Camera Phone Fundraising Taps Younger Donors

June 8, 2010       Kate Rogers      

Understanding the nature of generational differences is what will open the doors for new methods of fundraising. According to John Baguley, CEO of the International Fundraising Consultancy in London, for Gen Y, technology is just a part of life — as natural and necessary as eating and sleeping.

“Gen Y was born with a cell phone attached to their ear and mouth,” Baguley said. “But we have to wait for Gen X and Gen Y to have the wealth to give enough to make a difference.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that nonprofits should wait to cultivate their relationships with these groups, he said. During the recent international conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Baltimore, Md., Baguley spoke regarding The Next Big Thing: Camera Phone Fundraising, and how generations will adapt to this up and coming method of fundraising.

Camera phone fundraising is a fairly simple concept that has yet to break into the mainstream in the U.S., he said. Nonprofits can get their own square shaped barcode or quick response code from the Internet for free from Web sites such as www.mobile-barcodes.com. This barcode can then be placed on posters or direct mail that is sent out to prospective donors.

Donors need only take a photo of the barcode to be directed to a charity’s Web site donation page on their smart phone, where they can contribute in one easy step. The software for donors is also free and available at www.mobile-barcodes.com, Baguley said.

“We are waiting for a major charity to use it,” he said. “It could take up to six months or a year before it is in real use. The first people to adopt this technology will be Gen Y, they have moved into Internet technology so quickly.”

The way the photo is taken is important, Baguley said, because it has to be centered and recognized properly by the software to direct a phone to the Web. The technology is free and smart phones with cameras are so prominent, he said, that charities should take time now to experiment with this before companies begin to charge for barcode design and software.

In the next five to 10 years, Gen X and Y will inherit money from baby boomers, and will have the means to become major donors. “Use it carefully here,” he said. “Test it and try it. Camera phone fundraising itself will not generate extra money, but will be the means by which a huge amount of money is given in the future. It will be the route of choice for people and replace other methods as it gains popularity.”

At the session “Annual Giving: Understanding Impact of Cell Phones, Gen X and Gen Y on Annual Giving.” Mark W. Rountree, vice president and senior consultant at RuffaloCODY LLC in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Ron Song, senior associate director, Direct Response at the University of Chicago Office of Philanthropic Affiliation in Chicago, Ill., also spoke to how Gen Y is affecting annual giving strategies.

Rountree said this generational impact is shaping data mining and modeling now more than ever. The way Gen Y is getting their information, through Facebook and mobile applications, is very different than Gen X and Baby Boomers’ more standard approaches.

“We’ve got this huge boom demanding a different kind of accountability and solicitation,” he said. “They are measurable drivers of the marketplace.”Gen Y, 80 million strong, are the future of annual giving, he said, which means they have to be catered to in campaigns to come. This group does not give “gifts,” but instead supports causes. They also need to be asked for donations and thanked for contributing, he said.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you don’t thank, you don’t get renewals,” Rountree said. “This only gets more important with Gen Y.”The generation is also multi-channel in behavior, and direct mail just isn’t on their radar, he said. Referring to Gen Y as “self absorbed,” Rountree said they must be cultivated before the ask.

“Rather than jump in and ask for money, insert steps like personal URLs and emails asking what motivates them to give, what they like about our program,” he said. “Follow it up with emails, newsletters and show that you actually listened.”

Responding to followers on Twitter and Facebook also helps to build trust with Gen Y, and makes them more likely to engage and donate, he said.Most importantly, Song said charities must begin to listen to what these younger generations have to say. For this reason, data mining is increasingly relevant in helping to predict their behavior.

“Why are nonprofits not caring what other people are thinking?” he said. “We have to try to respond to these people and be prepared to listen.”