The 5 ways mobile fundraising will explode in 2016

Mobile giving has long been viewed as the next frontier in campaign donations. Mobile giving, in the form of text messaging, is the fastest way to give to the Red Cross after a natural disaster. But for campaigns it hasn’t caught on.

The next revolution in political fundraising is almost certainly mobile giving, and it’s not what you think it is.

Forget “text-to-donate.” The FEC made rules around accepting text-based donations in 2012, and it seemed like a boon for campaigns — after all, just about everyone in the U.S. has access to text messaging and you don’t need a credit card to participate. But, while text-to-donate has raised millions for disaster relief programs, it has come up short for campaigns, as mobile carriers take a massive percentage (up to 50%!) and the FEC capped text-based donations at $50 per month.

Mobile giving, or mobile spending, are broader terms for sending money via a wireless device, like an iPhone. More than one million people already use Apple Pay at dozens of retailers and apps.

But since the 2012 campaign, sending money has become easier and cheaper. One campaign, likely an insurgent campaign will figure out how to raise money cheaper, faster and from a wider demographic. This is how they will do it:


You want to reach Millennials, but you’re asking them for a credit card or a check? Venmo is how Millennials are settling bills these days, it’s how they are sending money. Open the app on the phone, credit and debit cards have already been linked and send cash. Transaction complete.

Venmo is also really social. Transactions are public, not by dollar amount, but by subject line. Think of it as publishing the memo line from your check. You can write whatever you want. But now, users can tag their friends in payments. So imagine a donor writing: “Jane just gave Smith for Congress $25, and @John and @Beth should consider giving too.”

It’s free to receive money via Venmo. If the donor sends money using their big bank debit card, it’s free. It’ll cost 3 percent to send money via credit card.

Strategy: At every event with a younger crowd, ask the audience to take out their phones and send the campaign money via Venmo.


Snapchat is trying to figure out what it is. Is it that place you send pictures that “disappear”? Is it a place for storytelling? Is it the place for news? While it’s evolving, Snapchat still has an impressive user base. And now they’ve added a feature to send (or snap) money called Snapcash. So after you obliged when your super cool “web guru” told you that your campaign “has to be on Snapchat,” you might as well do something on Snapchat and collect money via the app.

Strategy: Make a day in the life video on Snapchat, send it to all of your supporters and then at the end of the video, write something like “Snap us $10.”

Facebook Money Transfer

Ok, you’re saying, “My donors don’t have Snapchat or Venmo.” They probably do, but never fear, Facebook saw a trend and is hopping on it. Facebook just announced they are doing money transfers via their messenger app.

Right now, Facebook’s money transfer is supposed to work between friends only. So it will be a little difficult to send money to national campaigns. But your early money has to be from people you know. So perhaps you can get your donors used to giving money via Facebook.

Strategy: Announce via Facebook you’re running for office. And then follow up with everyone who liked your post via the messenger app that you need to raise money and make the hard ask. Follow that up with a disclosure form.


Back in 2014, the FEC approved regulations that said PACs can collect funds via Bitcoin, but, per the Washington Post, PACs must convert the Bitcoin into dollars before depositing the money into the bank.

Strategy: Through online targeting, you find users who have been to Bitcoin sites and hit them up with a donation ask. Just scan the QR code (Bitcoin users use a QR code to move money), and send money to the PAC of your choice.

Aside from Bitcoin, there are a ton of new players in transferring money, and some have a social feature that can turn one donor into many.

Google Wallet

Google Wallet is an app that allows you to send and receive cash. It’s not social, so it really doesn’t fall into a category like the others. There’s PayPal, Square, Amazon Transfer and a bunch of other ways to transfer money electronically. In addition, if you’ve spent years building up an active email list and you really don’t want to embrace real mobile giving, Google allows users to send money through Gmail! There is no need for donors to download the app.


You can send your Gmail users an email with the FEC or state disclosure forms and ask them to reply. They can send cash by clicking the dollar sign to the right of “Send.” Google is so big, there’s a good chance that your donors already have their credit cards stored with Google.

Here’s the rub: For federal campaigns, you still have to get users to fill out disclosure forms. Donors have to swear they are 18 or older, an American who is legally allowed to donate, they are donating their personal money, etc.

The other problem is data. Well-run campaigns love data and collect data on all their donors, large or small. Somehow these lots of money coming from disparate sources need to be categorized for further engagement, thank yous and more. So some work will need to be done on that front.

But with billions on the line for the 2016 campaign, maybe Venmo, Snapchat, Facebook and the others will build in a way to give and disclose at the same time and your favorite CRM tools will learn to integrate. With email open rates diminishing and younger voters turning to payment methods with anything other than a physical form of payment, creativity is what’s going to help campaigns meet financial goals for 2016. Those who embrace mobile giving first have a great shot at a victory in the money race.