Ronald McDonald House Cashes in on e-Payments

October 1, 2001       Craig Causer      

The annual Rock 103 Wake Up Crew’s Ronald McDonald House Radiothon has been a staple fundraiser for years for the Memphis, Tenn.-based nonprofit. Despite a collection rate traditionally entrenched in the 80 percentile, Ronald McDonald House, Memphis (RMHM) improved the number of pledges cashed in by utilizing an ePayment system.

The system allows the organization to process credit card pledges and bank the money faster than you can say two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

“A person calls, it goes through the system and it’s in the bank in one fell swoop,” explained Carol Kirby, executive director of RMHM. Kirby went on to say that the swiftness and ease of the electronic confirmation and processing of pledges has boosted collection rates to “around 93 to 94 percent.”

The procedure of pledging a donation during the radiothon begins with donors calling a toll-free number that is made available over the airwaves as well as on Rock 103’s heavily visited Web site. The gift may be given in cash, check or credit card but RMHM encourages credit card pledges by offering incentive items to card users. Those who decide to break out the plastic have their pledges taken care of right then and there on the telephone.

“We’re able to run through to make sure it’s a valid card number and to correct any errors or missed expiration dates or any of those kinds of things. It was a lot easier than trying to track down information after the fact,” Kirby explained.

The system is reliant upon two of RMHM’s partners – First Tennessee Bank and the payment technology company IntelliPay. First Tennessee Bank handles the processing for Visa and MasterCard users while IntelliPay constructed the nonprofit’s online donation process. Both businesses contributed their talents as a gift to RMHM.

“You can’t beat that this has all been a donation to Ronald McDonald House,” Kirby said. “The processing for Visa and MasterCard pledges have been donated. We do process other cards, but with them there is a small processing fee involved. There is no cost to us to have all this set up and we certainly credit First Tennessee Bank and IntelliPay for that.”

In its 10th year, the radiothon has grown from a $38,000 fundraiser to well over $600,000 with an evolutionary system that bred online processing. Online processing is a logical extension of the event itself because the anchor that is the radio station Web page has a huge, loyal fan base who have helped us, Kirby said.