Tap to Pay: A Look at Out-of-the-Box Giving Methods

Amanda Kohn by on Mar 22, 2016

venmo.pngIt’s a mobile world, and we’re just living in it. According to NPEngage, 14% of online donations were made on mobile devices in 2015, a 45% increase over the previous year. As a follow-up to Corporate Insight’s Gifting on the Go report, which examines the giving options offered by university mobile apps, we’re exploring other out-of-the-box methods for alumni donations. From text giving to Venmo transfers, these unconventional mobile payment options could be a recipe for success – opening the lines of communication between alumni associations and a potentially untapped target audience.

Nonprofits Surface on Venmo

Venmo, the mobile wallet app that millennials love, enables users to instantly transfer money to one another with only a smartphone and a bank account. Now imagine if giving back to your alma mater were as simple as splitting your group Seamless order. In a beta test, the app opened its doors to nonprofits like the American Heart Association and Malaria No More. Wellesley College (specifically the Class of 2010 – a prime target group for mobile transactions) is one higher ed institution to enable Venmo transfers as Wellesley Fund donations. Alumnae were quick to jump on the opportunity to make an easy contribution – no envelope stuffing or credit card number entering required. What’s more, the social aspect of Venmo’s activity feed, where everything but the dollar amount is shared with others, fosters a sense of community and makes giving more fun. Some students supplemented their donations with female friend emojis (as Wellesley is a women’s college) or quips of excitement, and friends can “like” each other’s transactions. According to a rep, Venmo is not currently accepting new nonprofit accounts, but we imagine this will change going forward, and the app may serve as a viable giving option for young alumni in particular.

Wellesley Venmo Account

Despite its potential, Venmo presents some possible issues when it comes to its role in nonprofit giving. For one, the rolling weekly limit of $299.99 for unverified users and $2,999.99 for verified users means the app would not necessarily be able to handle larger donations (though this may not affect the younger age group that the app tends to target). Second, the app’s lack of receipts may be an issue for tax-deduction purposes, as a donor’s only record will be in the form of an email confirmation. Finally, the 3% fee Venmo charges for credit card transactions could deter prospective donors (though the extra charge, which helps cover processing costs, does not apply to debit card payments or bank account transfers).

Text Donations Are Extra Convenient

Temple University is exploring a mobile donation channel not offered by any other school in our Alumni Monitor coverage group with its text giving option, launched in October 2015. It works like this: alums text the university with the handle @temple, a hashtag indicating their intended donation recipient (e.g., #tyler or #owlclub) and their gift amount. They then receive an SMS in reply, linking them to set up a text giving account and complete the online gift form. After submitting the form, donors receive a confirmation text message and email receipt. There is no minimum or maximum donation requirement, and donors can select the frequency of a reoccurring gift upon setting up their text giving account.

While text giving is a very convenient donation option, it is currently only available for six areas of support at Temple: Tyler School of Art/General Scholarship Fund, Boyer College of Music and Dance/Annual Fund, Diamond Marching Band, Department of Theater/Scholarship Fund, Temple Athletics/Owl Club and Temple Health/Erny Auditorium Renovation Campaign. Some donors may not find text giving useful until they can donate to their preferred areas of support, but Temple does plan on expanding it to the entire university. The capability helps facilitate mobile donations for supporters who wish to give on the go without logging into their computer, tablet or university app.

Temple SMS Giving Sample Screens

What these examples have taught us is that schools that offer a range of giving capabilities can increase participation rates, endowment sizes and overall donation totals for the university and its programs. By capitalizing on the growing availability of mobile channels, universities can truly broaden their outreach especially among millennial alumni.

For more information on Alumni Monitor and our research on alumni outreach and engagement, please contact Dana Peterson at dpeterson@corporateinsight.com or visit us at alumnimonitor.corporateinsight.com.

About The Author

Amanda Kohn

Amanda is a Senior Research Associate for Alumni Monitor at Corporate Insight. Read more