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Mobile and Your Fundraiser

Mobile and Your Fundraiser

 

Formal attire - check. Gala fundraiser event ticket - check.  Mobile device - check.  
That's what all of the best dressed guests may have at your next event.  It makes sense given that last year in the US, we topped 1 billion smartphone users.  Gala committees and boards may be thinking it is time to do away with the paper, make it easier to separate guests from their money, I mean raise funds.  
 
Paper is cheap and easy
Yeah, I know you want to get rid of paper but let's briefly look at the cost of using a paper process just so you have a clear baseline.  
 

A paper-based model:

  • Relatively low cost, covering manpower (people) and supplies (paper, pens, calculator)
  • Error prone/fatfingering
  • Time consuming
  • Easy to learn/familiar
Computers are fast
Adding computers into the mix, does speed things up a bit but also introduces new challenges.  Don't get me wrong, as a technologist, I love using technology where I can. However, I am practical enough to know that some give-and-take is needed, one-size-does-not-fit-all and it is only as good as it is created.  I think I got all the cliches in, but you get my point to go into this knowing the pros and cons.
A computer-based model:
  • Moderate cost which may include:
    • Manpower (people)
    • Software license(s) and training
    • Equipment rental/upgrade
    • Supplies (paper, pens, power strips, etc.)
  • Fewer errors from fat fingering
  • New error potentials (software, hardware, user error due to poor training)
  • Faster
    • Shorter wait time between auction closure and check-out
    • Quicker turnaround on reports/reconciliation
Mobile is where all the cool kids are
Yeah, mobile apps are everywhere, mobile friendly websites too.  However, when talking about incorporating into your fundraiser, there are a few things to consider.  Most fundraising bodies do not have internal technology teams that can whip one up, they generally have to look out in the commercial market.  There are several players of varying sizes, the main thing is know your needs, from mobile friendly sites to mobile apps.  As such the cost varies from the nominal (a few hundred dollars) to the OMG-we-won't-have-anything-left (several thousands for dollars) level.  This is an expense that has to be factored into the event budget. 
A mobile-based model:
  • Varying costs which may include:
    • Manpower (people)
    • License(s) and training
    • Custom development costs
    • Data storage/Download Costs
  • May cause an uptick in fat fingering by the guests, less by the fundraising team
  • Small to no lines of waiting guests
  • Faster
    • Shorter wait time between auction closure and check-out
    • Quicker turnaround on reports/reconciliation
Look, dip a toe, then leap
Ok, so you understand the three models and you still think you want to add mobile.  Start by jotting down your event particulars and align them to the capabilities you desire in the mobile experience. 
 
Here are some questions to get you started:
     1.) Do you want to include pre-bidding on silent auction items?
     2.) Do you want to allow those not in attendance to be able to bid during the event?
     3.) How do you want to accommodate guests who may not have a smartphone or mobile device?
     4.) Do you need to print receipts for the activity being done on these devices?
     5.) Do you want to allow other items such as raffle tickets to be part of the mobile device transaction/activity?
     6.) Do you have team members with enough technical background to answer questions?
     7.) Do you plan on having a live auction?
 
Pick a partner
Most likely you need help in implementing the capabilities you've outlined into your event.  If your event planner/event services partner can handle them - great.  If not, you need to pick a partner, someone to help enable your event success.
 
Here are a few questions to consider when deciding on a mobile partner:
     1.) What are the supported devices?
     2.) How will the data be accessed?  Do you have to upload your data into another system? What formats are accepted?  Who does the upload?
     3.) Is any other software needed?
     4.) What fees are associated with the use?  What do they cover?
     5.) Does it support the cellular network, WIFI network or both?
     6.) Do the guests have to download something to their device?
 
Contingency, contingency, contingency
Moving from paper to a mobile model also means revisions to your contingency plans.  Most mobile vendors do a site survey before entering into a contract so that if they feel conditions are not conducive to mutual success, they can save you and them frustration.  That's a great thing to have - a partner who works to minimize frustration.  Ok, so you've decided a mobile model is what you want, you've chosen a partner, they've done a site survey, and everything is a go for your big event, right? Almost.
 
Here are a few questions to consider for your mobile based event contingency plans:
     1.) What is the backup plan should there be a force of nature event (thunderstorm, tornado, earthquake, etc) that takes out the cellular and/or wifi network?
     2.) What is the dispute resolution process (chargeback, billing, etc.)?
     3.) How will the completed transactions transmit information to the financial institution?
     4.) How to secure any devices that may have been provided for those guests without a smartphone or mobile device?  What is the replacement cost should something happen to them?
 
Final Words
Leveraging technology to increase donations is a great idea.  Guests/supporters come because they believe in your organization and want to help.  Like most meaningful things in life, it should not be entered into lightly.  Done right, it can make good events, great.  Done poorly, it can hurt your event's fundraising efforts.  Take your time, identify your goals and then proceed.  Oh, and don't forget to ask for help when you need it. 
 

Image credit: olechowski / 123RF Stock Photo
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