Keep up with what’s happening at Gesture and the latest mobile bidding, silent auctions and fundraising news.

Come One, Come All!

Why Nonprofits Need to Implement Mobile Fundraising Now

Written by Nhu Te for NonProfit Pro June 2017 Edition

Every industry— ours included— is transitioning into a more mobile-focused mindset. We are entering (if we haven’t already) a device-dependent era. Like it or not, the majority of people are attached to their smartphones, tablets, what-have-you. Whether you prefer the traditional way of fundraising (face-to-face), the more advanced way (digital) or a combination of both, we can all agree that technology is taking over the world by storm. While there may be disadvantages to up-and-coming technologies, there are tools out there that help bring nonprofit organizations closer to donors. For instance, let’s take a look at mobile fundraising.

What Makes Mobile Effective?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of things, let’s look at some stats that back up this claim. According to a study by Durham+Company, the use of a mobile device to donate to charities has significantly increased since 2013—a whopping 80 percent. In 2013, about 81 percent of people claimed they used a smartphone or tablet to donate. That number jumped to 93 percent in 2015.

When looking at demographics, Baby Boomers who donated through a mobile device grew from 13 percent to 19 percent in that two-year time frame, while such gifts from Millennials grew from 9 percent to 21 percent.

Transitioning or just making donating to your organization available through mobile would be a smart move for any organization, due to the fact that it’s more convenient. The “2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey: US Edition” from Deloitte found that Americans check their phones within five minutes of waking up and at an average of 47 times per day—that number almost doubles to 82 times among those between the ages of 18 and 24.

David Heitman, VP of communications at Wiland, believes that mobile is the most direct route to donors’ daily lives.

“When a device becomes ever-present like this in the lives of donors and prospects, it’s essential to be there to connect with your message and appeals. This ubiquity of smartphone use is good justification for having a mobile-first strategy for marketing and fundraising,” he said.

Like I said before, one of the things I do on my device is check my email. The mail application might be the most used on my phone. Why? Well, because I get a buzz or a ding every time a new email comes in. It’s second-nature for me to check it. And I’m sure donors are doing the same thing, so it’s important for organizations to implement a good email strategy for reaching their donors, because a bad email can send donors running in the opposite direction.

“For nonprofits using email to reach their donors, mobile is crucial because most emails are now opened first on mobile devices. That puts a nonprofit just a click away from having a meaningful interaction with prospective and current donors for whom they have email addresses,” he said. “This also means that email design and website design should be optimized for mobile. A poor mobile experience sends a bad message about a nonprofit’s professionalism. In fact, something as simple as page-load time can have a huge impact on response.”

When you think in terms of fundraising events, the single most important thing is that the donors have a great experience. If the donors do not have a pleasant experience, they will not donate—or worse, they will not come to another event. Enabling mobile fundraising at your event will aid in giving donors the best experience possible.

“What mobile fundraising allows you to do is streamline the event and just make it seamless for donors to be able to give,” Jim Alvarez, founder and CEO of Gesture, told us in an interview. “[Mobile fundraising] allows a person to give freely and easily. It increases the overall donor experience and by doing so, you’re able to have a much higher retention rate for donors and that’s probably the single most important thing for nonprofits.”

Mobile fundraising also eases the staff’s workload. Before the mobile technology, events were organized and managed by paper and pen. Now, everything is electronic, so everything that you need to know—registration, where people are sitting, how much everyone owes at the end of the night—is all in one place.

Tactics for Success

Feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, is how anyone or any organization can learn and grow. We implement a plan that we think is fool-proof, and maybe it fails—but that’s OK, because we can’t learn to succeed if we don’t know what works for our organization and what doesn’t.

One strategy that you can implement is people-based marketing. With this strategy, you are identifying and reaching individual donors, as opposed to a strategy such as broadcast media.

“For people-based marketing to work, you need data about the individuals you want to reach,” Heitman said. “Then you need technology partners who can help you reach these prospects and donors on their smartphones. Companies, like LiveRamp, have the ability to match CRM or donor data with device IDs, enabling you to deliver ads to specific individuals, at large scale, but in a way that respects privacy by anonymizing the data.”

There is also the issue of how much you need spend to reach various segments of your audience, and that’s when you can start with recency, frequency, monetary. This is where you spend more to reach high-value donors rather than low-value donors, Heitman notes.

“That can then be translated into proportional bidding in programmatic ad platforms. It’s really not much different than the direct mail channel, where you invest more to reach your most promising repeat donors. Now, all the infrastructure is in place to take the same highly personalized approach in digital channels, including mobile,” he said.

One of the challenges of this strategy is the “match rate” delivered by on-boarding partners. Although you may have a great donor or prospecting list, the on-boarding provider may only be able to match half of them to their device IDs. The other challenge is that people-based marketing requires substantial commitment. This commitment requires you “to study the data, test how deeply you can go with various audience segments and compare results with campaign efforts,” according to Heitman.

