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Sophist exec: More mobile opportunities for fundraising events

July 16, 2014

slidesNEW YORK – An executive from Text-to-Pledge parent company Sophist at Mobile Commerce Daily’s fifth annual Nonprofit Mobile Day said that the range of mobile tools available for text-based donations has grown to the point that just about any event can be turned into a fundraiser.

During the session titled “Text-to-Pledge: Unlocking a New Revenue Stream at Events Through Mobile Giving,” the executive said an opportunity exists in the special-event space between its high-end Text-to-Pledge platform and more mass-market, text-to-give campaigns. The company’s Donomo platform is one example of a tool that can be leveraged to prompt text-based donations at events that might not otherwise be appropriate for a Text-to-Pledge effort.

“We see an opening in the middle,” said Reed Baker, CEO of Sophist. “Text-to-give is one end of the spectrum. It is best for mass-market situations where you never in a million years want to deal with the collections effort. Text-to-Pledge is on the other end of the spectrum, where it makes a lot of sense to deal with the collections because it is a chance to communicate with your major donors and their networks.”

Nonprofit Mobile Day, a conference owned by Mobile Commerce Daily parent Napean LLC, was co-presented with the Direct Marketing Association.

More applications
Traditionally the Text-to-Pledge platform works best at $250-per-plate or higher fundraising events that meet certain criteria, such as having display screens and good connectivity. The events include a call-to-action through which donors are prompted to text a pledge an amount of their choosing. The events generally garner a 15 percent response rate.


Reed Baker is CEO of Sophist LLC and founder of Text-to-Pledge.

A speaker at a Text-to-Plede event can issue the call to action for donations, often during a meal break after a video or other media presentation is displayed. Text-to-Pledge has the ability to post the text messages to a large screen in real time, which helps create an environment for giving.

“A big part of the trick is folding the fundraising opportunity into the background if the event, without taking away from the culture and the quality of the event environment,” Mr. Baker said. “Normally there is a build-up in terms of storytelling. The audience is primed for giving, and that is when the call to action takes place.”

The campaigns can capture a large amount of donor data for the charity, including 100 percent of mobile numbers, 90 percent of donor identities, and about a third of email addresses and physical addresses. Because a large percentage of attendees may be guests of others who have purchased tables, the Text-to-Pledge campaigns can also serve as an acquisition mechanism for databases.

Mr. Baker said the Donomo platform incorporates some of those same qualities as Text-to-Pledge, such as unlimited pledge amounts, along with the immediacy and the scalability of text-to-give campaigns.

“In the middle is a huge void,” he said. “A thousand companies are trying to figure out what the best approach is.”

Because Donomo is also a pledge-donation platform as opposed to an instant-giving platform through carrier networks, it requires a collection follow-up — which Mr. Baker described as an opportunity to engage with the pledgers.

Future technologies
Among the platforms that might lend themselves to charitable giving in the future, Mr. Baker cited Instagram, as well as streaming technologies, wearables, projectable surfaces and biometric technologies.

“Instagram can measure impressions in a meaningful way,” he said. “I think we will start to see that used more and more for sponsorship, and most sponsors want there to be a robust social-media component.”

Now that the cost of streaming video has come down, it could also work its way into more nonprofit fundraising efforts, Mr. Baker said.

Fingerprint-authentication may eventually become the easiest way to make donations as more devices incorporate such technology.

“Fingerprint payment has a lot of potential,” Mr. Baker said. “You definitely do not leave home without your fingerprint.”

Final Take
Reed Baker is CEO at Sophist LLC.

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