Mobile Event Fundraising (What is that thing poking out of your Smartphone?)

Posted on March 18, 2013

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Smart phone and credit card readerHave you seen one of those devices that can be plugged into a Smartphone and used to collect a credit card payment? What is that thing? I did a little digging to find out. It turns out that it’s a mobile payment processing device. Some version of the technology is offered by many companies, including Square, Intuit, and PayPal.

It’s a simple process: Set-up an online account with the company of your choice and order the device. Next, download the company’s corresponding app on your Smartphone and wait for your device to arrive. When it does, plug it into your Smartphone and, BAM!, You’re able to process credit cards. It’s incredible that you can process credit card payments so easily. What once seemed like a technology reserved for banks and websites can be done in-person and in real-time.

The application of this technology to event fundraising comes at a critical time. As donors and event participants are getting savvier about identity theft they are less willing to write down their credit card numbers. That means that the traditional methods of collecting donations and registration fees on-site are becoming obsolete. We need to adapt and these devices make it possible.

How do you get in the game? There are a few things to consider when choosing a device that is right for your event:

  1. What are your reporting needs? Each company has a different way to report on revenue collected. Which company offers reports that play nicely with your accounting system?
  2. What is your budget? Some devices have a cost.
  3. How many devices do you need? Some companies only allow one device per account.

After identifying the company that is the right fit, order a device (or two), and let people who are knowledgeable about your event test them out to see if they are truly compatible. The ones that I have tested are really easy to use. Typically you enter the amount to be charged, swipe the card and then have the customer sign it electronically. You are often able to send an email or text a receipt for the transaction once it’s completed. Refunds are easily processed through a web portal.

Although I’ve experienced mobile payment processing as a customer, and tested it as a professional, I haven’t had the chance to see how it works in the world of event fundraising – at least not yet. Event 360 will be using this technology during our 2013 MuckFest MS series. Since the first event is right around the corner (Jacksonville, I’m looking at you) I’ll find out soon enough. Once we have some experience under our belts I’ll report back to let you know how it goes.

Amy DeShane PhotoAmy DeShane, Director of Donations, has been part of the Event 360 leadership team for over 9 years. She is passionate about working with nonprofits to manifest their mission into action, and she has a special place in her heart for operations and project management. Amy loves stand-up comedy, cuddling with her three cats and the competitive game of Go-Fish with her six year old son. She lives in Cary, NC with her family.

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