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How Texting is Changing the Way We Donate

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday April 13th, 2010 | 1 Comment

It’s a simple fact of life that technology changes the way we do things, and technology is changing the way we give to charities. Haitian relief efforts are a good example. The Red Cross raised over $30 million for Haiti after the earthquake through text donations by mid-February, over 10 percent of all funds raised. A recent survey, commissioned by the Boston marketing firm, Cone, discovered that thirteen percent of Americans made a text-message donation to Haitian relief efforts.

Almost one in five respondents to the survey, 19 percent, said they prefer to text a donation rather than giving it in a traditional way. Another 18 percent said they are more likely to contribute by sending a text message to their favorite charity.

The PBS show, NewsHour recently interviewed Stacy Palmer, the editor of “The Chronicle of Philanthropy.” When asked why more people are using their cell phones to give to charities, Palmer said, “One reason is that people are really comfortable doing text messages.” Palmer thinks that “every charity is going to be raising money this way.”

Palmer pointed out that “All these donations have been small donations, $10 or so. And Haiti is going to need a lot more.” She said that people will be asked to give again. “And, so, the charities are going to come back and solicit in lots of different ways and try to encourage people to give.”

Katrin Verclas, analyst at MobileActive.org said about Haiti, “All the nonprofits woke up and are very keen on mobile giving after seeing the [Red Cross] rake it in.”

According to a study “2010 Nonprofit Text Messaging Benchmarks” by M+R Strategic Services and MobileActive.org, 90 percent of Americans own cell phone. “The Haiti earthquake marked a turning point in mobile giving,” the study said. “It showed that text messaging can be a far-reaching tool for immediate engagement.”

The study said that texting is well suited for call-in-alerts about donation needs, but also has “substantial limitations” which includes the 160-character limit that “leaves little space to make a case for giving or taking action.

Although the study argued that it is “potentially risky” to solicit donations through text messages from active donors who are likely to give more through another means, it urged that text messages be used along side other channels such as email, web, direct mail, and phone calls


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