Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 09 2015

The One Simple Ingredient That Will Inspire Your Members To Donate More

By David McMillin

It’s the moment that happens at every annual meeting: the ask for donations. Someone from the organization or the Board stands in front of hundreds or thousands of attendees as an inspiring video montage plays on the screen to show where their contributions will go and what kind of opportunities they will help create. From scholarships for young professionals to research grants to noteworthy volunteer efforts around the country, it’s clear that the money will make an impact.

However, there’s just one problem that arises in most of these asks: the process of making a donation isn’t simple. In today’s everything-should-happen-with-one-click environment, asking attendees to fill out envelopes and write checks feels like a process. At Convening Leaders, Stacey Shafer, Senior Director of Operations, PCMA Education Foundation, wanted to turn that process into a painless and instant opportunity to contribute to the future of the meetings industry.

“We had struggled in the past,” Shafer says. “We asked for donations from the stage in the general session, but it’s so easy to forget to do it once the session ends. We wanted to get people to take action immediately when they were inspired instead of giving them an envelope and asking them to bring it to the foundation booth later.”

SMS Success

To make that immediate action possible, Shafer and the Education Foundation used MobileCause, a platform that turns a smartphone into the easiest fundraising vehicle. General session attendees texted a code and immediately received a link to complete their pledges.

To help spur a communal feeling of a need to donate, Shafer worked with Freeman’s production team to display an on-screen donation thermometer to show how those contributions were adding up in real-time. While she admits the team feared the potential embarrassment of a stagnant thermometer if no one donated, the visual display delivered the evidence that texts were translating to a steadily rising bar.

When the meeting finished, the results spoke for themselves. Traditionally, Shafer says the Education Foundation raises approximately $10,000 at Convening Leaders. In 2015, that number doubled to more than $20,000.

“It was a huge success,” Shafer says. “Based on the engagement and numbers we had seen in the past, it’s clear that this really resonated with the audience.”

Costs And Concerns

While text donations can raise a lot of money, setting up the ability to accept them is very budget-friendly.

“It was very easy to set up,” Shafer says. “The cost is extremely minimal.”

There is one downside, though. As US-based meetings welcome an increasing number of international attendees, the platform cannot solve the global mobile conundrum.

“It doesn’t work with international cell phones,” Shafer says. “The code is different for any cell phone based outside the US. That was a pitfall for us because we have a lot of global members, particularly those from our Canadian and Mexican chapters. For them, we provided a short link to go straight to the donation page.”

More Than Mobile

While the text-to-donate initiative played a key role in accelerating donations, Shafer highlights that successful on-site fundraising requires a multi-channel approach. She credits Friends of Marlene, one of the beneficiaries of contributions at Convening Leaders 2015, for their help with talking to attendees one-on-one about the need to donate.

“The Friends of Marlene committee members were instrumental in doing the ask,” Shafer says. “They worked the foundation booth, talked to attendees and asked people who were waiting in line to get their head shots taken.”

Looking for more fundraising ideas to jumpstart your next campaign? Check out the MobileCause blog for some helpful tips.

While Convening Leaders was a great success, the PCMA Education Foundation still needs your help to reach its goal of $80,000 in 2015. Click here to check out the progress and make your contribution the next generation of meetings.

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