Some of the greatest inventions in history have come as the result of trying to fix an irritant. Thomas Edison was tired of trying to read by candlelight. Alexander Graham Bell was growing hoarse from yelling downstairs to his assistant, Watson. Elon Musk really hated pumping his own gas.

Already a successful Birmingham businessman, Kasey Birdsong found himself in a new management position. His wife was the team mom and was responsible for fundraising for equipment, uniforms and league expenses. Kasey recalls, “The other parents came to me and begged, ‘Please don’t make us sell doughnuts again!’ So I looked for a way to simplify the process.”

Hang up the donuts. There's a new (and easier) way to raise funds for the causes you choose to support. It's called Planet Fundraiser.

Hang up the donuts. There’s a new (and easier) way to raise funds for the causes you choose to support. It’s called Planet Fundraiser.

His first thought was to approach local businesses to sell ads for signs on the outfield walls. “They told me everyone was asking them to buy signs,” Kasey recalls. “I could sense their frustration and how much of a disruption it was for their businesses to have to deal with sponsorship requests. Lots of them wanted to support local schools, teams and groups, but they really wanted to make the decision on who to back based on the causes that their customers cared about.”

Kasey has built a software product in the past as part of one of his businesses, so he considered how to leverage technology to streamline the fundraising process for both the sponsors and the groups seeking donations. The result is Planet Fundraiser. “I loved the idea of using technology to really improve the lives of a lot of people. I thought, ‘Why not build a model where a business can donate money to the community, but with the option for their customers to choose specifically where they want these funds to go?’ Planet Fundraiser adds values to the supporters by giving them options to be a part of the fundraising process for their favorite groups simply by making purchases from their preferred merchants as part of their daily life.”

Signing up for and using Planet Fundraiser is quite simple. A non-profit organization, team or school can sign up to be a part of the platform by filling out a single online form on the Planet Fundraiser website. After a quick vetting by the PF staff, the organization joins the list of eligible charities. A merchant who wants to support local (or even national) non-profits can fill out a similar form with a promise to contribute a percentage of their sales through the Planet Fundraiser platform to organizations selected by their customers who also use the app. The customers then record their purchases by taking a photo of the receipt with their phone. The donation percentages can range from 3% all the way up to more than 10% with the option for the merchant to offer even larger donations on specific nights of the week when they might want to attract more customers on what would otherwise be a slow time.

Individual users simply download the Planet Fundraiser app to their phone and take less than a minute to register with the platform. Once registered, users are presented with a list of specific organizations to choose from to pick who they want their purchases to support. You can even sign up for several schools, teams or groups and pick which one you want a particular transaction to benefit. Then, all users have to do is eat at or shop from businesses that are also Planet Fundraiser partners. “I have enjoyed seeing how much our group has raised for our organization on the dashboard,” says Nashville mom Jennifer Petrouske, who has been using it regularly to raise additional funds for her children’s school marching band. “It’s as easy as snapping a photo of your receipt and entering the amount. For Shipt orders, you simply forward your emailed receipt and they automatically add it to your accumulated points.”

The app also offers a geolocation option that can tell users what businesses are nearby that can help them raise funds for causes they care about to help them in their purchasing decisions.

Planet Fundraiser uses geo-location technology to find participating stores near you that donate. Plus, you can see what percentage of your purchases will go the causes you select.

Planet Fundraiser uses geo-location technology to find participating stores near you. Plus, you can see what percentage of your purchases will go the causes you select.

From the merchant’s perspective, they benefit from knowing that they are dedicating their charitable dollars to causes that their customers actively support. Kasey explains, “It’s truly performance-based. Although the identities of specific customers are masked, the merchant knows exactly how many of their customers are supporting their business and that their corporate donations are going to causes their customers care about.”

Currently, Planet Fundraiser has active users and participating groups in 21 states plus some online merchants that allow anyone with a computer to make purchases that support local organizations. That means that Grandma in Nashville can order her groceries online to be delivered by Shipt.com and still support little Timmy’s youth soccer team in Birmingham. Bill Smith, the CEO of Shipt is a big supporter of how Planet Fundraiser has allowed his company to both grow and streamline their charitable efforts. “Giving back is extremely important to both me personally and to Shipt. As we’ve scaled the company, Planet Fundraiser has allowed us to easily organize our charitable giving efforts in new markets.”

Another tremendous benefit is that Planet Fundraiser handles all the transfer of money between donors and the charities, so businesses aren’t responsible for sending out checks to multiple groups they support. Instead of having to track each individual transaction, participating businesses make one monthly transfer of all the accumulated donations, and Planet Fundraiser divvies them out among the chosen groups based on the customers’ preferences. Companies have long offered what they call “Spirit Nights” where receipts from one particular evening’s purchases go to one dedicated organization. Now every day can be Spirit Night and multiple groups can benefit.

Blake Smith is the Marketing Director of Chick-fil-a stores in Gardendale and Fultondale in Alabama, and he certainly appreciates what Planet Fundraiser does for his business. “Planet Fundraiser has made my job a lot easier. It allows me to get out into the community more and more because I don’t have to spend any more time counting up Spirit Night receipts. Last year alone we gave back to 121 organizations in our area that we would not have been able to reach without utilizing the Planet Fundraiser app.”

Whether you're raising funds for your child's sports team, church group or other nonprofit, Planet Fundraiser provides passive — yet impactful — income.

Whether you’re raising funds for your child’s sports team, church group or other nonprofit, Planet Fundraiser provides passive — yet impactful — income. Image: USAG-Humphreys via Flickr CC

If you’re involved with a charitable group seeking funds, consider signing up at the Planet Fundraising website. Once an organization joins the platform, a dedicated Community Manager will work with them to help publicize the partnership to make it even more effective.

If you own a business and are looking for a way to support your local community, contact Planet Fundraiser, and a partnership manager can explain the process of setting up your account and help you choose which specific schools and groups you’d like to strengthen your company’s relationship with. Best of all, it is free for a cause to sign up, and the transactional-based fee for businesses to join is nominal. Brandon Stewart is a franchise owner of a Jimmy John’s, who has seen his relationship with Planet Fundraiser revolutionize his store’s relationship with the community. “When a customer comes in the door and asks for a donation, I don’t have to say no anymore. I can direct them to the Planet Fundraiser app, tell them to shop here, and the more you shop here the more money you will receive!”

Finally, if you are involved with local schools, sports teams or other charitable groups that you want to support, download the Planet Fundraiser app (available for both iOS and android), and within minutes you can join the thousands of other generous users who are contributing to organizations they care about. By choosing Planet Fundraiser partners as part of your day-to-day commercial activities, your purchases can add up to significant donations to your community. And you’ll never have to sell another doughnut.

To learn more about Planet Fundraiser, visit planetfundraiser.com.

This article is sponsored by Planet Fundraiser.