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Digital fundraising drives Downtown Eastside mission

The Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver is betting on smart phones and the Internet this winter to weather the stormy…

By Beth Hong , in City Feature story , on October 26, 2010 Tags: , , , ,

Derek Weiss is optimistic about the future of digital fundraising for non-profits in Vancouver

The Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver is betting on smart phones and the Internet this winter to weather the stormy forecast for donations.

Starting on Nov. 1, anyone in Metro Vancouver can scan a Quick Response (commonly referred to as QR) code at bus shelters to donate to the Mission.

Individuals can also vote for the Mission’s bid for a $100,000 grant in the Pepsi Refresh Everything Challenge.

Both fundraising strategies are new, and respond to the 10-per-cent decrease in total number of donors to the Mission in 2009.

Derek Weiss, spokesman for the Mission, cites the recession as a key reason behind the decrease in donations and the need to explore other fundraising options.

He said there are lots of people who are giving small gifts because they want to help out and these two digital strategies will help “connect” with the Mission in new ways.

“Ultimately, what we want is to have the money that people donate go right to the programs that help the people in need,” he said.

The Pepsi funds will be used for the Mobile Mission outreach program. Staff drive a van that hands out food and clothing.

From texts to code

The Mobio application is currently available for iPhones and Android phones

The Mission is one of few organizations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that provide a comprehensive range of services in the area.

Services address immediate needs such as food, shelter, clothing as well as long-term needs including youth mentorship, housing, and rehabilitation.

Advertisements for the Mission will be featured on bus shelters, with the QR code.

In order to donate, the smart phone user has to download a Mobio application, and register the relevant credit card information.

“It’s really a leapfrog over text-to-donate technology because from our end, there are far fewer fees involved, so really it only costs us pennies per donation,” he said.

“And that person can choose how much they give, whereas text donating is usually five to ten dollars.”

Reducing the cost of donating

So far, QR codes are relatively unknown in North America, although they are widely used in Japan and Europe.

Technology writer and blogger Matt Klassen heralded the potential for philanthropy using Mobio technology in January, at

“The true genius behind this technology, in my opinion, is not just what Mobio technology can do for you, but what you can do with Mobio technology to help others,” Klassen wrote.

Weiss said this is precisely the goal behind the QR code campaign.

“We’re trying to reduce the cost of fundraising,” he said. “With the telephone technology, it basically costs us $3 in fees to get the $10 donation, so $3 goes to the company who’s working the fees, for an organisation our size.”

“We’re losing a meal. So QR, and Mobio in particular, is dedicated to keeping our fees low—that’s their business model.”

Advertisements for the Mission will feature QR codes at bus shelters

Future of digital fundraising

Smartphone technology and the Internet will play a large role in the Mission’s fundraising strategies this winter, and in coming years.

Online, more Vancouver non-profit organizations are joining social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to promote and fundraise.

A 2010 report from Pareto Fundraising on trends in the Canadian charitable sector states that online donations have increased 17 per cent in the last two years.

Mark Binns, a Mobio spokesman, said that the company is continually adding new non-profits to its list of partners.

In Vancouver, it is also working with Big Brothers and Habitat for Community.

In Canada, it has partnerships with the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and the Ottawa Heart Foundation.


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