By Emily Haynes AUGUST 30, 2021 – From the Chronicle of Philanthropy
Raising money during virtual fundraising events just got a little easier, thanks to the launch of a new donate button on Zoom. Starting Monday, participants in Zoom meetings and events can make charitable contributions within video calls through Donations by Pledge, a free app created by Pledge, a fundraising technology firm. A version for Zoom webinars is coming soon.
Pledge does not take a cut of donations. Instead, the app gives donors the option to “tip” the company, which Pledge says is the main way it makes money from the app.
The five-year-old company had previously designed digital buttons to collect charitable donations from online shoppers at checkouts. But the pandemic inspired a shift to gift processing for virtual events. Last year, an estimated 25,000 nonprofits used its virtual event tools to broadcast fundraising appeals and a real-time ticker that lists donors on roughly 50,000 virtual events streamed on Zoom, Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Live, and Instagram Live.
Feedback from those nonprofits helped inspire Pledge’s new donate button for Zoom. Nonprofits wanted a way for people to make contributions without leaving the event’s video feed.
James Citron, chief executive of Pledge, sums up nonprofits’ primary concern: “If I have to get everyone to leave my virtual livestream to donate, I’m going to lose one-half to a quarter of my audience.”
Pledge built a prototype of its Zoom button as its entry in Whale Watch — Zoom’s 2020 app-development competition, which awarded as much as $2 million in investments to the winning idea from Zoom and a group of venture-capital firms. Pledge’s entry was one of 10 finalists, which helped the company establish a relationship with Zoom.
Today, Donations by Pledge is available as one of 58 apps that Zoom’s roughly 300 million daily users can plug into their video calls.
How It Works
Free and paying users of Zoom can activate the donate button by going to their Zoom account settings, switching on Zoom Apps, and installing the free app. They can start a campaign by selecting at least one charitable beneficiary from the more than 2 million nonprofits in Pledge’s global charity database. Nonprofits that aren’t in the database can work with Pledge’s support team to get approved and added to the list.
After event hosts complete the campaign form, Pledge generates a link for hosts to drop into the chat on their Zoom calls. The app translates the campaign link into a panel that pops up on the right side of the screen for all call participants. The panel includes the name of the nonprofit the campaign supports, the drive’s fundraising goal, and a running tally of the people in the Zoom session who have donated.
Donors can contribute by text or through the donate form on Zoom. Immediately after they make their gift, they receive a tax receipt by email, and their name is added to a live ticker of donors on the video feed. Attendees who contribute also get access to special theme backgrounds that signal they’ve donated.
The company says nonprofits that add the button to their fundraising events on Zoom can expect to see 50 percent more donors make contributions during the event.
The new Zoom donate button is similar to Facebook’s donate button — but with a critical difference. If donors give their permission, Pledge shares their names and email addresses with the nonprofits to which they donate.
Before the Zoom donate button’s launch, Citron says, nonprofits used Pledge’s virtual event technology in events streamed on Facebook Live and Instagram Live as a way to collect donor data on platforms that are notoriously stingy about sharing that information with nonprofits.
Zoom has the potential to be an important fundraising channel for nonprofits — and can connect donors with the people the organizations serve, Citron says. For example, MyAgro, an economic development nonprofit that supports farmers across the African continent, held a Zoom fundraising event that patched donors into a community meeting with farmers in Mali whom the nonprofit supports.