Hosting an auction is a beneficial strategy organizations can use to raise money and cause awareness, engage and connect with donors and incorporate mobile fundraising. When it comes to auctions, mobile fundraising allows organizations to do three things:

  1. Open their auction up ahead of time. This gives donors more time and opportunity to participate and donate. But it also does not limit the auction to only those available to attend the live event. So now, those who are unable to attend the auction can donate through a click of a button on their smartphones or tablets.
  2. Send their participants notifications. Mobile fundraising allows nonprofits to send their participants—those who are able to attend the event or those participating remotely—notifications on their smartphones or tablets. Alvarez says the greatest way to increase giving is to notify people who are bidding that they have been outbid.
  3. Collect payments at the end of the night. One of the past hurdles of auctions was that when people bid on items at an event, they oftentimes forget to pay for the items, so the nonprofit will have to track them down. Now with mobile fundraising, organizations are able to collect payments with one click of a button.

The challenges that Alvarez and his team at Gesture face with mobile fundraising are:

  1. The squeaky wheel. When presenting to a board, there’s almost always going to be one person (the squeaky wheel) on the board who does not see a reason to change and does not see how implementing mobile fundraising will make a difference.
  2. Attendee participation. Due to the fact that mobile fundraising is mostly done through a smartphone, a lot of charities do not want their guests looking down at their phone the entire night. But Alvarez said that the reality is that people will be looking down at their phones, anyway. “I always remind our charity partners that if they are looking down at their phones that means they are looking at doing some kind of fundraising, and that’s a good takeaway. Your goal as a fundraiser is to raise as much money as possible and you know what, this really works,” he said.

New Era of Giving

Of all donations in 2016, 17 percent were given through a mobile device (vs. 14 percent in 2015 and 9 percent in 2014). On this past Giving Tuesday, 22 percent of all donations were sent through a mobile device.

The way people give has changed drastically and is much different from what it was years ago, and people prefer to give through mobile devices. Like I said before, it’s more convenient. According to the “2016 Charitable Giving Report,” being mobile-friendly is no longer an option. Blackbaud recommends a multi-step approach that includes mobile-friendly email messages, websites and donation forms. The combination of all of these approaches will maximize the giving experience for supporters.

“I think that if a charity is not thinking mobile-friendly, then they are missing out,” Alvarez said. The whole world is going to this device that’s in your pocket, and if you’re not capitalizing on the fact that every single person in the U.S. has one of these, then you’re missing the boat.” NPPro


View the full magazine here and learn more about Gesture’s products and services here.

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Capturing the fundraising power of millennials

Millennials — otherwise known as Generation Y, digital natives, Generation Me, Generation Rent and echo boomers — are generally defined as those born roughly between 1980 and 2000. The group is increasingly making their presence known with an estimated 75.4 million millennials currently living in the United States.

Millennials are now commanding the largest wallet power of any generation, with estimates of $200 billion annually for 2017 and $10 trillion over their lifetimes as consumers. Many for-profit companies are taking notice of generation’s market power, yet many nonprofits lag behind and need to refocus efforts to embrace and engage the new largest generation to capture their potential fundraising power.

Charitable organizations, including cultural centers, hospitals and social service agencies, herald myriad causes — many that appeal to the millennial generation. Millennials can be passionate about causes, particularly those that impact others. They are drawn to causes that make a difference and desire to become part of something that offers a lasting, powerful impact.

Embrace involvement

Millennials like to learn more before they commit to engaging or donating to causes. They seek more information about what a nonprofit does, who they help and how they work. Millennials also enjoy experiential activities. They look for ways to become involved with nonprofits through an activity, event or other hands-on volunteer opportunity as a way of better understanding the mission.

Be welcoming. Invite millennials to learn about a nonprofit’s good work through involvement. Include the generation in planning a fundraiser, friendraiser or annual drive. Assign specific tasks at your next activity. Embrace millennials’ resolve to become involved, and you’ll not only gain more hands-on help but also a chance to nurture and build a future board of directors and future mid-level donors.

Millennials offer fresh faces at fundraising activities helping even the most celebrated 25th-anniversary event feel new and exciting. As a major part of today’s workforce, millennials may open doors to new networks of individual, group or employer-based donors.

Connect with millennials to identify new ways to share your cause to funding resources. The tech-focused generation may be connected to younger companies that are growing faster than ever before and may be seeking to partner with charitable organizations.

Connect through technology

Most millennials are native tech users and constantly remain connected to people, information and organizations. They grew up using smartphones, laptops and tablets. Constant connectedness is a fact of life, and millennials prefer instant access to technology. Millennials elect to seek information on the spur of the moment through their smartphone or tablet device desiring immediate answers to questions.

Millennials are also social both online and offline and enjoy sharing their experiences with friends and colleagues. Take advantage of their vast social networks and provide ways to reach and build loyal next generation donors.

Use technology to push stories about your organization via social media platforms, making it easy for millennials to find out about you and then share your stories, helping you to quickly build a circle of followers via Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat postings and shares. Nonprofits need to become more attuned to using engagement tactics to help expand donor databases with the expansive millennial generation market.

