Reach Out and Charge Someone | npENGAGE

Reach Out and Charge Someone

By on Mar 3, 2011

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Remember the movie Back to the Future II, where Marty McFly travels to the future in a flying Delorean? My eleven-year-old self was convinced that we would all be flying in cars and eating re-hydrated pizza by the year 2015. Well, we’re creeping up there, and can you believe it – nary a hoverboard in sight! No, I think Writer/Director Robert Zemeckis missed the mark just a tad, but I have to admit I never would have guessed our true direction either… I would never have believed that in my pocket, I could carry a device that lets me call my mom, send a text message, check my e-mail, listen to music, play games, watch movies, take pictures, manage my finances, read a book, map a route to anywhere in the world, and search for information on just about any topic I could imagine.  That’s pretty rad.

And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Lately, more and more of my conversations with nonprofit fundraisers have turned to mobile technologies and how nonprofits should be leveraging mobile to further their missions.  As we all know, text-to-give has proven successful(ish), especially around disaster relief like last year’s Haiti earthquake. (Read 5 Ways to Promote Your Text-to-Give Campaign on Social Media from Nonprofit Tech 2.0). Mobile applications have also begun to surface to empower peer-to-peer fundraisers to check their progress and send appeals straight from their phone.  Plus every organization wants to be sure their website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate on a screen the size of your palm.  So where is all of this going?  What’s the next big mobile trend to consider?

If Starbucks is any indication, we should turn our attention to mobile payment technologies. Did you know that you can download an app that will allow you to pay for your coffee with a quick scan of your smart phone?  Take that, Marty McFly!  This technology relies on a mobile bar code, or QR code, that debits money from a pre-paid gift card you purchase ahead of time.  That seems to work for Starbucks, but not many nonprofits have brick-and-mortars with gift cards and check-out stands at the ready.  No, where I see the biggest opportunity for nonprofit orgs and mobile is with Near-field Communication, or NFC, technology.  NFC is a chip installed in or stuck on your phone that allows you make a credit card payment and/or gain access to information from a “smart object” with a tap of the phone (think of Exxon’s “Speedpass,” but installed in your phone and accepted anywhere).

So let’s brainstorm – how could you leverage a “tap-to-pay” or even a “tap to get more information” feature on a smart phone?  What application could this have for:

  • Visitation – Parks, zoos, museums, etc.
  • Events – Galas, walk/run/ride-a-thons
  • Peer-to-peer Fundraising
  • Advocacy
  • Direct Mail
  • Others?

In my mind, the possibilities are limitless – smart mail that allows you donate by phone, self-led tours or art exhibits, peer-to-peer donations made by bumping phones together.  I’m excited to see what the future holds for mobile technologies in the nonprofit space – aren’t you?

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