This post is part of the weekly ‘Mobile Monday‘ series on news, ideas, and strategies in the world of mobile devices.
I hope that our recent post about online advertising in the 2012 presidential election was as interesting to read as it was to write, because it’s inspired me to look into other ways new media technologies have revolutionized political campaigning. Over the next few months, we will be posting on how the election was changed by topics such as online advertising, mobile marketing, social media, and more. This week, we will talk about political fundraising through mobile donations.
Cell phones have changed exponentially since the last presidential election. In 2008, many of us still had flip phones, QWERTY keyboards were a big deal, and BlackBerry smartphones were much more prominent. The iPhone wasn’t even two years old, the App Store was only a few months old, and the Android Market was launched a mere month before the election. Boy, have times changed.
Now political candidates and campaigns need to make separate mobile sites, develop campaign apps, and optimize mobile ads. Fortunately, it also makes political fundraising a whole lot easier. That’s what we’re looking at in this week’s Mobile Monday.
Political Fundraising with Square
Both campaigns have taken advantage of mobile fundraising through Square, a mobile payment device and app that allows anyone with an iPhone, iPad, or Android to accept credit card payments. Campaign staff, as well as volunteers, can accept mobile donations anywhere, as long as they have their smartphone and the 1″ tall card reader that plugs into the phone’s headphone jack. The campaigns fork over the same 2.75% to Square that any business using Square does.
The Square apps are very easy to use, even though more information needs to be collected than with the average Square transaction. Federal Election Committee (FEC) requires that campaigns report the name, address, and other information of any donor. The donor can enter all of this information in the app, swipe their credit card, sign using their finger or a stylus, and receive a receipt via an email or text message.
The Obama and Romney campaigns have teamed up with Square to make branded versions of the app with branded card readers to match. The Obama campaign staff first started using Square in January, and was made available to the public soon after. The Romney campaign showed up to the Republican National Convention in August with 5,000 Square readers to hand out to supporters and send to Romney’s campaign offices around the country.
Political Fundraising Via Text Message
Both campaigns have also harnessed the power of SMS fundraising to allow voters without smartphones to donate via text message. Using custom shortcodes, donors can text message a message or amount (less than $50) to the campaign. Their donation will either appear on their monthly cell phone statement or be charged to a saved credit card if they have an account on Barack Obama’s or Mitt Romney’s website. SMS donations are available for users of Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, with AT&T possibly joining these carriers in the near future.
These quick text message donations make it easy to solicit donations in advertisements and events. Instead of taking precious time to specify who to write a check out to and where to mail it, advertisements and messages can simply say “To donate this amount, text this message to this number.”
Donating Inside Campaign Apps
Both the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns have launched several mobile apps throughout the course of their political campaigns. Making donations inside the app is almost always one of the features of the app. Including this option among user features encourages making donations in addition to other activities encouraged by the mobile apps.
Regardless of the method, the ability to seek out donations via mobile devices, which follow voters pretty much everywhere, can bring in significant donations, even when the individual donations are in smaller increments. When donating is this easy and can be done anywhere, voters may be more willing to text a donation or swipe their card than to write a check.
Have you donated to a political campaign using a mobile device, whether it was through a text message or app? Comment below or tweet us at @eZangaInc!