Use storytelling techniques. Use social media to further your cause by telling stories. Post pictures. Integrate videos into your communication. Feature the people who’ve benefited from your services.

Draw a direct line between your mission and the work you’re doing. Websites and information materials must tell stories about the immediacy of the work an organization is doing. Messages can be crafted featuring those you help a well as messages from important people connected to the cause sharing their inspiration to support and give.

Ignite donations

Embrace technology by incorporating it into everything you do. You’ll reap the benefits of streamlining efforts and uncover information you can put to good use with donor profiles and planning.

Become mobile friendly. Make sure your website is a mobile-based so it is easy to view, read and access at any time on any device. Be sure to prominently display the donate button, making it easy to give.

Be sure to give clear meaning to other call to actions such as ways to volunteer, spread the word or download specific materials. Integrate technology into fundraising processes to unleash efficient systems that will help you save time and help you raise more money.

Re-examine your fundraising activities. Make it easy and convenient for guests to donate. Digital-centric millennials prefer online and mobile options to purchase event tickets, or register to volunteer or participate in activities like silent or live auctions.

Make it exciting. Use technology to drive incentives to the event participants. Look for more revenue streams by including options off-site or remote participation to help increase donations and spur up demand at an actual event.

Technology provides valuable back-end support to donor database, volunteer and event management and creating reports. Modern tools help free up valuable resources better spent engaging more donors and igniting a continual flow of support and fresh prospects. Technology helps reduce costs and streamlines many fundraising pain points into a simplified more productive process.

Nonprofits that take notice of millennials behaviors and preferences by embracing more hands-on involvement, interaction via social media and mobile friendly websites can open the door to more revenue both now and in the future.

About the Author

Jim Alvarez is the founder and CEO of full-service fundraising technology company Gesture. Gesture has helped nonprofits across the country raise over $300 million since 2011 through the use of technology. Alvarez is the recipient of the Chicago Innovation Award and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award for his innovative idea and launch of Gesture. Alvarez drives the growing company to make hope happen for nonprofits developing innovative ideas that embrace technology.

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In the News: Company Solutions: Embracing Technology In The Digital Age

CBS Small Business Pulse featured a great article about Gesture and how its embracing technology on all levels. We provide mobile fundraising technology that helps nonprofits across the country raise money for their causes. We also embrace technology in our day-to-day business practices in order to provide the best services to our partners.

You can find the article on CBS SF BayArea, or read it below. Contact us to see how we can help you raise more at your next fundraising event!

Company Solutions: Embracing Technology In The Digital Age

By Deborah Flomberg

Embracing Technology In The Digital Age

If you’re one of the many small business owners who hasn’t fully embraced all that modern technology has to offer, then you might truly be missing out. Whether your business is a technology-based organization or not, there are advanced solutions of all kinds to help you reach new customers, organize your existing databases and make your life easier on a day-to-day basis. You just have to be willing to step out of the box a little to see all the different solutions that are available today.

Gesture is one example of a high-tech organization that has truly found ways to take advantage of the many different technological solutions on the market. The Chicago-based company is a fundraising technology organization that has helped raise more than $320 million for charity partners since it was founded in 2011.

“We integrate a mobile fundraising platform with expert planning and dedicated onsite professional event teams to work with charities to meet their specific event fundraising objectives,” explains CEO and Founder Jim Alvarez. “Gesture also offers year-round services that help charities build fundraising campaigns and keep focus on making hope happen nationwide. Gesture’s innovative technology platform is packed with tools that allow their partners to fully manage their fundraising campaigns. These intuitive products make it easier for donors to give and reach them where they’re most engaged: on their mobile devices.”

For a high-tech organization like Gesture, embracing other solutions has been crucial to its success. As Alvarez explains, “We recently upgraded our CRM to Salesforce and it was life-changing for our team. We now have insight into customers and can integrate with all our other tools.” Alvarez also recommends using other effective tools that have been helpful for him in the past as well. “Don’t be afraid of technology. Experiment with lightweight technology tools and services, like Zapier and Webflow, that can make a positive impact with little investment.”

Technology is changing fast, and it’s important for any business owner to keep up with it as best as he or she can. One of the quickest ways to embrace the modern age is to focus on mobile. “Fully investing in making a great mobile experience has been essential for Gesture,” Alvarez explains. “People live on their phones, and if you do not deliver a great product that empowers them to have everything they need right in their pocket, then you are letting your customers down.”

Start by ensuring you have a strong, mobile-friendly, responsive website design. Look to app-designers to help you learn how to find new ways to interact with your customers, and find different solutions to keep your product or service handy as each customer picks up his or her phone. Then you’ll see the many different ways embracing technology can pay off for your small business and, most importantly, your bottom line.

This article was written by Deborah Flomberg for CBS Small Business Pulse.

Read the article on CBS SF BayArea

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In the News: Valpo’s Jim Alvarez brings fundraising into the 21st century

Inspired Living, a magazine based in Northwest Indiana, featured an article about our CEO Jim Alvarez and why he founded Gesture.

Find the full article on Inspired Living, or read it below. Contact us to see how we can help you raise more at your next fundraising event!

