Technology has thrown the door of donor payment platform options wide open. Greg Johnson reveals how these options are now being utilised by fundraisers.

Technology has thrown the door of donor payment platform options wide open. Greg Johnson reveals how these options are now being utilised by fundraisers.

Putting a cheque in the mail or dropping coins in donation tins may still be common methods of donating, but these old habits are changing. Funds can now be raised from donors virtually anywhere, at anytime of the day, thanks to the advancement of donor payment platforms. A donor can make a donation from the comfort of their own home, while paying their bills at the post office or even via their mobile phone, day or night, nearly entirely regardless of location.

The development of payment platforms isn’t only for the donor’s benefit, however. The technology-based systems can allow nonprofits to verify bank details in real time, process first payments immediately and minimize data entry and reconciling issues.

A rewarding online experience

Off the back of a decade-long e-commerce revolution, online is an obvious focus for payment platform evolution. What started out as a basic way to make a quick financial contribution has blossomed into a significantly more dynamic environment.

Social networking’s growth has seen the introduction of fundraising pages and the ability for people to publicise their own giving among friends. That’s required the online payment process to become more experiential than a mere financial transaction, according to Everyday Hero founder Nathan Betteridge.

“Ultimately you want to make it as quick and convenient for a donor to engage with a charity and you want the experience that that donor goes through to be as emotive and rewarding as possible,” says Betteridge. “It’s not just about the transaction; it’s about the experience that the donor goes through as well.”

Fundraising gets mobile

Mobile devices look set to play a larger role in fundraising, with considerable development being carried out in this space. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has already released its eVolve MOBILE product, which is being used in face-to-face fundraising to process a donor’s initial donation by credit card at the time of contact. That means credit card details can be verified, a donation made and receipts issued to both the donor and nonprofit via e-mail, all in an instant.

A similar system is on its way from Everyday Hero, which has recently added the ability to perform mobile top-up campaigns to its Donor Choice payment platform. Following a natural disaster, for instance, existing regular donors could simply text ‘yes’ in response to an SMS campaign for a top-up donation, as their credit card information is already stored.

“A lot of charities have a lot of credit card data stored; these mobile tools will allow them to quickly seek a top-up donation from those donors,” says Betteridge.

While the rollout of mobile technology for face-to-face fundraising is only in its infancy in Australia, it’s been used with great success for a number of years abroad. British homelessness charity Shelter started using PDAs to both collect and instantly verify supporter’s bank account details in 2009, which eliminated the 6% failure rate it had previously experienced with direct debits.

Security a key concern

Security is often a concern with new technology, but digital options are providing an increasingly secure environment for donors when compared to paper-based systems of years past. Instead of writing down and mailing away credit card details, online payment gateways like Westpac’s PayWay and the CBA’s eVolve utilise the latest in online security coding, while Everyday Hero’s BPAY option also allows donors to make payment from within their own online bank account or at the local post office using this trusted medium.

An online payment gateway can alleviate the PCI issues for nonprofits too, according to Julienne Price, head of social sector banking at Westpac. “Once we host credit card data, that’s the compliance box ticked,” says Price. “When information is downloaded in the excel spreadsheet, that information is masked, so the charity doesn’t have to handle that data.”

While the PayWay solution is scalable to suit different organisations’ needs, Julienne Constable believes its perfect for smaller organisations like Lifeline Newcastle and Hunter, where she’s head of PR and marketing.

“Being a small nonprofit, I have to do the website myself,” explains Constable. “I did start with PayPal, but the accounting was a mess. PayWay has just been so easy to use for someone technically challenged like myself. It’s very easy to set up, easy to reconcile and very easy to track.”

Follow the proven path

It’s prudent for charities to take advantage only of proven technologies, according to Betteridge. Investing heavily in fringe technologies which may or may not gain traction with donors could come at a significant loss.

“It’s a fundraising director’s job to have the next big sexy fundraising campaign, but I think sometimes people confuse the fundraising idea with the payment acceptance method,” explains Betteridge. “What you want to do is have a great idea and a great campaign, then provide the most robust, convenient payment solution for your donor.”