Since 1997, San Mateo Police Activities League (PAL) has provided recreational, educational, and leisure activities thousands of San Mateo youth. Supported by a volunteer board of directors and a staff consisting of police officers and city employees, PAL is building a stronger and safer community through San Mateo’s most valuable asset: kids. CommitChange recently spoke with Fund Development Director, Pennie Lundberg, about this nonprofit, their mission and the role technology has had in their fundraising activities.
PAL is a relatively small organization that is run jointly by both the San Mateo Police Department and San Mateo Parks and Recreation Department. With three full-time staff, several part timers and volunteers, the organization is currently serving hundreds of youth members in the San Mateo community. PAL is a membership organization that is open to youth ages 5-18. “Joining PAL is free, we currently serve 400 members and our goal is to reach 600 members by the end of the year,” Lundberg said. This nonprofit engages its members through a series of indoor and outdoor activities including:
- A variety of sports and outdoor activities.
- A book club that also acts as a remedial reading program.
- Youth Leadership Council for students who have been identified as having leadership skills. This program aims to provide a positive direction for student leaders and have them inspire others.
- Junior Giants League, an activity sponsored by the San Francisco Giants Community Fund for boys and girls ages 5-13 years old.
- A Diversion Program, the newest addition to the San Mateo Pal programs. This program is a one-on-one, grassroots type of activity for youth who has had infractions with the law.
PAL began utilizing CommitChange in October 2014 strictly for their online fundraising initiatives. Since then, we’ve built a strong bond with this organization through mutual support and experimentation of new technology. We recently partnered with them at their biggest fundraising event of the year, 17th Annual PAL Lights and Sirens Recognition and Awards Dinner. The gala takes place every March; this year the goal was to make it easy for guests to donate at the event.
San Mateo Pal had never hosted an event where credit card payment information was registered in advance. “When we started to think about this, we were describing things to each other,” she said about the CommmitChange and PAL brainstorming sessions. After various of these between our CEO, Roderick Campbell, and the staff at San Mateo PAL, we were able to create a system for purchasing tickets in advance and being able to process payments on the spot. “We came together as a team, it was an experiment for both of us,” she said.
A third of the 400 guests pre-registered their credit card before the dinner took place on March 6th, 2015, this was the first time guests had been asked to do so. At the gala, people were also encouraged to register their credit card information, as it would make the auction and donation process run smoothly and quickly. This was also the first time the CommitChange team had been a part of fundraiser like this, it didn’t take long for us and for the PAL staff to realize the positive impact of this credit card processing solution.
In a 15 minute segment of the gala’s program San Mateo PAL raised around $45,000, this same segment had raised far less the previous year. The ability to process a transaction in a matter of moments using CommitChange allowed them to garner far more spontaneous donations during the Fund-A-Need segment of the event. Typically a Fund-A-Need would operate on the “honor system” and guests who made pledges would have to fill out a card or check in at the end of the evening. That evening, the transaction was done on the spot with fantastic results.
As advocates of technology for nonprofits and innovation, we were glad to hear that the positive impact on PAL’s fundraising activities went beyond the gala, “Prior to our dinner, we hardly got any donations from our website, but now that our dinner guests have become used to giving online, and the fact that we are pushing online donation in our social media, correspondence and website, we expect continued growth. CommitChange has definitely helped us to revolutionize our giving options!”