Valpo’s Jim Alvarez brings fundraising into the 21st century

By Mark Loehrke

Jim Alvarez brings fundraising into the 21st century - Inspired Living, Joshua Albanese

Photo credit: Joshua Albanese

As odd as it might seem to pair the graying world of old-school, traditional fundraising with the fast-paced, cutting-edge world of mobile technology, it is perhaps odder still to learn that one of the innovators of the movement to bring those two worlds together is a Valparaiso resident who heretofore had enjoyed success as an options trader, a tanning salon owner, a golf club inventor and a proprietor of a haunted attraction called the Amhurst Asylum.

However, despite this unlikely background—which didn’t necessarily portend his stewardship of a technology-driven firm devoted to streamlining and modernizing the fundraising endeavors of hundreds of charitable organizations across the country—Jim Alvarez seems to have indeed found his calling with Gesture. Drawing on his experiences from having attended many charity events over the years—many with a silent auction component—Alvarez saw a pronounced opportunity to relieve some of the traditional pain points associated with these types of functions.

“I knew there had to be a better way to handle things like long registration lines, pen-and-paper auction bidding and slow, confusing checkout processes,” Alvarez says. “Most of the people coming to these types of events have a fair amount of discretionary income and they’re people who aren’t used to waiting in line very often, so it’s kind of strange that they suddenly have to wait in line to make a $10,000 donation. It didn’t make any sense to me.”

Looking to remedy this situation, Alvarez sold his chain of tanning salons and started Gesture in 2011, with the goal of helping organizations get more out of their worthwhile fundraising efforts by modernizing many of those outdated processes through the use of mobile technology, with everything from event registration to auction bidding to checkout and payment moving to the palms of patrons’ hands. Perhaps not surprisingly, Gesture wasn’t initially an easy sell to organizations that had grown accustomed to running their events a certain way over the course of years or even decades.

“A lot of our success at the outset was dependent upon how innovative the charity in question was,” Alvarez explains. “Some places couldn’t imagine the idea of people using their phones to bid on an auction item, for instance, while others seemed to get it right away. This was definitely new territory for a lot of charities, so there was a lot of education and trust-building in the beginning.”

Those trust-building efforts paid off, however, and Gesture quickly began bringing in more business than even Alvarez had expected, as more and more organizations saw the potential efficiency of features such as streamlined pre-registration for events, text notifications for auction winners and mobile payments at checkout.

“The goal was always just to help our charity partners manage these processes much more efficiently,” Alvarez says. “When we started, we were like Harry Potter—we’d come in with this amazing new technology to help them get more bids than they’d ever imagined, so they would look at us like we were magicians. But all we were really doing is helping to make their process a little bit better.”

These days, as technology has improved and mobile fundraising methods have become more widely accepted, Gesture has grown to a team of almost 70 employees helping to improve the fundraising efforts of hundreds of organizations. From some of the biggest charities in the world such as the American Heart Association and the Make-A-Wish Foundation to pro sports franchises like the Chicago Cubs and Chicago Blackhawks to dozens of smaller independent organizations (including Opportunity Enterprises in Valparaiso and St. Mary’s school in Griffith), the company has helped its clients raise more than $400 million over the past five and a half years. In a career spanning dozens of disparate interests and pursuits, it’s an accomplishment that Alvarez finds especially gratifying.

“I’m really proud of the team we’ve been able to build here,” he says. “It’s great that the work of all of our charity partners is the underlying cause that we’re supporting, and I think that shared cause gives us a great motivation and advantage going forward.”

About Inspired Living
Inspired Living magazine is for women living in Northwest Indiana who enjoy fashion, home décor, entertaining, and supporting the Northwest Indiana community through business and philanthropy.

Using beautiful art and relevant content, Inspired Living aims to resource women with current trends in style, food, beauty, design, and health; promote local businesses through editorial and advertising opportunities; and keep Northwest Indiana residents informed about and engaged in local social events.

Filled with local names and faces, Inspired Living magazine aims to be the authority on style and culture in Northwest Indiana.

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In the News: Mobile Bidding Company Gesture Helps Nonprofit Charity Partners Raise $100 Million in First 10 Months of 2016

Sys-con Media featured an article about Gesture’s latest milestone: helping charity partners raise $100 million in 2016!

Find the full article on Sys-con Media, or read it below. Contact us to see how we can help you raise more at your next fundraising event!

Mobile Bidding Company Gesture Helps Nonprofit Charity Partners Raise $100 Million in First 10 Months of 2016

Mobile bidding company, Gesture, celebrates helping nonprofit charity partners across the country raise over $100 million at more than 1,500 events held during the first ten months of 2016.

Launched in the basement of founder and CEO Jim Alvarez’s home in 2011, Gesture was born of a passion for helping nonprofits raise more money. Gesture has worked with more than 3,000 nonprofits nationwide to help maximize fundraising results at a wide variety of events. Alvarez was a guest at a fundraiser when he saw an unmet need to improve the process for silent auctions and other fundraising elements that would increase revenue for nonprofits.

