Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 45 seconds

The Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) raises money for the life-saving cancer research and treatment at Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) through an annual two-day bike-a-thon that crosses 192 miles of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  In 2018, the PMC raised $56 million. We take pride in our unique model in which 100 percent of all rider-raised donations go directly to DFCI. For this reason, we sought out a way to continue improve upon donation management in an efficient, cost-effective and timely manner.

Unsurprisingly, nonprofits face many of the same challenges as for-profit businesses— from meeting financial goals (i.e. fundraising), growing and scaling operations, increasing marketing and brand awareness to providing high-quality services, all with very limited resources.  At the PMC, we have always leveraged technology to combat these challenges, not only to help improve the processing of received donations, but more importantly to enhance the overall experience of our riders.  

The challenge with check processing

After reviewing our processes and focusing specifically on how we take in donations, we found a large efficiency gap in how we process check donations. About one-third of donations come in via check, and the procedure to submit checks was multi-step and time-consuming.

Riders needed to include their rider ID-number on the physical checks and then mail them to PMC (often after holding on to them for days, weeks or even months). Once PMC’s lockbox provider receives the envelopes, our check processing workflow was just as time-consuming: we physically had open each envelope, credit each check donation to the applicable rider fundraising commitment and finally, scan the checks for deposit at our bank. This process can be expensive, time consuming and inconvenient for both the rider/fundraiser and the PMC.

However, processing checks remains a necessity, because many of our generous donations come in this form, and it is in everyone’s interest to keep that as an available option. It was evident, however, that there was room for improvement and streamlining the process.  

Turning to mobile deposit

To streamline the process, PMC deployed Mobile Deposit® from Mitek, which is the same solution used by more than 6,100 banks and financial institutions in North America, but not yet widely used in the nonprofit world. By integrating this technology into our app, we were able to improve the method of both submitting check donations and processing them. On the rider side, participants can use the same convenient technology that they are accustomed to from personal banking, eliminating time spent mailing checks or the chances of a donation check getting lost. Riders can deposit checks directly via their smart phone and receive an immediate notification that donation has been accepted and they are one donation closer to their fundraising goal.

For the PMC, the time spent processing physical checks is greatly reduced freeing up staff to focus on other high-level projects. After implementing Mitek’s Mobile Deposit solution, PMC realized a 29 percent reduction in the cost of processing checks versus traditional means and expects to substantially extend those savings as the solution is more broadly used by riders.

The future of fundraising

It is easy for companies to rely on legacy systems by default to avoid time or costs spent in getting innovative technological solutions up and running.  However, deploying Mobile Deposit as a targeted solution for one of our most challenging processes not only streamlined the task for all parties, but cut costs. Most importantly, however, it has strengthened PMC’s relationship with our riders because we’ve invested in making their experience better overall. For those who so willingly give their time, talents, money and passion to help DFCI save lives, the presence of a check should not make it more difficult to give. With this new improvement, collecting and depositing any and all donations will be the satisfying experiences that they ought to be.


David Hellman is a 27-year PMC alumnus, first riding in 1990. At that time he was living in Steamboat Springs Colorado. Over the next ten years David's career took him from Steamboat Springs to Durango, CO and then Chicago. During his tenure in Colorado he was Director of Information Systems & Administrative Services at the Steamboat Ski Resort. He went on to become Vice President of Commercial Operations at Durango Mountain Resort in Durango Colorado. David's expertise with technology and customer service operations is evident in the way our riders and volunteers can now use the PMC website and MyPMC to manage their fundraising and logistics.

Last modified on Monday, 11 March 2019
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