Obama Campaign Goes Big on Mobile Fundraising

Politico had a short piece yesterday (via PoliticalWire) about Obama 2012’s new foray into mobile fundraising:

The Obama reelection campaign is providing headquarters staff, field organizers and volunteers the ability to take campaign donations with their mobile phones.

Campaign personnel are being issued Square mobile credit card readers, allowing them to process donations with their iPhone or Android phones, a campaign official tells POLITICO. The rollout will happen nationwide, and involve staff at all levels.

The technology is a boon for canvassers and other field staff — potentially saving the campaign hundreds of hours of time processing donations, and giving field staff enormous flexibility. Moreover, it’s another good example of the power of mobile technology to streamline and automate otherwise mundane — but nevertheless important — campaign tasks.

Square has been used by a handful of local political campaigns, but the Obama campaign’s adoption is the first national political adoption of the technology.

A few points: first, congrats to Square! Talk about a bigtime endorsement…. Next, the fact that mobile fundraising will be available through volunteers is a big deal — with tens/hundreds of thousands of people canvassing their neighborhoods for the campaign in the upcoming year, the ability to take donations on the spot should expand the universe of donors significantly. Big reason: mobile donations let you catch someone at the moment they want to give, with no chance for them to put it off or forget about it altogether.

And, adding those new donors to the list is probably more important than the actual money they give in the moment, since once they’re on the list, they’re subject to all the inducements to give again that a modern campaign can offer. Plus of course, once they’ve donated, they’re invested — and they’re more likely to volunteer or otherwise work for the campaign to protect that investment. Expect to see this feature widely used at campaign rallies and other public events as well.

BTW, the Square technology looks interesting. I’ve never played with it, but judging from the photos, the actual cardreader plugs into a phone or tablet’s headphone jack! Way to take advantage of one of the few features that’s standard across essentially all portable devices.


Written by
Colin Delany
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  • I don’t know where these canvassers are going, but any time I go door-to-door while campaigning, There’s a general suspicion of anyone unexpected coming to the door. It’s a challenge to get someone to open the door and accept my literature. If I’m lucky, I may even get a minute to talk about the campaign. Now in addition to handing out literature, making contact and getting contact information you are asking this person who has opened the door to you to hand you a credit card so you can scan it in and make a contribution? If this is seriously a door-to-door activity, how many people are going to negatively react to being asked for a credit card?

    Where I could see this being useful is at rallies, meetings, speeches and the like where people have self-selected in order to attend and can be inspired in the moment to give. Maybe even at a table at a public event where people are coming over to you. But as a door to door canvassing tool? I think I’d need to see some real-world proof that the positives would outweigh the negatives.

  • Thanks Doug! This is a great example of why it’s good to have readers who know more than I do…