Gesture has executed over 4,900 fundraising events and serves as a valuable resource for charities and foundations to raise funds efficiently. Gesture combines mobile technology and a dedicated staff that puts in advance planning time and delivers on-site services to ensure all is executed as planned.

“Our mission is to make hope happen for our charity partners and we are thrilled to announce we have helped our charity partners across the country raise $100 million dollars already this year,” said Alvarez. “Our teams work side by side with each charity, focusing on finding more ways to help them embrace technology and streamline fundraising to ensure they reach the best outcome possible with each event,” adds Alvarez.

As a full-service mobile bidding company, Gesture’s fundraising platform includes using smartphones for the bidding process and an automated payment procedure featuring a streamlined check in/check out process that reduces lines and helps guests begin bidding and pick up auction items with no hassle.

Each charity partner is assigned a Gesture team who works directly with the organization to help them identify ways to customize elements that will help them raise more money. Gesture’s technology also allows people to bid on auction items from anywhere and before an event begins, enabling many charities to meet fundraising goals before the event doors open.

“Our goal is to handle the fundraising portion of each event so the charity can concentrate on important things like spreading their core message and spending time with their donors. Our on-site event team monitors the process in real time and delivers immediate reports, helping nonprofit staff understand the effectiveness of their fundraiser,” adds Alvarez.

Gesture partners with organizations of all shapes and sizes from nationally recognized nonprofits Ronald McDonald House Charities and the American Cancer Society to local parochial schools and churches. Gesture also partners with many professional sports organizations including the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings to help them host mobile auctions during games.

About Gesture
Gesture a mobile bidding technology company that helps nonprofit organizations in over 35 markets raise more money through a unique technology platform. In business since 2011, Gesture has helped raise over $320 million for their charity partners and has run over 4,900 events. Founded by Jim Alvarez, Gesture employs over 60 full-time staff members in their Westmont, Illinois office, as well as representatives across the country.

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Gesture #GivingTuesday Challenge

Gesture #GivingTuesday Challenge Banner

Gesture #GivingTuesday Challenge

#GivingTuesday has gained traction since it first began in 2012; more nonprofits and charities join the movement every year. This year, Gesture wanted to give back to our charity partners and make it even easier for them to raise more on this national day of giving. That’s where you come in! Our charity partners had the chance to sign up for our Gesture #GivingTuesday Challenge, and now you have the chance to support them!

How To Vote

You can vote by going to the Gesture #GivingTuesday Challenge donation page.

Click on the “Items” tab at the top of the page for a list of all organizations that are participating. Learn more about each by clicking on their logos.

To vote, click on the logo for the organization you’d like to support. In the box next to “Enter the number to buy,” type in your donation amount (for example, if you’d like to donate $50 and give your organization 50 votes, type in “50”) and hit “Vote!”

Gesture #GivingTuesday Challenge Vote Example

Challenge Details

  • Each dollar you donate equals one vote for the organization(s) of your choice. The more money you donate, the more votes they get!
  • The organization with the most votes wins a $1,000 donation from Gesture! The organization that comes in second place receives $500, and third place receives $250.
  • No matter how many votes an organization has at the end of the challenge, they will receive all of the donations pledged to their organization.
  • You can vote from October 29, 2016 through midnight central time on #GivingTuesday, November 29, 2016.
  • Share the challenge on social media to help your favorite charities raise more! Use #GestureChallenge to let your favorite organizations know that you’re supporting their cause.

Please note:

  • All votes are anonymous.
  • A charge to “Gesture” will appear on your statement.

Vote now!

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Feature: Why Gesture won’t be using QR codes any time soon

Ryan Smolek - Gesture won't be using QR Codes

By: Ryan Smolek, Vice President of Strategy & Product Management

View the original article on LinkedIn

A few of our competitors in the mobile bidding space have recently issued fancy press releases that simultaneously announce the addition of QR codes to their product and the QR codes as the feature that has solved the problem of event registration/check-in by making it ‘light years’ faster. I’m not buying it.

Look, I agree that event check-in at charity events is a problem that remains to be, and should be, solved. Charities want to provide their event guests with a fantastic experience that inspires the guest to open his or her heart and wallet for the charity’s cause. Standing in line so that your name can get crossed off a list certainly does not make for a fantastic experience. Upon the guest’s arrival, the check-in line is the only thing standing between the guest and socializing, cocktail hour, and dinner. Those are 3 things with which I would not want to tease my potential donors.

So while check-in is a problem, QR codes are not the answer.  I see three primary issues, though there are likely others.

gesture won't be using qr codes1.    Now where did I put that email? – For the QR solution to work, the guest needs to produce a QR code. That QR code is likely buried in an email from when the guest signed up for the event, often a month or more before the event. So now you have someone, head buried in phone, looking for the email with their QR code. Many won’t think to do so until they get up to the front of the line. Everyone knows their name, and can produce that for the registrar a lot faster than they can search through their email they received 3 weeks ago.

