Wide-scale natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haiti earthquake demonstrate the power of Mother Nature to devastate areas of the world in a matter of moments. They also demonstrate the power of the mobile channel to empower concerned citizens to fund relief and reconstruction efforts immediately. This post is an overview of how these donations work, what limitations they have, and what other mobile solutions exist for charitable organizations.
Many activities traditionally done in person, by mail or online are now being accomplished on mobile devices, including philanthropy. According the Pew Research Center, about 1 in 10 US Adults (9%) have made a charitable contribution using text messaging. These small donations, usually capped at $5 or $10, appear on a mobile user’s phone bill and are facilitated by two “trusted third party” organizations. Through special negotiations with wireless carriers, the mGive Foundation and Mobile Giving Foundation are able to conduct 100% pass-through mobile donation campaigns. Normally, wireless carriers take a hefty percentage to process payments, especially with premium rate programs which deliver ringtones and other content, and, until recently, with political contributions.
These small donations without any processing fees can add up when a cause is widely publicized. “Mobile giving played an especially prominent role during the aftermath of the January 2010 Haiti earthquake,” Aaron Smith of the Pew Internet Project writes, “as individual donors contributed an estimated $43 million to the assistance and reconstruction efforts using the text messaging feature on their cell phones.” But for smaller charities with less shocking and time-sensitive causes, the outcome might not be as great. Smith found that the 2010 Haiti donations tended to be impulsive – done immediately in response to a televised call-to-action – and that the donor mobile donors tended not to follow the reconstruction efforts closely after their donation. In short, these gifts were small, one-off, impulsive contributions that didn’t allow for further cultivation or growth.
An alternative solution is a mobile pledge program. Text DONATE to 30364 for a demo of SMS pledge flow. Once a donor replies with their pledge amount, an alert can be sent to an email address or mobile number with the contact information to follow-up. This personalization allows for a deeper relationship to be built between the donor and organization, whereas carriers do not share any donor information when processing mobile donations. To summarize, mobile pledge programs
- Do not have a limit on donation size
- Provide the opportunity to capture demographic information about your donors
- Open the door to cultivate an ongoing relationship with the donor.
Mobile donation SMS programs are a strong demonstration of the power of mobile on a large scale, but they are best suited to widely publicized tragedies that are in need of immediate funds. Other charitable organizations are better suited to take advantage of mobile to cultivate a deeper relationship with their donors and ensure they remain on their giving list for the future.