Birmingham, Ala.-Based Planet Fundraiser Finds Its Groove in Music City

By Chris Clancy

Birmingham, Ala.-based Planet Fundraiser expanded into Nashville last month, partnering with fast food restaurant company Krystal and on-demand grocery delivery service Shipt to benefit Music City schools and nonprofits. While it might be too early yet to look over the hard numbers, Planet Fundraiser CEO and co-founder Kasey Birdsong says he’s encouraged by what he sees.

“Nashville is a large metropolitan area, much larger than Birmingham,” Birdsong said. “With that in mind, we’re letting the merchants and schools kind of direct us in terms of what to focus on, what parts of the city.”

Operating through its free app, Planet Fundraiser works by showing users which merchants in their area are participating, and how much they’ve committed to give.

After making a purchase, the user takes a photo of his or her receipt, allowing Planet Fundraiser to calculate how much of the money spent will go toward the user’s preferred charity. Planet Fundraiser then sends each participating merchant a bill and distributes the earmarked money to the proper charitable organization. The “win-win” behind the idea is that businesses build customer loyalty by helping causes dear to customers’ hearts, connecting with them on an individual level, while fundraising groups see a new income stream.

Public schools have enjoyed the lion’s share of Planet Fundraiser’s efforts, possibly due to public schools’ long history with local businesses in drumming up financial support. Planet Fundraiser points out the Trussville City Schools Band Foundation, located in Birmingham, which raised more than $10,000 in its first year of partnership.

Joe Artime, director of brand activation for Krystal, says the partnership takes some of the legwork out of charitable giving efforts. “Our Nashville partnership with Planet Fundraiser allows us to spend less time on the accounting and paperwork associated with fundraising,” he said.

“Planet Fundraiser helps us manage out charitable giving,” said Britney Summerville, Partner Success Manager at Shipt. “[Participating] merchants support their local communities, build customer loyalty and understand how giving impacts their business.”

Shipt, which is also headquartered in Birmingham, has been a booster of the Planet Fundraiser concept since its launch in June 2016. In fact, it was Shipt founder Bill Smith who led the initial $1 million round of investment for Planet Fundraiser, which took place in April during the Velocity Accelerator program, run by the Innovation Depot in downtown Birmingham.

“We started the fundraising process just before Velocity and it was going, but it was moving very slow,” Birdsong said. “What Velocity really has done has not only helped us accelerate our business but the fundraising process. Not only did it accelerate our skill sets, but we saw great community support in Birmingham.”

Other high-profile businesses have partnered with Plant Fundraiser on a market-specific basis, including Piggly Wiggly and Chick-Fil-A. Of course, other key partnerships are forthcoming as Planet Fundraiser aims to reach its original goal of expanding into 20 cities over 12 months. Birdsong says the company is likely to reach that goal, with expansions into Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Raleigh-Durham in the works.

Sounds like a lot going on for a 14-employee company that’s barely one year old, but Birdsong hasn’t lost any perspective.

“The overall goal is to continue to improve the experience for our users, help schools and nonprofits raise money more easily, and help our partners earn customer loyalty,” he said. “And we’re hiring.”