Click & Pledge
When Kami Razvan first implemented Click & Pledge to help a single non-profit client in 2002, becoming a purveyor of choice for political campaigns was not really part of the plan.
But political people who saw his software working firsthand, or heard about it, started calling.
"It got viral on its own," he said.
Now Razvan claims over 9,000 customers in 45 countries, processing credit card transactions online in a handful of currencies. While Click & Pledge doesn't have its corporate logo on many pages, he says the software at the core of his company is "the engine behind the engine" for many online fundraising operations.
An engineer by training, Razvan seems fascinated by statistics tangentially relevant to running a large fundraising back-end.
"I'm fascinated by people's digital persona[s]," he says.
For instance, looking at aggregate data about donations processed using his software, he determined that e-mail appeals for money result in donations more often when they're sent between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between Tuesday and Wednesday. More amusingly, he suggested that you can tell a lot about someone's political predilections based on the name and domain of an e-mail address.
Click & Pledge has a lot of features — so many, says Razvan, that he's frustrated that campaigns aren't taking advantage of all of them.
The web-based platform offers fundraising pages, embeddable fundraising widgets built in Flash and Silverlight, and a video service that inserts a donation widget at the end of videos uploaded to YouTube. Click & Pledge also has its own social network, on which users can become supporters of a cause, recruit new supporters, and distribute fundraising calls to action on behalf of the cause.
The problem, Razvan says, is that campaigns are slow to take advantage of a social network or embeddable widgets.
"It's like saying somebody is running to a destination and he has, like, a year to get to California," Razvan says, "and he says, 'I'm going to start running, because I don't have time to learn how to drive.'"
For the former engineer, it's simple mathematics: If any one supporter is connected online to about 100 people he or she can reach via e-mail, those 100 people are far more likely to open an e-mail from the supporter than from a campaign. In turn, if just a handful of those people are converted into supporters, they can try the same process with 100 more people. Social networking — and actively recruiting supporters to build a social network for a cause or person — can rapidly and exponentially increase an organization's reach, Razvan figures.
Building on this, Click & Pledge allows people to create fundraising teams and work in groups on behalf of their cause. It's just that Razvan says his clients haven't taken the time to learn how to do this.
One of the big barriers to getting people into a social network is the onerous task of filling out a new user profile. People don't want to sign up for another Facebook; at least, that's the conventional wisdom. Razvan working on a solution to this problem: adding Facebook Connect to his platform, which would allow people to log in to Click & Pledge's social network using their Facebook username and password, but without Click & Pledge actually seeing that username and password. That's not slated to come online until summer 2010. However, he recently implemented a connection between Click & Pledge and Twitter allowing a clients' supporters to automatically send tweets when they take actions like give money or send out a fundraising appeal to friends.
Click & Pledge doesn't come with a constituent relationship management system. It is, however, designed to integrate well with two open-source options: SugarCRM and CiviCRM. Similarly, Click & Pledge hosts some of its client sites; when it does, the company uses Drupal, the widely popular open-source content management system.
The advantage there — and Razvan was quick to point this out — is that no one person owns the code; from a survivability standpoint, this means that there's no single vendor involved to cause you endless amounts of stress when it goes out of business. If the projects are abandoned by their developers years down the line in favor of things that work better, you can, in the worst case, pay a development team to migrate your stuff, without worrying about loss because of a proprietary format or code that's impossible to change.
Click & Pledge also integrates with Salesforce CRM, which offers an open-source API developers can use to create links between the software and other tools; with Constant Contact, the e-mail software; and with Mailchimp, another e-mail marketing tool. The connections with e-mail newsletter management systems allow users to elect to subscribe to your newsletter at the same time as they make a donation, Razvan explains.
"Our objective is truly to be the engine behind, a payment engine for all the campaigns and networks," says Razvan.
Razvan says his company built their fundraising widgets in Flash and Silverlight for browser compatibility and to have greater control over how the widgets look and act. The widget checks the website it's been embedded on to see if it's secure or not; if the website isn't communicating with the user via a secure connection, the widget redirects the user to a secure page to finish the transaction. If the page is secure, the user can make the transaction then and there.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) uses Click & Pledge for her campaign website. She has used Click & Pledge's recurring donations feature to arrange periodic payments from supporters, donor management, an online sign-up feature for her campaign newsletter, and standard campaign contribution processing.
No contract, all features: 4.5 percent plus $0.35 per transaction; $5/mo.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.); Fred Smith for Governor (N.C., 2008); National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives