Apple Pay, Twitter Buy, Facebook e-commerce, and your nonprofit

Did your mood change between the first six words of this headline, and the last two? Did your technological curiosity shift to something short of terror when the headline suggested that these technologies might have an impact on something bigger than how you buy a Big Mac or a sweater?

Good. You get it.

I think I’m a cool mobile/social consumer every time I order a coffee at Starbucks and pay for it with my mobile app, linked to my PayPal account. However, mobile and social e-commerce is advancing quickly, and your nonprofit needs to get on board. Consider these recent developments:

Apple Pay, the mobile payment technology that allows you to pay for things with credit cards tied to your iPhone, is launching in McDonald’s and Whole Foods. But… according to the same article, “you’ll be able to pay for your Uber, buy baseball tickets with and order food from Seamless with one click.” Which means there’s no reason iPhone users can’t also just as easily donate to your organization, or buy tickets to your event. No reason, except, you’re not ready for it.

Twitter just announced a “Buy Now” feature that will appear in certain tweets, allowing subscribers to purchase a product (or make a gift) through a Twitter app, also using existing credit cards. Pretty soon you’ll be able to get donations through tweets as easily as @Megadeth sells concert tickets and tee-shirts. Once you figure out how, when, and for how much, to ask.

And, Facebook has begun adding “buy” buttons into the ads it places into users’ newsfeeds. This allows users to directly purchase items and services offered for sale. Since 62% of Facebooks’ revenue is now coming from mobile users, the combination of mobile and social with e-commerce is staggering. An article in Institutional Investor’s blog says, “Simply put, Facebook newsfeed ads deposit users directly into the mouths of the sales funnels of mobile-first companies.”

And, if the above isn’t scary enough, this just in from @NonProfitTimes :
“United Way Worldwide (UWW) is joining the digital currency world, announcing that it would begin accepting bitcoin donations. It is the latest 501(c)(3) to adopt the digital currency.”  Let’s just leave this one off the table for now. It even scares me.

I’m not suggesting that you abandon efforts to improve your next direct mail letter. That’s going to bring in more net money this fiscal year than any of the above. But you have to carve out some time to start playing in these mobile/social sandboxes, and get comfortable, because there’s a lot of opportunity there, especially among influential early adopters.

What is your nonprofit doing in mobile/social and ecommerce?


Are you a mobile, social healthcare fundraiser?


What do Starbucks’ and Facebook’s recent record-breaking quarterly results have to do with healthcare fundraising? Let’s explore.

Sure, mobile has been big with Facebook over the past year, but it continues to grow. Nearly 4 out of every 5 daily users of Facebook access it on their mobile device every day. Advertisers – for-profits and non-profits alike – are showing ads to these mobile users, as mobile ad revenue to Facebook now exceeds its ad revenue from desktops and laptops.

What ads are people viewing, and responding to, on Facebook? Starbucks also reported record income yesterday, and two reasons are its customer loyalty program, combined with its mobile platform. According to Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz, “mobile payment now accounts for over 15% of all transactions in our U.S. company operated stores and we are now processing on average 6 million mobile transactions in the U.S. every week alone.”

I’ll bet that a large number of your donors drink Starbucks coffee and are active Facebook users. Sure, the stereotypical little old lady writing checks is still a significant portion of your annual fund income, but maybe that’s because you’re putting most of your fundraising efforts into the channel that attracted her (and her mother before her). Boomers, who control 70% of the disposable income in America, are all drinking Starbucks and using Facebook to talk to their grandchildren.

The good news for you is that you don’t need to invest heavily in a mobile app. Just make your site work well on the major mobile platforms – a task you can outsource for a few thousand dollars. Then, get engaged more heavily on Facebook. Use Twitter and Facebook to get people to subscribe to your email newsletter list, and communicate with them on all of those channels.

Make it easy to donate online, and then give your supporters good reasons to donate, and you’ll find digital revenue growing. My fiancé posted a fundraising message on Facebook for one of her favorite nonprofits. I viewed it on my mobile, clicked on the “donate” button, and was able to make a gift very easily. She’s raised $160 from her friends in less than 24 hours from her Facebook “event.”

Heed these words from Starbucks’ CEO: “We have invested well ahead of the curve to create opportunities for our customers to engage with their social and digital networks on mobile devices and are now beginning to see the payoff of these investments.” It’s no longer “well ahead of the curve” but modest investment on your part now will position you well in the coming year – even this year’s holiday peak.

