Spur Spontaneous Gifts
By Raymund Flandez
At a cocktail party to raise
money for the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, volunteers mingled with guests, selling them raffle tickets by swiping credit cards through a small
device attached to their iPads
A few years ago, the New York
City charity wouldn’t have been
able to do such a thing. Donors
would have paid for their tickets
in cash—or not given at all.
Today, the gay and lesbian
community center charges the
$10 raffle tickets (or $25 for
three tickets) on donors’ credit and debit cards on the spot,
using a device called Square,
which processes transactions
through smartphones and tablets. The number of gifts made
to the center through the device
jumped 50 percent this year.
“Strike while the iron is hot,”
says Todd W. Fliedner, develop-
ment director at the center. “If
somebody is in a generous mood,
you don’t want to lose that mo-
Nonprofit organizations are
discovering that devices like
Square are helping them col-
lect donations from supporters
quickly. At a time when more
people are carrying less cash
in their wallets, the option to
donate on the fly with a credit
card offers charity supporters
a convenient way to contribute
and gives nonprofits a chance to
scoop up gifts that they might
not have gotten otherwise.
Other nonprofits, including
the Salvation Army and the Girl
Scouts of the USA, are using
other mobile-payment products
and services. Besides Square,
some of the new services include
PayPal’s Here, Intuit’s GoPayment, Eventbrite’s At The Door,
and Sage Mobile Payments. (See
Many nonprofit clients of
Mark & Phil, a marketing and
cy in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., are
adopting the credit-card devices
for fundraising galas and other
events. “This is the beginning of
true mobile donations, without
a doubt,” says Daniel Schutz-
smith, head of Mark & Phil.
Charities say that mobile-payment tools like Square allow them to raise more money,
make their fundraising go much
more smoothly, and ease giving
for donors on the go. They’re using those tools at outdoor fund-raising events, like golf tournaments, and inside, like at exhibition halls, where foot traffic
makes it easy to recruit members or sell nonprofit goods such
as T-shirts or Girl Scout cookies.
Converting a personal smartphone into a payment device is
easy. To start getting gifts over
the phone, nonprofits just need
to download a free application
onto their smartphones or tablets and sign up to get a card
reader in the mail. The reader fits over the audio jack or
the plug on the mobile devices.
When payments are processed,
most of the data collected, such
as names and e-mail addresses,
can be uploaded to the charities’
Depending on the device selected, vendors charge about 1. 7
percent to 3 percent per transaction, although some companies
also require monthly payments
or higher fees for using certain
credit cards or may charge for
extra card readers.
In its second year using
Square, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center persuaded 100
people to pay $100 per ticket at
the door using the device. The
group took the approach after
an intern suggested the idea.
“More than anything, the approach has made us able to ac-
COURTES Y OF GIRL SCOU TS OF EAS TERN PENNSYLVANIA
Several Girl Scouts chapters nationwide have begun using
Sage Mobile Payments devices to help process cookie-sale
revenue. The practice has led to a boost in sales.
commodate our guests better,”
says Mr. Fliedner. “It’s truly a
way to collect money mobilely.
You can be in motion.”
Fundraisers who use the
devices say transactions are
much more secure, since they
don’t have to fumble to jot down
credit-card digits or count and
Instead, a donation goes directly to the nonprofit’s designated bank account after a charity worker or volunteer swipes a
credit card. In addition, the device’s encryption technology automatically scrambles the credit-card data.
To be sure, questions about
whether the transactions are
truly secure over wireless networks are being examined by
Congress. Government scrutiny will probably intensify as
this type of payment becomes
The novelty of the devices has
also given charities a distinct
advantage over other nonprofits
that don’t offer a quick way to
accept credit-card payments.
For the past few months,
Catskill Animal Sanctuary
has been using Square at con-
ferences or events, such as
pet expositions, where it sells
merchandise. Other vendors
haven’t caught on to the trend
Mobile-Payment Devices for Charities: a Sampling
Plugs directly into the iPad’s 30-pin connector, instead of the audio
jack, to speed up credit-card processing.
3 percent of the credit-card transaction. Card reader Works only with iPads.
costs $10 plus shipping, but until the end of the
year, charities can get a $10 rebate.
Two alternatives are available. For the pay-as-you-go
option, the company charges 2. 7 percent per
credit-card swipe but 3. 7 percent if the credit-card
number is typed into the device. The monthly option
is $12.95 per month plus 1. 7 percent of the
transaction fee, or 2. 7 percent if the number is
keyed in. Card reader is free.
2. 7 percent per transaction. Card reader is free.
Works with Androids, iPads,
Can deposit donors’ money into the charity’s bank account or onto
a Visa card that the company provides. Works with Intuit’s
QuickBooks so charities can record donations later.
Sage Mobile Payments Sage Software
Varies by organization. Demands a higher fee
to process American Express cards and to type
in credit-card information rather than swiping
the card. Card reader is free.
Works with Androids and
iPhones and can be used
with a charity’s PayPal account.
Works with Androids, Black-Berries, iPads, and iPhones.
Can scan in checks and accept PayPal payments. Product is due to
be released later this spring.
Works with Androids, iPads,
Donors can sign on the smartphone screen with their ;ngers and
receive those receipts in an e-mail.