2.    Why won’t this thing work? – Have you ever been waiting in the security line or boarding a plane when someone is using a mobile boarding pass (read: QR code)? That often doesn’t go so well. Either the screen keeps rotating on them, or the brightness on the phone is not set high enough for the reader to capture it, or their phone dies just as they are placing the thing on the reader. There is a good lesson here not to mimic anything the airline industry does if you care about customer experience. Just imagine what this would be like at a charity event. Your biggest donor can’t get her QR code to work and the rest of your check-in line is now scowling at her. That isn’t what I would call a giving ‘mood’.

3.    Treat your donors the way you’d like to be treated. – I understand why QR codes may work for a rock concert. A bunch of people you don’t know bought tickets and a bunch of people you don’t know were unable to buy tickets. You want to let the former in and keep the latter out. But charity events usually don’t work that way. Invitees are known in advance and most attendees have a prior relationship with the charity. So when your most loyal supporters show up to your event and you treat them like they bought a ticket to a rock concert, you are working against your goal of getting them to donate more to your cause.

So how can we do better? I don’t have a fully formed answer yet, but this is what I do know:

  • Registration goes faster when the attendees are known prior to the event
  • The threat of charity event crashers is lower in reality than in the minds of charity organizers.
  • Many activities performed at check-in, such as capturing personal information of guests or handing out bidder numbers (for live auctions) can be done in advance of the event through a more efficient medium

At Gesture, we build product based on what we know, with the goal of putting the product in our customers’ hands to discover the answers to what we don’t know. Based on the points above, we’ve recently implemented a world class ticketing solution that is primarily focused on getting to 100% confirmed attendees before the day of the event.

If everyone is confirmed in advance, you already have all of your guest names. And their email addresses. And their mailing addresses. And you already know what they want for dinner. And you already know what t-shirt size everyone needs. And that means the line HAS TO move faster because you don’t need to collect any information from your guests. That is why we built our ticketing product with the primary goal of 100% confirmed attendance, because it helps solve the check-in problem.

While this feature doesn’t solve the whole issue of check-in, it is certainly a start. For the remaining issues, I have some ideas about how to solve them, but I need further data from our users before I offer them up as a solution. But we are going to do the work to understand the needs and develop a solution, and not just throw out an imperfect technology like QR codes and act like they are the be-all and end-all solution to the problem of check-in.

If you are interested in learning more about Gesture’s improved ticketing platform, or using Gesture to manage your event, or if you just want to tell me how wrong I am, shoot me a note at

View the original article on LinkedIn

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In the News: Savvy nonprofits raise awareness and donations via social media

MultiBriefs included advice from Jim Alvarez, Gesture’s CEO, in an Exclusive article at the beginning of the month. His advice is geared towards nonprofits and how they can raise awareness and donations via social media.

Find the full article on MultiBriefs, or read it below. Contact us to see how we can help you raise more at your next fundraising event!

Savvy nonprofits raise awareness and donations via social media

ceo shares how nonprofits raise awareness & donations via social mediaNonprofit organizations are driven to provide meaningful support to those they serve. Many nonprofits have unique and compelling stories that illustrate the impact of what they do.

Savvy nonprofits embrace social media to highlight stories, punctuated with engaging images along with video and audio clips to evoke emotional responses from supporters. Adding a distinct call to action puts nonprofits in the driver’s seat to increase revenue opportunities.

Social media offers multiple ways to make an impact. How do you unlock the mystery of social media to reach your audience, drive actions and increase donations? Careful, thoughtful research and planning are essential to help you stand out.

Planning posts

Establish clear objectives. Who are you trying to reach? Why do you want to reach them? What clear-cut action you are seeking to achieve?

These answers will help determine whether Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest or a combination would be the best platform for your purpose. It’s possible you will use multiple social media outlets yet tweak your approach with timing and content to best suit each audience.

The timing of posts across social media should be taken into consideration. Support date-centric activities. Work backward and determine how far in advance you need to begin. Focus on your targeted social media audience and determine how often you’ll want to post — daily, weekly, bi-weekly and so on.

Develop a task list that includes a variety of posts, identifying when to repeat themes. Layer ideas and actions leading up to your activity whether it’s an appeal, open house, volunteer drive or special event.

Link your social media campaigns to actionable goals. For example, to support a major capital campaign, create messages that tell the story about what you do and how additional support will increase the positive impact on those you serve. Include images or brief video clips to highlight your content.

Choosing a platform

Keep your donors in mind, and tweak messaging across social media. Matching your desired donor with the right message and platform helps drive up the revenue stream.

If you are seeking major donors, LinkedIn’s network for professionals may be the best format. LinkedIn offers a variety of ways to capture the interest of current and potential major donors, such as creating a group and contributing to the discussions.

Use LinkedIn to post relevant information, yet be mindful to follow group rules in regards to promotion. Sharpen your donor intel by checking out supporters’ LinkedIn profiles to learn what groups to they belong to and learn who else they support.

If you are targeting mid-level donors, consider Facebook. Facebook has more than 1.6 billion users, ranging across multiple demographics.

