A few years ago (about 6 years to be exact) we introduced what we called “The Donation Machine.” This was tied in to our very rudimentary version 1.0 of our current mobile program book product, Stageview.
The idea behind this was to give performing arts organizations the ability to collect “micro donations” in increments of $5 or $10 during any one performance right from their patrons sitting in the seats.
Not surprisingly, it fell flat on its face!
The first struggle we encountered was the technology. At that time the technology available made it very difficult to seamlessly collect these micro donations on behalf of our clients and then deposit them into their accounts.
The second struggle, or more precisely, complaint, was that most of the performing arts organizations did not want these small donations to get confused with, nor interfere with their large contributors and sponsors.
And, finally the third struggle was that people in general were still very leery about making payments through their mobile device.
Basically, we were way ahead of the curve on this. Fortunately this was not our only product, so we were able to go back to the drawing board. But you hear horror stories all the time about technology companies introducing a product, they in turn get all kinds of VC money only to be too early to market and they crash and burn. Then a couple years later, a different company comes out with a similar product and it takes off like gang busters. Think Palm and IPhone!
The angle that we now take with our Stageview mobile program book product is that our clients can do or add anything that they would like to their Stageview. And they love the fact that we still do all the work for them.
I say this because the most recent request we had was to add a donation button for one of our performing arts program book clients.
When we saw this request, everyone here kind of chuckled and said “the donation machine!”
We’ve never lost site that micro donations for the performing arts was/is a good idea. However, we never thought we would be attempting it again!
After researching the now current electronic transaction tools out there, we found a great product that will and can do what we wanted it to do 6 years ago. The most amazing thing about this new technology is all we need from the organization is an email from their accounting person and we’re done. They can start collecting instantaneous donations from their patrons sitting in the seats.
We’re also excited, because paying via your mobile device is no big deal now-a-days. And we’re starting to see more and more performing arts venues play around with these small funding campaigns (see Crowd Funding For Performing Arts: Opera Di Firenze on Stage.)
We will be beta testing this with this particular client next month. Our suggestion to them for this new donation button is to not have it replace large donations or sponsors, but to do little measurable campaigns (i.e. we are trying to raise money for a digital billboard in the lobby, the goal is $XXXX.XX) Then Stageview collects and visually shows everyone where the current goal is. It also allows for posting real time who made what contribution (but they can remain anonymous as well.) The performing arts organization can run this mini campaign for as long or as little as they like—it’s all up to them.
This may fail again, or maybe this time will be the charm—who knows? But that’s the beauty of being an entrepreneurial company, if you don’t try, you’ll never know.