donor receive if they respond to your appeal?

The idea is that unless you can answer each of the questions, then there is something important missing – and this goes for email as well as snail-mail appeals.

The Ecojustice campaign ticks every one of the boxes – with a very real need; a specific response to that need which required donations to make it happen; urgency based around both the plight of the whales and the timing of the law case; the context of this being a unique Canadian whale community; and the benefit of the holiday tribute card as well as knowing that you’ve done something specific to help protect the whales. All this was presented through a simple but well thought through email, that included links to the latest information on missing whales and details of the landmark lawsuit against the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Job done!

Thanks to Deanna Bayne of Ecojustice Canada for letting me share some of the details of her appeal as a guide for anyone looking to develop their own email fundraising in the future.

Kiva launches open-source API – meaning YOU could develop the next big Kiva fundraising application

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Kiva, the incredibly successful 3-year old non-profit peer-to-peer microlending organisation, has just announced release of an Application Programmers Interface (API) that will enable any developer to create new tools and applications supporting the Kiva lending community.

Using the API, developers will be able to access public data from Kiva – such as a full list of entrepreneurs requesting funds or the latest lending activity – and integrate it into whatever type of application they care to develop. Suggestions from Kiva to start developers thinking include an iPhone or Blackberry App or a map showing the real-time transfer of funds around the globe.

While this might sound all rather geeky, it is an incredibly important move for Kiva – as it acknowledges that as an organisation it can only deliver so much functional enhancement of its website and associated tools within the natural restrictions of time and money. By enabling any developer in the world to build tools that directly integrate with Kiva they stand to achieve a breadth and speed of functional evolution and audience reach far beyond anything they could hope for alone.

This is just what we saw when Facebook (5-years old this week) became the first of the mainstream online social networks to launch an API back in May 2007. Suddenly countless thousands of developers began adding functionality to the Facebook platform – everything from business applications and fundraising tools to food fight and zombie games – all of which fueled an incredibly rapid growth in member numbers.

Since then many other social network sites have followed Facebook in offering such support for application developers but, as far as I know, Kiva is the first non-profit site to take advantage of ‘going open’.

Who will be next? Will GlobalGiving follow suite or will a new entrant to the online fundraising world like soon to launch Play it Forward beat the established players to it? Whoever it is, I predict that we’ll see a lot more open-source API fundraising opportunities from online fundraisin