Build a presence by uploading tailored photo albums that may also include words. Create special event pages to promote specific fundraising activities. Videos may also help capture your audience providing more details in an engaging informative style. Add a call to action. Facebook also allows nonprofits the option of “Donate Now” to help drive donations directly to your cause.

Twitter’s 140-character limit makes posts seem more conversational. Twitter remains popular with users between 18-29 but has also gained traction amid the 30-49-year-olds. Stay on top of Twitter by replying to supporters in a timely manner to better engage and encourage more sharing. Retweet posts to gain more followers and spread your message to a broader group.

Both Facebook and Twitter are helpful tools to promote fundraising events. Be sure to understand your specific goals such as driving attendance, increasing raffle sales, advance auction bids or to spread the word.

Pinterest provides a flow of information with a creative flair targeting female supporters — 42 percent of women on the internet use Pinterest. Think of ways to visually share your message combining images of both words and pictures, and increase exposure to both special events and sponsors. If one of your sponsors is a local clothing store, salon or jeweler, use Pinterest to show off a few dresses, hairstyles and/or jewelry that can be worn to the event, offering both your sponsors and attendees value.

Videos have grown in popularity and greatly increase social media impact. Videos can be housed on YouTube, allowing organizational tools into playlists and homepage customization that helps nonprofits stand out to share their message. Keep videos short — two to three minutes can say a lot. Snapchat is helpful for sending both impactful photos and short videos that can remain live for 24 hours helping to create some timely “buzz.”

Tracking posts

Always be sure to monitor posts across all social media so you can quickly engage supporters who comment or reshare your posts. This helps build rapport and expand exposure through their social media networks, increasing your overall reach. Learn how your supporters use social media and add to your plans for future posts.

Developing a clearly defined strategic plan for social media unlocks the mystery and potential profits.

About the Author

Jim Alvarez: ceo shares how nonprofits raise awareness & donations via social media

Jim Alvarez is the founder and CEO of full-service mobile bidding company Gesture. Gesture has helped nonprofits across the country raise over $300 million since 2011 through the use of technology. Alvarez is the recipient of the Chicago Innovation Award and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award for his innovative idea and launch of Gesture. Alvarez drives the growing company to make hope happen for nonprofits developing innovative ideas that embrace technology.

Find the full article on MultiBriefs!

Article originated on September 6, 2016.

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In the News: Party on, Wayne: 7 startups using tech to help plan your next event

Built in Chicago included Gesture in their recent article, “Party on, Wayne: 7 startups using tech to help plan your next event.”

Find the full article on Built in Chicago, or read Gesture’s except below. Contact us to see how we can help you raise more at your next fundraising event!

Party on, Wayne: 7 startups using tech to help plan your next event

using tech to help plan your next event

Charity auctions are a great way to raise money for a good cause, but squeezing in the actual auction among dinners, speeches and socializing can be tough. Gesture modernizes silent auctions with an easy-to-use mobile app so donors can give whenever they feel like it. Not only does that let organizers streamline events, but it also opens up the opportunity for more donations.

Find the full article on Built in Chicago!

Article originated at Built in Chicago. Written by James Risley. 

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Gesture Athlete Wins Triathlon and Donates to Make a Wish Foundation

Make a Wish Foundation Benefits from Triathlon Win

On Sunday, August 7, eight Gesture team members completed the Naperville Sprint Triathlon.

Triathlon Win Benefits Make a Wish Foundation Group Picture

What started off as an office joke about who was the best Gesture athlete soon turned into an all-out competition as two individuals and two teams of three registered for the triathlon to prove their worth.

  • Jim Alvarez (CEO), Patrick Clore (Event Operations Manager) and John Polacek (Lead Web Developer)
  • Erin Phillips (Senior Account Manager), Caitie Eggl (Account Manager) and Lauren Finlon (Account Manager)
  • Individual competitor Katie Steinbach (Event Operations Coordinator)
  • Individual competitor Bryan Smoot (Account Manager)

More was at stake than their pride the morning of the race, however. Gesture staff across the country voted for the team or individual they thought would finish first. All of the money raised would then go to the winner’s charity of choice.

All of the Gesture team members crossed the finish line. Katie Steinbach led the pack, and finished first in her age bracket. The medal she received hangs proudly in the Gesture office, but the chance to donate $2,000 to the Make a Wish Foundation made the victory even sweeter. She stopped by their Milwaukee office on August 16 to drop off the check.

Triathlon Win Benefits Make a Wish Foundation Check Presentation


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In the News: Gesture keeps workers hopping with contests, caffeine

Learn from Inside Sales Manager, Michael Tiu, about a day in the life of a Gesture employee in an article by Blue Sky’s Inside Job.

Find the article at the Chicago Tribune or read it below. Contact us to see how we can help you raise more at your next fundraising event!

Gesture keeps workers hopping with contests, caffeine

Michael Tiu - Blue Sky

Property Blue Sky Innovation

What’s it really like to work at Chicago startups and tech companies? Blue Sky’s Inside Job lets people on the ground tell us in their own words.

