To Square or Not to Square: Fundraising and Mobile Credit Card Readers

When we talk about fundraising ideas there’s a strong tendency to focus entirely on the presentation and not the logistics. We talk endlessly about the events, the volunteer fundraisingdeployment, and the marketing we’ll come up with. We concentrate, in other words, on the fun stuff – the creative aspects of a fundraising project that involve just some soaring imagination, some bubbling passion, and good energy.

The logistics of it is another matter. A bit dry, more challenging, and easy to get wrong, a lot of people shy away from the question of how best to collect the funds. Recently, the company Square has introduced what could be an incredible tool for all fundraising efforts – from charity fundraising to school fundraising: The mobile credit card reader.

Benefits of Square

Imagine being able to accept credit cards out in the field. Door to door fund raising is often the most frustrating part of this work because so many people don’t have cash to spare, and even though they claim to be interested and promise to follow-up, the fact is studies have shown that your greatest odds of collecting a donation are when you’re standing there in their doorways.

The Square credit card reader plugs into almost any Tablet or Smartphone and allows you to charge any amount to a credit or debit card. It’s safe, secure, and easy – they sign the credit slip on the screen using their finger. Square will send you the readers for free, in fact, so once you decide to collect your funds in this way there’s no setup costs associated. That means that if your fundraising isn’t as great as you hope, you’re not socked with extra fees that destroy whatever profit you make.

Having the ability to accept credit cards also lets you compete with the Big Boys in almost any situation, whether it’s selling goods or tickets or simply accepting donations. Plus, in this increasingly cashless world it will expand your potential pool of donators.

Thing to Consider

None of this means that Square doesn’t have aspects that might negatively impact your fundraising:

  • Square will charge fees per transaction – that’s how they make their money – and they don’t offer any special pricing for non-profits currently. That will reduce your take, so the question is will using Square increase your donor reach sufficiently to make up for it.
  • Some people may be nervous about swiping their credit cards through a tiny device attached to your iPhone. Square has a healthy encryption and security platform, but that doesn’t always comfort people.
  • Using Square does require that your volunteers either have their own devices they’re comfortable using, or that you can provide them with suitable devices.

In the end, it’s worth considering, the power and extra reach that Square can offer with essentially zero start up investment is too great to simply ignore. You must think through your own organisation, volunteer resources, and goals and decide whether it will work for you – but you can’t simply discount it.

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