Tony Aiello, our SVP of Business Development was recently featured in Fundraising Success magazine. He outlines the mobile giving industry.
It's for You!
Mobile giving is a reality now in the U.S. Are you ready to take that text?
By: Tony Aiello
Mobile fundraising has arrived in the United States. In early February 2008, the Mobile Giving Foundation opened the mobile-giving channel in the U.S., providing nonprofits nationwide the ability to utilize text messaging for purposes other than constituent contact and advocacy programs.
Nonprofits in many other countries have been collecting mobile donations via text messaging for several years, and now their American counterparts have the chance to benefit from the power and reach of this vital, new fundraising channel.
The vast majority of the 250 million U.S. mobile-phone users now can send text messages to make $5 or $10 donations to participating charities - for example, text "ALIVE" to 90999 to give $5 to Keep a Child Alive, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based organization working to combat AIDS in developing nations. A donor is requested to confirm her donation by replying to the text message she receives back from the charity with YES. Upon confirmation, the charge is added to the donor's mobile-phone bill. The charge appears as a tax-deductible donation to the charity of choice on the donor's bill, which can be used as a receipt. The donation is collected by the wireless carrier when the donor pays her next mobile-phone bill.
Mobile Giving Foundation
The Mobile Giving Foundation serves as a clearinghouse for all donations, collecting the funds from each participating carrier and sending the money to the appropriate charities (minus a 10 percent processing fee) in 60 to 90 days.
MGF is a new 501(c)(3) created to oversee mobile-giving standards and best practices for the wireless industry, certify nonprofits and mobile vendors wishing to participate in the mobile-giving channel, and facilitate the flow of funds from carriers directly to participating nonprofits.
According to the MGF's Nonprofit Standards of Compliance, all client organizations must meet specific standards of legitimacy, thereby safeguarding the integrity of carriers and the interests of the end users. The NSC establish benchmarks to make certain an organization is fulfilling its obligations to those who benefit from its programs, to contributors and to the public. The guidelines also ensure that client activity is compliant with the Mobile Marketing Association's Consumer Best Practices Guidelines and the MMA Code of Conduct for Mobile Marketing. These standards are intended as a framework for all fundraising using the mobile channel.
All charities must meet the following standards:
* Have a well-defined mission and programs that work to efficiently achieve that mission.
* Be governed by an elected, volunteer board of directors.
* Have policies in place to prevent conflicts of interest.
* Practice sound financial management, and comply with legal and regulatory requirements.
* Provide the public with information about its mission, program activities and finances.
* Be accessible and responsive to members of the public who express interest in the affairs of the organization.
* Be in good standing with the state of registration.
* Be USA PATRIOT Act compliant.
* Maintain 501(c)(3) status.
The first three U.S. nonprofits to offer text-message fundraising appeals were United Way of America in partnership with the National Football League, launched during this year's Super Bowl (text "FIT" to 864833); American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, launched April 10 during ASPCA Day (text "GIVE" to 27722); and Keep a Child Alive. All are $5 donation programs powered by Mobile Accord through its online service, www.mgive.com.
A quick case study
As the mobile donation channel expands across the U.S. marketplace, many nonprofits are looking for innovative ways to leverage celebrity endorsements and mobile donations. One great example of how well this new fundraising channel is working is Keep a Child Alive, supported by its main spokesperson, singer Alicia Keys. Keys now includes a specific appeal for mobile donations during each show of her current 33-city tour. During her concerts, Keys stops halfway through the show, dims the house lights, and asks concertgoers to pull out their cell phones and donate $5 to Keep a Child Alive by texting "ALIVE" to 90999 - right then and there. The instructions for the mobile-donation appeal are displayed on all screens and promoted throughout the venue with banners, flyers and T-shirts. Keep a Child Alive continues to raise thousands of dollars at each stop of the tour, with about a 6 percent to 12 percent response rate for venues of 15,000 to 20,000 people.
Safeguards in place
Each nonprofit organization wishing to participate in the mobile-giving channel is required to complete and sign a Charitable Program Agreement and Application with MGF. The life span of the mobile-giving channel depends on strict compliance with the agreements between the MGF and wireless carriers.
Additionally, each charity must choose a Mobile Application Service Provider approved by the MGF. The MASP provides the online interface and technical tools required for charities to create, launch and track mobile-donation campaigns. Many MASPs also provide mobile-marketing expertise and help charities integrate mobile-donation appeals into marketing, advertising and public relations efforts. Visit www.mobilegiving.org for a list of approved MASPs and details on MGF agreements.
Mobile-giving programs are scalable by nature and work for national and local organizations alike. Appeals can be issued by a celebrity on television, radio or at live events in front of thousands of fans, but the process works just as well when the executive director of a local nonprofit issues an appeal at a pancake breakfast, golf outing or luncheon.
Mobile giving is designed to yield incremental donations from existing supporters and acquire new donors by introducing the concept of giving to a younger audience. The mobile channel also provides an easy way for nonprofits to capture the donor's mobile number and get permission to remain in contact with that donor in order to promote other programs and future appeals.