Michael Tiu, 30, Inside Sales Manager at Gesture

We basically help organizations raise more money through our mobile fundraising. We’re geared toward nonprofits. We have 2,500 charities and partners nationwide. We’re on target to do about 1,700 events through our platform. We say events, because we don’t necessarily have to have an auction. Some organizations only do a donation campaign. Some only do a live auction. Some do raffles. There are a lot of components to charities, and that’s why the industry is so complex. We want them to be able to take everything in directly through our platform.

Part of what my team is doing is building our emerging markets — like Nashville, Sacramento, Miami, Austin — as well as handling a lot of our national accounts. We have 34 main markets now. We’re basically calling different organizations around the country from the office. We’re doing telecommunication, webinars, phone, email, screen share. We’re selling the product.

We have about 50 to 60 people in the office. Honestly, I like how quiet it is (in Westmont). It’s nice because I live in the city, so everything is super busy all the time. So coming to the ‘burbs is actually different, not in a bad way. It’s definitely a good change of pace, and I get to golf every so often.

I was born and raised in Naperville. My parents are from the Philippines. I understand Tagalog fully, but I’m awful at speaking it. I went to Western Illinois (University) on a tennis scholarship. My nickname is “Deuce.” Deuce is common tennis terminology, and it just so happened that my last name is Tiu, pronounced like the number two, so it all kind of just blended together. That nickname started in college. And Jim (Alvarez, founder and president of Gesture), called me Deuce the second day I got hired, and it sort of filtered on all the way through.

Right after college, I worked for Enterprise for a couple of years. I have a lot of ties from Enterprise. I don’t wear them anymore. Then I dabbled in real estate. And then from there, I picked up Groupon. I started at the very bottom of the sales organization and left as a strategic account executive. I was in sales for basically four and a half, five years there.

Jim found me at Groupon. Jim’s a very convincing person, and he’s super passionate. When we work with different clients, they see that we’re there for good. We want to do all these different things to help the organization.

We have contests all the time up on a whiteboard, like contests for if you’re a fan of “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette.” I’m not up there. My wife would be disappointed I didn’t play. Our whole office is all about it.

We have unlimited paid time off. We have all the caffeine, snacks that you could possibly need or want. We have occasional Chipotle. I’d say half of our staff uses exercise balls. Nobody likes sitting at desks anymore. I can’t sit in a regular chair anymore. I sit on a yoga ball. It’s the most comfortable thing ever.

We do softball, volleyball. There’s actually a triathlon going on. Our CEO has a team of three people, and they’re taking on one of our triathlon athletes. We have people buy in, and the winner gets the money donated to the charity of their choice.

We’re big on team competition. We do trivia nights all the time, and the losing team has to buy the other team lunch. We’re all about it — any sort of competition we can be in. You gotta keep it lively.

It’s important that the culture is very fun. Yes, we work hard. Yes, we help nonprofits raise more money. When it’s all said and done, we help each other. That’s part of being a collaborative group. We bounce ideas off each other, figure out the best ways to help our clients.

With 2,500 clients, there’s a lot we can do to be better. We want to talk to each as much as we can. Everyone here has that goal to help nonprofits however we can. That’s the reason that I can trek my way out here. I think the end goal is to be able to do good.

As told to freelance reporter Erin Chan Ding. Stories are edited for length and clarity.

View the article at the Chicago Tribune.

Article originated at Chicago Tribune, Blue Sky Innovation. Written by freelance reporter Erin Chan Ding. 

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In the News: 7 Chicago companies we want to work for right now (and they’re hiring!)

Built in Chicago included Gesture in their recent article, “7 Chicago companies we want to work for right now (and they’re hiring!).”

Find the full article on Built in Chicago, or read Gesture’s except below. Contact us to see how we can help you raise more at your next fundraising event!

7 Chicago companies we want to work for right now (and they’re hiring!)

Built In Chicago included Gesture as a company they'd like to work for!

What they do: Gesture’s technology is disrupting the antiquated way in which charity events are run. Among other capabilities, their platform moves the bidding experience at silent auctions online, freeing up attendees to bid as much as they want, when they want. So far, Gesture has helped organizations raise more than $275 million at events across the country.

Coolest perks: On top of standard 401k and benefits packages available to all employees, Gesture’s perks also include casual work attire, a kitchen stocked with snacks, the ability to work from home and the chance to work fundraisers for additional pay. Add to that equation a few happy hours, intramural sports teams, an open office layout and occasional catered lunches, and you’ve got a pretty great place to meet some new best friends.

Note from the boss: “Passion, compassion and a competitive drive are three of the top things we look for in potential candidates,” Jim Alvarez, CEO and founder of Gesture, said. “We’re looking for people who are willing to dedicate their time to helping our charity partners raise more money for their causes.”

Find the full article on Built in Chicago!

Article originated at Built in Chicago. Written by Sam Dewey. 

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Make Hope Happen
is more than just a motto.

People want to act on what’s important to them, to contribute to the success of something that matters. But often the business of charity interferes with the experience of giving. Since 2011, we’ve partnered with organizations to capture each helping hand, each friendly smile, and each round of applause by turning inspiration into action.

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