Square: Donations Made Easy

by Kelsey Savage, PBS Interactive

Last week, David Wilder, the Associate Creative Director of Broadcast & New Media Design, wrote a piece about how technology could allow PBS to turn micro donations into a bigger asset. Thanks to devices like Square, he pointed out, PBS stations can swipe a credit card literally anywhere with an internet connection and a smart phone. With no implementation costs or contract fees, an easy to use design and email receipt tracking, it seems like a no-brainer for all stations to have one of these devices handy at all community events.

Square is run by Jack Dorsey, of Twitter fame and being hailed by tech gurus as an innovative and practical device, particularly for organizations that rely on a grassroots fundraising methods (read: viewers like you). In fact, Wilder points out that both the Romney and Obama campaigns are working to adapt Square’s payment system for the upcoming presidential election. While this donation format might not generate contributions in the four or five figure range, they can certainly add up over time. As a recent college graduate who rarely carries around cash or a checkbook and has not established a charitable giving portfolio, on-the-spot electronic donations are highly appealing to me. And while ten or twenty dollars might not mean a lot now, it seems worthwhile to try to become part of a donor’s annual giving routine while they are young.

A few #localpbs stations are already experimenting with Square and are singing its praises. Libby Peterek, Director of Web Services at KLRU, says that they have been using Square services to sell Austin City Limits merchandise and that it has been “wildly successful”. Tamra Wilson, also from KLRU, notes that since it “allows for purchases to be made using ATM and credit cards it offers great flexibility - as the deposits are made directly it really helps with accounting”. The only challenge that Wilson has found so far is making sure that she always has a steady wireless connection.

KCPT's promotions and outreach coordinator, Lindsey Foat, also commented that her station has been using Square with iPads to take donations and that it is particularly useful when “someone wants to become a member right there on the spot”.

It’s already hard to enough to get people to open up their wallets; we might as well try to make donating as simple and accessible as possible. Square seems like the perfect tool for that.

Read David’s full blog post on his neat blog, it’s wilder.

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