Micro-Fundraising Through Mobiles: 5 Apps

Sep 01 2010

The Haiti earthquake wasn’t the beginning of mobile fundraising, but it certainly was the first time it popped into the national consciousness at such a large scale. Since then, it’s continued to gain traction and popularity with NGOs and your average Joe alike – and even your occasionally political fundraising event.  Custom apps are expensive, and the simple text-to-donate service the Red Cross used during the Haiti earthquake can be too bare bones unless you have a compelling, high profile cause to back it up. So, what’s an organization to do? Luckily, there are a few neat apps out there that can be valuable tools in an overall fundraising strategy. I’ve gathered some neat examples of different types of apps below.

1. Location Based Fundraising App

Name: Causeworld

Works On: iPhone and Android

Why It Works: Donors check into different locations, from grocery stores to coffee shops, to earn “karma points” which they can then use to donate money to the charities Causeworld partners with. It’s free for donors to use, and karma points are turned into actual donations by Causeworld’s sponsors. Downside? Causeworld is selective of the charities it includes. At the moment there are only 29 charities for donors to choose from, so while being included in the list is sure to bring donations, it takes more than a snap of the fingers to be added.

2. Political Fundraising App

Name: Blueswarm

Works On: iPhone

Why It Works: Actually, Blueswarm is for non-profits and higher education as well as political fundraising, but that’s where it first caught on big – a July TechCrunch article states that 50% of U.S. Senate races and 30% of gubernatorial races were using Blueswarm at the time. Blueswarm isn’t just a mobile app – its main functionality is based around the social web. With Blueswarm comes a handy widget to place on various websites, a Facebook app, and inbuilt analytics. Last but not least, it only takes a 2.9% cut. Downside? The real power of Blueswarm comes with mobilizing your fundraisers to mobilize more fundraisers beneath them – inspiring that type of dedication requires some serious strategy.

3. Mini Fundraising App

Name: Square

Works On: iPhone, iPad and Android

Why It Works: Square isn’t a comprehensive fundraising app, but it does make one, very important task a lot easier: accepting donations. Running your average event means using volunteers to collect credit card information by hand. With Square all you do is sign up, and use their very small card reader (which attaches to any device with an audio input jack) to accept donations. A once painstaking process made very simple. Your info is available and downloadable, no monthly fees, and their card swipe rate is 2.75% + 15¢. Downside? It’s not going to do you any good unless you already have a fundraising event planned, your device must have an internet connection to authorize each payment, and some fundraising activities require comprehensive info from each donor to begin with, which Square does not currently collect (some independent add on apps that allow that are in the works).

4. Text-to-Donate App

Name: Mobile Cause

Works On: iPhone, iTouch and iPad, soon to include Blackberry and Palm.

Why It Works: The Mobile Cause package is a collection of apps, between which non-profits can collect mobile donations, message donors, send polls and surveys, and even create a simple app themselves. There seems to be a lot of functionality and tools for a not over the top price of $99/month for a starter plan. Downside? In addition to the fee of $99/month, there are various minor charges associated with most their apps, like a 50 cent charge for every successfully collected donation through Text2Give etc.

5. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising App

Name: JustGiving iPhone app

Works On: iPhone

Why It Works: JustGiving is a larger service that enables supporters to raise money for their charity. They just came out with a nifty iPhone app that lets donors/fundraisers see who’s donated to their cause already, who they can still ask, share their JustGiving fundraising page with their iPhone contacts, and more. It’s like a mini fundraising manager to offer to your supporters to keep them exited and keep them going. JustGiving charges a 5% fee for each donation. Downside? JustGiving is U.K. based, and though they have a U.S. counterpart called FirstGiving, I don’t see a comparable app on their site. FirstGiving’s transaction fee is also higher at 7.5%

Are there any other micro fundraising apps out there you’d like to call attention to? Please share them in the comments below.

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