Metro’s largest charity has replaced all of its human fundraisers with a fleet of self-checkout machines that you might find at your local supermarket.
The Metro Hospital Foundation announced yesterday that it would be laying off 12 of their human fundraisers and buy 10 self-checkout machines. Foundation CEO Dennis Snidely said the move, the first of its kind in the US, illustrates the changing needs of the Foundation and of fundraising.
“Our people weren’t bringing in enough money. I was going to fire them and then replace them with new fundraisers when it hit me one day while I was out buying some beer and a side of bacon – why not use the same technology that my grocery store uses?” he said.
Snidely contacted the manufacturer of the self-checkout machines and together they modified the machines to fill a major gifts role. The units were made mobile and given GPS navigation systems so they could be programed to visit major donors in their homes and workplaces. The customer interfaces were also improved, with more conversational overlays and ability to flash pictures of the Foundation’s new capital projects. The grocery bag holders were replaced with brochure holders and the giant revolving grocery scale was replaced with a gigantic image of the Foundation’s logo. Each new fundraising unit only cost $25,000.
“I did the math. With maintenance and the occasional need for a tow-truck when they break down these self-checkout machines cost about a third of what I pay for these so-called fundraisers I already have. There’s no health benefits. And, they also give cash back,” he said.
In testing the machines did better than expectations. One unit raised more than $25,000 during one day at a local nursing home for the mentally deranged and the other did more than $5,000 after sneaking into a grocery store by mistake. The units ran surveys for donors after every interaction and only one person expressed any dissatisfaction with them, and then only after the unit exploded because of an overheated battery.
Snidely says he’s not worried that the machines won’t be able express the warmth and personal touches a human could.
“I’ve worked with some of these humans I hired for years and I can tell you most of them don’t have any personality to speak of,” he said. “This is a shiny, friendly machine that people use all the time. And it takes debit, credit and cash. What’s not human about that?”
The Foundation next plans to press ahead with plans to replace the entire gift processing department with cash registers that can talk and make coffee.