Special offer: If you’d like a glimpse into social media use by your healthcare market segment: cancer centers, children’s hospitals, etc., contact me about participating in a free study.

QR Codes lead to involvement

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The QR code sign at our booth

At the #NACCDOPAN conference, each exhibitor has a sign with a QR code. The organization is doing a great job of encouraging attendees to visit all the exhibitors, and they have arranged a scavenger hunt. Attendees scan a unique QR code at each booth, which brings up a question (a self-promotional question provided by each exhibitor). The attendees score points for each correct answer, and the winners will receive some great swag.

This happens at many conferences, but is often done manually with stickers or rubber stamps. Inviting the attendees to move up to the digital process has a few advantages:

  1. They get more comfortable using their smartphones.
  2. Since they register their phone prior to beginning the “scavenger hunt” each attendee’s score is also shown on a “leader board” (see below) in the exhibit area, providing interactivity, enhancing competition, and further demonstrating the value of the data that is collected.

If your nonprofit has any sort of geographic “presence” consider QR codes as methods of user interaction and additional content delivery. For example, a museum could have a unique QR code at major exhibits that give additional content about the exhibit. The web page called by the QR code could provide video or voice, obsoleting the bulky walkmans with headphones that pervade many institutions.

Or, consider its applications at fundraising events. Encouraging the posting of selfies at the start and finish lines, or instructions at other locations, is a great way to involve sponsors and participants.

What have you done with QR codes?

All nonprofits are tech nonprofits

“all technology problems are ultimately leadership problems.”

Leigh Kessler, VP at CharityEngine,  asked on LinkedIn: “A Key theme from #14NTC, the NTEN conference, was ‘all nonprofits are tech nonprofits.’ Any tips on how people can become better technocrats, even those to whom it doesn’t come easily?”

(By the way, if you are unfamiliar with NTEN or its conference, you should know that you have a great resource available to you.

My response to Leigh was this:

One of the tips came up in Saturday’s keynote, and in many informal conversations I had throughout NTC: listen to everyone. Most people know how they’d like to do their job more efficiently and effectively than YOU know how to do their job. Those we serve need to be empowered more to help themselves. The key frustration of young people at NTC (and there were so many young people there!) was that they feel they have limited voice within their organizations, yet they need to drag their organizations (their words) into higher levels of technological capacity.

Leigh then pressed me for ways to empower those younger techies in our nonprofit organizations.

First, kudos to the organizations that invested $2500 or more for their young people to leave the office for 3+ days and attend NTC. If they want to realize a return on that investment, they need to expect those young techies to present a 30-minute talk on “what I learned at NTC and how it relates to us” to a wide swath of the nonprofit organization. NTEN works because there is almost no hierarchy — members talk to each other directly. As Michael Enos said on Friday, “turn your org chart sideways, because work gets done between the lateral boxes, not up and down the chart.” (view the entire discussion here.)

Specifically, how can young people be heard? We older people need to ask them hard questions, then shut up and listen. Then, instead of saying “that won’t work because…” we need to say, “that might work, if…” We need to let them try. Even Yogi Berra got it: “A fellow can observe a lot just by watching.”

This leads to my belief, first considered at the first NTC I attended in 2005, that all technology problems are ultimately leadership problems. Organizations that lead well, that cultivate leadership at all levels, will implement the technology ideas brought to them by young people at NTC, as well as from other sources. “Top-down” theory X organizations will never hear the ideas.

A large food bank leader explained that he’s trying to use technology to enable his food suppliers to work directly with the soup kitchens and others who use the food. This is leading to more direct deliveries, bypassing the food band completely in some cases.

“If we can get out of the business of moving food around, we can focus more on the business of finding fresh food and getting it to the people who need it,” he said. Mobile GIS-based tools (which is a part of every smartphone) and better communication networks will make this possible.

What are we doing in healthcare, and specifically in healthcare fundraising, to use technology to listen more to our donors, to connect them with the specific causes they want to fund, and to show them the results of their “investment?”

As I wrote for The NonProfit Times, ( and  technology won’t fix the problems your nonprofit is trying to solve. It will enable your people to tackle those problems in new ways that might be much more efficient than your old ways.