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NFC Helps Charity With Fundraising Event

Tipping Point received more than $7 million in donations within half an hour.
By Minda Zetlin
Oct 16, 2016

In the heady world of high-end fundraising, a technology failure can mean losing millions in missed donations in a single evening, or even a single hour. Conversely, technology that makes giving frictionless and exciting can translate into millions more in donations—money that can meaningfully improve people's lives.

That was the calculus facing Tipping Point last spring, as the organization planned its annual benefit at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Tipping Point is an 11-year-old charity that raises funds in the Bay Area and distributes them to local organizations that fight poverty by improving health care and education. "All the money we raise in any year is given out the following year," says J'aime (pronounced "Jamey") Law, Tipping Point's director of events. "And 60 percent of the money for the year comes from this one event. So there are a lot of high stakes, and we do our best to raise as much money as we can in the room."

Tipping Point's annual benefit was held at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
Most of the area's wealthy built their fortunes in the tech world, so for the past several years, Tipping Point has used cutting-edge technology to add excitement to its events and make giving as fun and easy as possible. But Law had struggled to find the right technology to make giving or pledging donations seamless. "We looked at text-to-give, which is really popular but not right for us for a few different reasons," she says. "There's a percentage charged as a fee that reduces the donation. Also, we've found, at other events, that once you tell people to take out their phones, they're on Instagram or checking email or on Twitter. We want to keep people in the moment, so keeping them off their phones is ideal."

Law also reviewed handheld devices the charity could use to collect donations, but most were larger and not as modern-looking as she preferred for this event. She also wanted to avoid having guests type in a lot of information. "It's easiest if we can put part of the technology in the hands of the guest," she states, "and then have trained volunteers capture the donation."

Then Law attended a fundraiser for Charity Water, during which audience members raised their hands and pledges were collected by simply touching a handheld Near Field Communication (NFC) device to their wristbands. "I was really impressed with how simple and easy it was for the guests to just raise their hand, tap the RFID [wristband] to the receiver, and wham, bam, you're done," she says. Law knew she had found the technology she was looking for.

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