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    April 5, 2009

    The Mobile Fundraising Tipping Point is Here

    In my last post I wrote about mobile fundraising and wondered when someone would finally figure out a way to make it work for all of us. And it would just figure, that just the next day, I ended up at an evening session sponsored by Mobile Monday's DC chapter on "texting for dollars"--or how to raise money via mobile messaging.

    My takeaway? The mobile tipping point is here, and we are right on the cusp of the mobile fundraising wave. By this I mean, that we are right on the cusp of that point where all the kids starting showing up with those iPod headphones, and a couple of adults here and there, and you notice that some new trend is taking shape--one that will hopefully follow the iPod trajectory into "even grandma has iTunes."

    So what happened that evening that made me think this way? Well, first and foremost, I learned that mobile giving is now possible with steps that really are very easy.

    Don't believe me?

    For those of you reading in the United States, grab your cell phones and start a new text message to the following phone number "20222."

    Now, pick your favorite organization and type their mobile giving keyword into the body of your text message. Here are some samples or you can pick from a full list at the Mobile Giving Foundation's Website. (only type in the keyword). Warning, this process may result in you parting with $5 for a good cause.





    Once you have texted your keyword, you will get a text message back verifying your intent to donate $5 to your charity of choice. If you would like to finalize the transaction, simply text back YES. It's that simple for the donor. Two text messages 1 word each.

    The donation gets added to the monthly phone bill from whoever happens to be the donor's cell phone carrier.

    From a nonprofit's point of view, the process does take a little set-up. While the Mobile Giving Foundation is not the only one making this process possible, since I'll tell you how it works with them since I understand that process the best at this point. First, a little about what the Mobile Giving Foundation does and what it's role is in the whole process:

    "MGF serves as the link between a charitable giving campaign, the wireless industry and the 250 million wireless users in the US. We vet all NPOs who use the mobile channel, certify all mobile giving programs, provide industry-wide guidance for charitable campaigns and establish, with industry-wide input, the guidelines and standards for mobile giving. Additionally, we facilitate the text messages through our platform, help NPOs market their campaigns, collect funds generated through mobile giving campaigns from the carriers and then distribute the collected funds to NPOs. "

    As a nonprofit, you register with the Mobile Giving Foundation through an ASP: AN approved application service providers (ASP) who will manage the technical components of your mobile giving campaign. A full list of Mobile Giving Foundation approved ASPs is can be found on their website.

    OK, so what's all this going to cost you and is it worth it?

    Well, registration runs around $500. Then there is a monthly service charge that Mobile Giving charges your ASP, and that becomes part of the charge your ASP charges you. So, you may end up paying a flat monthly fee to your ASP, or a certain % of each donation, or both. Importantly, you pay nothing to the phone companies--they've agreed to do all this for free.

    There are still a lot of kinks that need working out, for example:

    • currently donations are limited to $5 or $10 (mobile operators don't want to take on more risks and the Mobile Giving folk figured the text-messaging target population might balk at a higher rate)

    • contact frequency--currently, you can't text these people back after the donation has gone thru, but this might change soon

    • share of DM dollars: to call text messaging fundraising an R&D experiment for most organizations is probably overstating it's share of the direct response pie

    But there are several key reasons that I think we have reached the tipping point:

    • The kinks are getting worked out. Someone has now developed, and gotten the buy in of all major cell phone carries "a could not be easier to use" way of texting donations

    • The market is huge: "Charitable giving in the US amounts to almost $300 billion a year, with 76% of that coming from individuals. Given the almost total saturation of the US population by wireless devices (250 million subscribers), and the exponential rise of text messaging (used by 68% of 18-24 year-olds, 37% of 35-44 year-olds and 14% of those over 65), it is easy to see how development of a "Mobile Giving Channel" could vastly increase the pool of charitable donors"

    • From a long-term planning point of view, this is similar to the URL scenario of the mid 1990's. Get your keyword now, or pay someone else to use it later.

    • And I think, most importantly: if things go as planned, you will be able to, in the near future, send up to 4 text messages a month to someone who donated to you via this method. This will transition mobile messaging from a one-off, to a group of donors prime for cultivation. You will now be able to:

    • Ask donors for email and other contact info and get them to opt into all kinds of programs

    • Create a mobile monthly sustainer program. Get donors to agree, and send them a text each month. They reply with a "yes" and you get $5. That's $60 donor on an annual basis. With no DM cost. No bad.

    I will continue to keep an eye on this and report back, but I am certainly very excited about the future of this (altho my phone bill, which with all the giddy practicing and demonstration now has an extra $50 in $5 charges, is not so excited).

    (picture at start of blog from

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