ELi Obtains Support Through a New Spartan-Invented Donation System

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Brett Kopf celebrating his graduation in 2010 with his mom.

As we wrap up the “Stimulate ELi’s Reporting” fundraising campaign, we are thrilled and humbled by the 122 contributions – now totaling $15,426 – that we have received so far from our readers . We are especially excited to have 32 new donors in that group of 122!

Your financial support allows for us to report on local government, development, schools, arts and culture, and the effects of COVID-19 here in East Lansing. We appreciate how this latest financial support is allowing us to keep following up with critical reporting as needed, including when people contact us with tips.

With this campaign, we have been using a new way to collect donations at ELi – a simple online payment product called Omella. Why were we excited, after a few test runs, to start using this as one of the ways ELi donors can contribute?

First: It’s really easy for our donors to use. 

Omella provides donors with a really simple interface that doesn’t confuse them or waste their time. This has not always been our experience with all donation systems. Omella works with Apple Pay and Google Pay, and accepts a wide range of credit and debit cards.

Omella also enables us to use QR codes to collect donations for ELi. This means we can capture a QR code and just ask potential donors to point their smartphone camera apps at the QR code, click (as if taking a photo), and send us a donation. Here’s an example:

Point your phone camera (with your camera app open) at this and a window will open to let you donate to ELi!

We think that’s like magic. You can also just click here if you are moved to donate today to ELi via Omella.

Second: Like ELi, Omella is transparent about costs.

Omella was built to help small, local organizations like ELi that rely on donors’ trust and generosity to survive. That’s why it matters to us that Omella makes it easy for donors to see how much of their donation is getting to ELi. Services like PayPal give us a discount as a nonprofit but charge varying fees that are shown to us but not to our donors. (We show you those expenses in our annual reports, like this one from 2019.)

At Omella, when you donate to our Stimulate ELi’s Reporting campaign, the amount you donate comes to us completely. Omella gives you, the donor, the option to leave a ‘tip’ to thank them for providing this service at no cost to ELi.

Third: The founder of Omella is an MSU Spartan! 

Brett Kopf is a 2010 graduate of MSU’s College of Agriculture & Natural Resources and a highly successful entrepreneur. He recently started Omella after founding remind.com, today the largest communication platform in education, used by over 30 million people. Many schools in the East Lansing area are relying on Remind every day, especially during the COVID epidemic, and Brett has been featured in such places as Business Insider and Forbes.

Bret Kopf today.

We first learned about Omella through our Office Manager Jodi Spicer. Jodi, a friend of Brett’s from his days at MSU, learned firsthand about Omella from Brett and used it with the East Lansing Aquatics Parent Organization (ELAPO) to collect fees for water polo. We have been pleased to have the opportunity to be an early adopter of Omella and to share direct feedback from test runs with the founder. Brett actively sought out suggestions to make Omella accessible and easier for ELi donors to use. Not many company founders will take the time to have several zoom calls and literally give us tutorials.

It turns out Brett has always been interested in creating solutions to help solve problems that should be easy to solve. 

“I was inspired to create Omella after seeing teachers, local nonprofits and religious leaders not have a simple and easy way to collect donations,” he told us. “It didn’t make sense they were collecting cash!”

Though Brett’s professional career may have diverged from his major in agricultural economics, he cites MSU and East Lansing as a place where “I found an amazing group of local entrepreneurs who took me under their wing and gave me the confidence to start my first company. I even had professors from MSU let me do Independent Studies researching the best way to start a startup. It was an incredibly supportive community and it comes full circle! Many of Omella’s customers are in the East Lansing area.”

Omella has also proven to be an effective payment tool to keep some businesses afloat during the COVID 19 epidemic. One Omella customer in Urbana-Champaign is a restaurant that has  used an Omella QR code to let customers make contactless payments from a drive-through. Customers scan and pay from 6 feet away.

We are happy to bring you this simplified and transparent system and we welcome you to try it. Of course, you can also give to ELi in lots of other ways, too, and we appreciate your support however it comes!

Thanks again to everyone who has helped get us to this point!

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