The Medical research nonprofit Enduring Hearts got a quick boost from a mobile payments engine that allows consumers to donate while making purchases at a network of retailers.

"Digital donations represent the future of fundraising for nonprofits, and we recognize how critical both the online and mobile channels will be to further driving our fundraising," said Sean McCall, president of Enduring Hearts, a Marietta, Ga.-based firm that funds research to increase the longevity of organ transplants, with a priority placed on pediatric transplant recipients.

In the first days of the technology's launch, several Enduring Hearts supporters used it to spend over $1,000 each, McCall said.

Enduring Hearts is using Shop2Give, a nonprofit payment app developed by mobile marketing company Sionic Mobile and Ching, an Atlanta-based technology company that serves nonprofits.

"Mobile is top of mind if it's in someone's hand, which makes it a good donation tool," said Ron Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile. "Everything can happen with a couple of taps."

Sionic Mobile, which is also based in Atlanta, provides mobile marketing, gifting, in-app payments and rewards programs. Sionic's technology supports a number of payment methods, such as cards, Google Wallet, Dwolla and E-Check payments at a network of about 28,000 merchant locations that use Sionic, including Bass Pro Shop, Lowe's, GameStop, Papa Johns and Staples.

Following each checkout, the app rewards consumers with Sionic's virtual currency, called IONs. This currency, which is part of Sionic's rewards program, can be spent at other Sionic merchants or it can be used to make donations to nonprofit organizations.

"It's a tool for making an instant donation, kind of like that donation box near a point of sale terminal," Herman said. IONs can also be gifted to other parties.

Both Ching and Sionic Mobile donate an average of 2% to 3% to nonprofits from mobile purchases through Sionic's retailer network. The funds come from the commissions the retailers pay for the marketing referral, which defrays extra costs for consumers.

"[As a consumer], you pay as you would normally do, there is no extra cost," said Herman. "For the user it's pretty seamless."

Shop2Give, which is free for nonprofit organizations, includes social and marketing tools that nonprofits can leverage to communicate with supporters, provide incentives for repeat donors, and enable direct donations at any time.

Mobile commerce is a more convenient channel than Enduring Hearts' traditional methods of seeking donations at events or on the Web, McCall said. "Sionic opens up a robust and easy mobile channel where supporters can donate to our cause with ease and convenience."

Using mobile payment for donations is more about extending sourcing than it is an appeal to usability, said Thad Peterson, a senior analyst at Aite Group.

"Nonprofits are continually seeking new opportunities to drive revenue, so I don't think that mobile and online fundraising is necessarily the elimination of a pain point, as much as it is an attempt to broaden reach and increase incremental contributions," he said.

Other nonprofits using Shop2Give include the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities, Camp Sunshine, C.H.O.I.C.E.S for Kids and Smith Center for the Healing Arts.

Mobile payments are becoming a popular way to enable donations. PayPal supports donations through a partnership with Church Office Online, while SCVNGR's LevelUp got an early boost from its own support of mobile donations. Shopkick, a mobile rewards provider, started out as the charity-focused Causeworld.

Blackbaud has developed a smartphone attachment that is specifically tailored for nonprofit collections at events. And Danal provides its BilltoMobile payment software to the mGive Foundation to accept donations through text messages.

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