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This post is written by Michael Ellison, President at Alumni Monitor .

Universities are getting into the mobile mindset and alumni development should be no exception. When it comes to engaging millennial alumni, the shift to mobile becomes essential. With that said, Corporate Insight’s “Gifting on the Go” report could only identify a select few colleges across the country that are utilizing mobile giving methods. With the recent npENGAGE report showing a 45% increase from 2014 to 2015 in donations made on mobile devices, it’s time for innovation in alumni development to become mainstream.

From text giving to Venmo transfers, these unconventional mobile payment options open the lines of communication between alumni associations and an untapped target audience.

The Rise of Nonprofits on Venmo

Venmo, the millennial mobile wallet app, lets users instantly transfer money to one another with only Wellesley venmoa smartphone and a bank account. Imagine if giving back to your alma mater were as simple as requesting an Uber.

Wellesley College is one of the pioneers in using Venmo for alumni donations. Wellesley alumnae were quick to jump on the opportunity to make this easy contribution – no envelope stuffing or credit card number entering required. Even better, the social aspect of Venmo’s activity feed, where everything but the dollar amount is shared with others, fosters a sense of community and encourages friends to give. Some students supplemented their donations with female friend emojis (as Wellesley is a women’s college) or quips of excitement. Friends can also like each other’s transactions, fostering a community of giving.

According to a rep, Venmo is not currently accepting new nonprofit accounts, but we imagine this will change going forward. The app has particular promise as a viable giving option for young alumni.

Text Donations for Extra Convenience

Temple University is exploring another unique mobile donation channel with its text giving option, launched in October 2015. Alums text the university with the handle @temple, a hashtag indicating their intended donation recipient (e.g., #tyler or #owlclub) and their gift amount. They then receive an SMS in reply, prompting them to set up a text giving account and complete the online gift form. After submitting the form, donors receive a confirmation text message and email receipt. No minimum or maximum donation is required, and donors can select the frequency of a recurring gift upon setting up their text giving account. The capability helps facilitate mobile donations for supporters who wish to give on the go without logging into a computer, tablet or university app.

Temple venmo

While text giving is a very convenient donation option, it is currently only available for six areas of support at Temple: Tyler School of Art/General Scholarship Fund, Boyer College of Music and Dance/Annual Fund, Diamond Marching Band, Department of Theater/Scholarship Fund, Temple Athletics/Owl Club and Temple Health/Erny Auditorium Renovation Campaign. Some donors may not find this method useful until they can donate to their preferred programs, but Temple does plan on expanding it to the entire university.

Offering a range of digital giving options could have a lasting impact on participation rates and overall donation totals, and this potential should not be overlooked. By capitalizing on the growing availability of mobile platforms, universities can truly broaden their outreach and engage their millennial alumni.


Michael Ellison is President of Alumni Monitor, a research service of Corporate Insight


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