The Appification of Fundraising

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Few new technologies in the past decade have been more disruptive than the smartphone. Just think of the many products you can do without: a watch, a calculator, a compass, a GPS receiver, a camera, a pedometer, an MP3 player, and even a radio. Smartphones have revolutionized how we read the news, get weather forecasts, do research, and maintain calendars and address books. (Rolodex cards and Daytimers, anyone?)

I think smartphones have the potential to disrupt Scouting fundraisers, too–not because there’s an app for that (although there probably is), but because smartphones have taught people that the best things in life are free or cost just 99 cents.

I thought about this recently when the president of Country Meats sent me some samples. His family-owned company sells 16 flavors of beef sticks, which retail for just $1 (and earn troops a 45-percent profit). I’m not a huge fan of beef sticks, but I found these pretty tasty–certainly as good as the impulse items you can find at the grocery store. And it’s that impulse-item feel that’s important. People who might not shell out $10, $20, or $30 for whatever your troop is selling might be willing to fork over a buck for a beef stick or for some other low-cost fundraising item.

(One of the popular items in the exhibit hall at last week’s BSA National Annual Meeting was the Butterflyer, a $2.50 wind-up gizmo that flies like a butterfly. Lots of people were willing to hand over a few bucks for a momentary thrill.)

I read the other day that the makers of the mobile game Candy Crush Saga took in an estimated $2 billion in 2013, much of it from people spending 99 cents at a time for in-game purchases. Your troop won’t earn nearly that many zeroes, but you may well find that “Brother, can you spare a buck?” is the ticket to fundraising success.

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