A new mobile app called Planet Fundraiser is expanding into Little Rock and offering businesses a new way to help their communities, retain customers and increase revenue, founder and CEO Kasey Birdsong says.
It works like this:
♦ Customers of a participating merchant use their smartphones to take photos of their receipts and submit those photos through the app.
♦ A percentage of the total sale is donated to a nonprofit or school.
♦ The customer chooses a nonprofit or school she wants to donate to. Organizations must sign up with Planet Fundraiser through its website, PlanetFundraiser.com, to participate.
The app is free to customers, nonprofits and schools, but in addition to giving up a percentage of sales, merchants pay a monthly fee that typically ranges between $99-399 per month. Merchants only pay when a customer uses the Planet Fundraiser app at their business.
The fee is how Planet Fundraiser, based in Birmingham, Alabama, makes money.
Beyond PR benefits, merchants reap extra sales from charity-minded patrons.
The app, launched in 2016, is used by 500 merchant locations, including some Chick-fil-A, Jimmy John’s and Newk’s restaurants, and more than 1,000 schools and nonprofits, Birdsong said. Dry cleaners, car washes, real estate agents and even mortgage companies in other markets have also signed up.
In mature markets, donations totaling six figures have been collected, he said.
In Alabama, Planet Fundraiser is available in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery and Auburn. It's also available in Nashville, Tennessee, and in Dallas. The company plans to expand to 20 total markets by the end of the year.
Birdsong said he brought the app to the Little Rock market a few weeks ago because Five Guys franchisee Laurie Lowe contacted Planet Fundraiser. She operates Five Guys restaurants in Little Rock and North Little Rock.
Lowe heard about the app from a friend in Alabama whose child used it to raise money. She is the app’s first merchant partner in the Little Rock market.
Lowe’s customers can start using the app in 30 to 60 days to donate 5 percent of their checks at her restaurants to their worthy causes.
Lowe said she was interested because her restaurants already host community nights where, for a specified time, a percentage of customers’ receipts go to a nonprofit or school.
But Lowe said Planet Fundraiser will give customers who can’t make it to a community night a convenient option.
They can donate as they would at a community night any time they eat at one of Lowe’s Five Guys locations.
Lowe also said the monthly fee charged to merchants “doesn’t bother” her.
Birdsong called it an “advertising and marketing fee,” and said the company’s fee structure is performance-based.
Asked how he persuades merchants to sign up, he said, “We let the data, from a business side, speak for itself. Across the board, we see all of our partner merchants, their receipt size increase anywhere from 70 to 100 percent. … So we increase customer spend and we see that the frequency level in which the customers return back to their business increases dramatically. So both customer spend and customer retention increases.”
“By empowering the consumer, there’s a real bond that gets built and people can relate to that brand,” Birdsong said. “There’s a large appreciation for the merchant.”
Birdsong’s own experience running a fundraiser for his daughter’s T-ball team two years ago sparked his idea for the app.
He asked local merchants to sponsor a sign for the outfield and discovered that they were frequently asked to donate to a number of organizations and couldn’t say yes to every one.
With Planet Fundraiser, merchants don’t have to make that tough call, Birdsong said.
In addition, he hopes Five Guys will enjoy it and word will spread not only to other merchants but to schools, nonprofits and customers to form a network.
Hispanic outreach organization Seis Puentes, the Air Force Association, Salvation Army Central Arkansas and North Little Rock Middle School have already signed up to receive donations through the app.
“Our goal for Little Rock is to provide this, to really be the connector between both sides that makes giving and fundraising more streamlined and efficient for both merchants and the groups raising the money,” Birdsong said. “The other big benefit that’s a mission for Planet Fundraiser is to use technology, to really use our platform as a way that everyone can make a difference and impact their local community no matter what their financial background is.”
(Correction: A previous version of this article stated that merchants pay a monthly fee of $120 to $400. Planet Fundraiser recently lowered the starting monthly fee it charges to $99.)