Venmo for nonprofits: Our predictions and strategic suggestions

Credit cards, checks, cash — the typical means of exchanging money are looking at some stiff competition in the world of apps. Venmo is one of many mobile payment services that allow users to link their bank accounts of debit cards and send money to friends, family, and now, nonprofits. In 2017, more Venmo had more than 7 million active users, and shuttled nearly $18 billion between people, up 126% from 2016. That’s a lot of people, a lot of money… is it also a lot of potential donations?

 

Is Venmo the next PayPal for nonprofits?

Let’s cut straight to the chase: At the moment, Venmo doesn’t have a formal nonprofit program. There is one in private beta, but they’re longer accepting applications from nonprofits to participate.

One challenge to Venmo officially expanding is regulation: Nonprofits and regulators are still working through the challenges associated with new donation and solicitation channels.

We can’t wait to see what this formal system looks like: As nonprofits aim to reach and cultivate younger donors, why not meet them on their own turf of smartphones and apps? While the legal details are tested and sorted out, you can still plan for the launch by testing the tool. Here’s how we see an eventual strategy for incorporating Venmo into your existing donation strategy playing out.

 

How to (eventually) manage a nonprofit Venmo account

How frequently do you want to hear about donations? Do you prefer email or push notifications on your phone? If email, who should receive those messages?

When setting up a Venmo account, you’ll have options for these notifications — keep the above questions in mind so that you aren’t entirely overwhelmed, or entirely out of the loop. In addition to keeping track of donations, you will also want to know who those donors are and how much they are donating to update your CRM, if applicable. Venmo has monthly reports that they send out to make this easier.

Be careful when reviewing Venmo notifications though, especially if you use it personally. As it stands, Venmo is a two-way street: People can send you money, but they can also request money. Accidentally sending money from your organization to a friend or stranger would be embarrassing — even moreso than requesting money from a stranger as your organization.

 

How to get donors to use Venmo

Now, how would you actually get people to make donations on Venmo once it becomes available for nonprofits?

 

  • Give a tutorial

 

Whether or not your audience is on Venmo, it’s wise with any new donation tool to send your followers an introductory onboarding email to let them know it’s now an option. Outline what Venmo is, why you decided to use it, and how they can use it to donate. Make sure to include any best practices for payment captions so you can track donations. (Venmo payments currently see a lot of emoji use in captions — #FreeCampaignIdea.)

 

2. @ Yourself

On every fundraising message, whether it’s sent via email or social media, be sure to include your Venmo handle. In emails, you can also link to your Venmo profile page to make it even easier.

 

3. Say “thank you”

Venmo is a social platform, as much as it is a payment service. Thank donors for their contributions by commenting on the payments!

 

4. Get competitive

Consider holding fundraising competitions, where “teams” create hashtags and lead crowdfunding campaigns on your behalf. Each team uses a unique hashtag, so your organization can award winners for most people and most money raised. Their reward could be a promo code to your online shop, a shoutout on social media, or a matched donation. As mentioned, Venmo is a social platform, so users will see their friends donating in their feed which will spark a conversation which will (hopefully) encourage them to participate.

 

5. Ask for a lot of a little

Venmo stands out compared to competitor organizations for being the largest source of small transactions under $300. Grow your donor base by asking for small donations: You’ll expand your reach and get a foot in the door with new supporters who may donate more down the road. Plus, as we’ve seen from politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — a lot of small donations can make a huge difference.

Have you already used Venmo for fundraising? What worked? What was challenging? Share with us by tweeting @WholeWhale.