One Good Idea: Affinity Credit Cards Garner Big Rewards for Small Organizations
Until recently, revenue-producing affinity credit card programs have been out of reach for smaller nonprofits. But now, membership organizations with support bases as small as 500 have the opportunity to market credit cards that depict their brands to supporters and generate donations each time the cards are used, providing not only a new source of revenue, but also increased visibility.
The smaller-organization-friendly program is a free offering from New York-based CardPartner and Kansas City-headquartered holding company UMB. According to the CardPartner Web site, the only obligation to the organization is to commit to the CardPartner program for three years.
CardPartner Senior Director of Sales and Marketing Douglas Davis says the program is free because nonprofits handle their own marketing, and they don’t have to surrender their donor lists. CardPartner provides organizations with an electronic media kit, which they then integrate into their own appeals.
The kit includes a fully branded Web page, where supporters can apply for a card; a PDF of a flyer, which can be placed in the mail or distributed at events; e-mail templates; and social-network buttons.
A nonprofit can add the credit card offer to its homepage or include it in one of its e-mail blasts, for example.
“[The nonprofits] really have everything they need; they can just include the [credit card] offer in whatever way they are already marketing,” Davis says.
Affinity credit card programs usually are not an option for smaller organizations because big banks handle all of the marketing, Davis says. And, because nonprofits are doing their own marketing for the program, CardPartner doesn’t ask them to turn over their donor lists.
“Organizations are really loving it. It’s really found money,” he says, adding that implementing the program is simple and that it can be up and running in about three weeks.
The first time a donor uses a card, the organization gets a $50 donation, and it gets a percentage of each future purchase, Davis explains.
“It may not seem like a lot at first, especially for a smaller organization,” he says. “But over a few years it accumulates.”
Aggressive list and awareness building are major factors in the success of an affinity credit card program. To that end, organizations that partner with the company get credit cards that display unique designs related to their causes. For example, a wildlife organization may have cards that show owls and bears.
CardPartner clients include a number of SPCA chapters, some with fewer than 2,000 donors; the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network; Gillette Children’s Foundation, which provides specialized health care for people with short- and long-term disabilities that began during childhood; and Soles4Souls, a charity that gives shoes to the needy.
Most of the organizations CardPartner works with have between 500 and 80,000 supporters, Davis says.
“There’s a feel-good factor [for the person who carries the card],” he says. “We call it the ‘front of the wallet.’ Your credit card says something about you. You’re not just taking someone out to lunch. You’re telling someone something about you, whether it’s losing somebody to a disease or showing your love for marching bands.”
Interested organizations can learn more about the program or begin the sign-up process by visiting www.cardpartner.com.