The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti seemed to have marked a turning point in the development of mobile giving. According to mGive, the company that worked with the American Red Cross to set up a text donation campaign in the wake of the disaster, more than 2.5 million people texted $10 pledges to Haiti relief in the week immediately following the earthquake. And that was just one of many mobile giving campaigns created to help fund relief efforts.
In light of the ever-increasing popularity of texting or SMS (short message service) using cell and smart phones, and the highly-publicized success of the Haiti relief texting campaign, many nonprofits are noticing the potential of mobile giving. However, nonprofits should consider, among other things:
- Cost: Mobile giving had been out of reach for many organizations because wireless providers charged high fees for each donation. Recently, some companies like mGive have negotiated these fees so they are more affordable, but the service is still expensive, with firms charging hundreds of dollars a month, and in some cases, requiring an annual contract.
- Donation size: SMS donations are limited to $5 or $10. In order for mobile giving to be worthwhile, many donors must respond.
- Lack of donor information: Most donors do not give their phone numbers, so organizations cannot follow up after the initial donation.
Nevertheless, mobile giving is a quick and effective way to collect funds in the wake of a disaster or highly publicized event, for organizations that can afford it. Text messaging is also an effective way for nonprofits to break news and information or to call for immediate action.
Similarly, some nonprofits are developing smart phone applications that can alert donors and connect them to their donation pages or other online tools. This may be an option for nonprofits with smaller budgets as well as social entrepreneurs since it could bypass the service costs involved with SMS donations.
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