Nonprofit door-to-door organizers know just how time-consuming data entry can be out in the field. Ringing doorbell after doorbell, hoping someone answers. Once someone does, you spend most of the time explaining who you’re representing and what your mission is. Then you maybe hand out some literature that gives more detail. After all that, you have to make time to ask for donations or a signature.
If you’re lucky, the person on the other side of that screen door will shell out some cash or a check, while you bring out your handy clipboard and jot down the essentials — name, home address and email of the donor, including the donation amount.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. You only have so many hours of sunlight until it’s time to pack up and start again in the morning.
This might leave you saying, “There’s got to be an app for that.”
It’s called Grassroots Unwired. The startup, founded by self-described ex-political campaign warrior Russ Oster, was part of the 2011 DreamIt Ventures class. The app helps canvassers expedite and better organize their efforts through mobile technology.
When the app was first created, the startup was strictly geared towards working with political campaigns across the country.
“That was mostly our focus initially, giving political campaigns the tools they needed to get off of clipboards while going door to door,” Oster said.
But after the 2012 election season, the app started to get some inbound interest from groups doing organizing work. Oster said that his platform wasn’t quite ready to take on nonprofits at the time, but the startup saw the potential and had always intended on expanding to that market.
Grassroots Unwired began building and implementing better and more efficient features, such as uniquely developed credit card processing, signature gathering and email generation.
After receiving $100,000 in seed money from Ben Franklin Technology Partners last June, the now Bristol-based company began piloting potential clients. While they’re still refining the product and making sure it has all the bells and whistles canvassers and organizers need, they’re just about ready to make their official foray into the nonprofit world.
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Here’s what the app will have for nonprofits:
- A mapping tool that creates “turfs.” Canvassers in the field can view a map of the area they’ve been assigned to. Organizers upload a list of addresses, which are then geocoded and put into a map that draws out the targeted area.
- Scripts. This can display marketing materials such as PDFs or videos that help tell the story of the nonprofit seeking a donation or action.
- Email. This sends a thank-you letter, information and a receipt to the donor you just interacted with, almost immediately after they close the door.
- PCI-compliant credit card swiper. This technology is unique to Grassroots Unwired. It has developed a way to set up recurring payments, which is something you can’t get with Square or Intuit.
“It’s great to get a $10 donation on one day, but if you can convince that person to do that monthly or quarterly or annually, you’re way ahead of the game,” Oster said. The credit card data is encrypted and is not accessible until the agreed donation date is set.
Beginning this May, the services will be piloted nationally with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. According to Oster, that includes over 45 offices across the country with over 1000 people out in the field per day.
“Then we had this idea,” said Oster. “We’re based in Philly, we love that we started the company in Philly and think the city’s got so much going for it — let’s try to build a critical mass around here by giving folks an opportunity [to try out our services].”
Starting this month, Grassroots Unwired is offering a one-month free trial of their services to local Philadelphia nonprofits. After the trial, nonprofits will need to pay $80 per head out in the field.
Oster said the responses so far have been positive.
“[Nonprofits’] average dollar contributions are dramatically higher because they’re now able to accept credit cards in a safe and PCI-compliant way,” he said. It has also eliminated office work, which Oster said has provided an opportunity for nonprofits to be out in the field rather than doing data entry in the office.
“One client last summer completely eliminated overtime for their office staff,” Oster said.
Image via Grassroots Unwired-30-
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