Nonprofits get the message on using texts to raise funds
Monday, November 29, 2010
Posted by: Su Hawk
Nonprofits get the message on using texts to raise funds
By Andy Vuong
The Denver Post
Posted: 11/29/2010 01:00:00 AM MST
More than $41 million was raised through text-message donations to assist in Haiti's Earthquake relief efforts, part of a broader effort by non-profits to use mobile and online means to generate funds. (Orlin Wagner, AP file)Charitable donations are shifting from collection trays and kettles to laptops and cellphones as more nonprofits turn to online and mobile fundraising.
From Facebook to Colorado Gives Day, high-tech campaigns are sweeping the nonprofit world.
Leveraging technology from Denver-based mGive, the Salvation Army is testing a text-message fundraiser this holiday season to supplement its traditional Red Kettle Christmas campaign.
Instead of ringing a bell and collecting spare change, fundraisers play a special ringtone on their mobile devices and ask potential donors for their cellphone numbers.
When volunteers enter the numbers into their devices, texts are sent to donors with the message, "Thanks for pledging to give $10 to the Salvation Army, to confirm your gift, respond with Yes."
"It turns the mobile device into a red kettle," said Jenifer Snyder, executive director of the mGive Foundation, which certifies nonprofits for text-to-give campaigns.
The trial will benefit two Salvation Army markets, Norfolk-Virginia Beach in Virginia and Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas.
It ushers in a new phase of mobile giving, which might soon include higher single-donation limits, corporate sponsors and deeper engagement between nonprofits and donors via texts.
"Forty-percent of the donors that are giving through mobile are unique nontraditional donors that have never communicated with the nonprofit they just gave to before," Snyder said. "This is a really powerful way to engage new constituents and hopefully cultivate new donors into lifelong supporters and larger gifters later on down the road."
The watershed moment for mobile giving came in January in the wake of the massive earthquake in Haiti. More than $41 million was raised through text-message donations to assist with Haiti relief efforts. The American Red Cross used mGive's technology to raise $32 million of the total through $10 donations.
And now, mGive plans to test $25 donations with select campaigns this holiday season.
Concerns with higher limit
Because text donations are tacked onto cellphone bills, a concern with the higher amount is that it might lead to bill shock and more declined charges, Snyder said.
"Right now, refund rates are generally less than 5 percent when people give through their cellphone," she said. "Are we going to see a huge increase because suddenly we're asking for $25 instead of $5 or $10?"
Some observers say the move might have a negative effect.
"Ten dollars feels like the right amount," said Erich Broksas, a senior vice president with the Case Foundation, a philanthropic organization founded by America Online co- founder Steve Case. "If we start bumping it up to $25 or $50, I think it's going to hurt."
Another new initiative mGive plans to test is attaching a mobile campaign to a staged event, such as a charity triathlon. As participants pass each stage, texts can be pushed to donors with progress updates and requests for additional support.
"It's an effective way to further engage them," Snyder said. "You can actually have two races going on during the race: A race to see who actually wins the race and who actually raises the most funds."
Beyond mobile campaigns, the Case Foundation is encouraging nonprofits to use social-media tools to grow support. Facebook has a tool called "causes" that allows its users to raise money and awareness for nonprofits directly on the social-networking site.
"The use of Twitter to share your message . . . as well as leveraging Facebook for your fan page or cause page to use as a fundraising tool are really smart," Broksas said. "It takes a lot of time . . . but the reality is this is where it's going and this is the behavior that people want to engage in."
A day for online generosity
Internet-based giving will be the focus Dec. 8 for Colorado Gives Day, an event established with the goal of raising $1 million online for hundreds of nonprofits in 24 hours. Volunteers for several area nonprofits plan to lug their laptops to coffee shops and other businesses to collect donations.
"We're going to set up shop in different places, mainly around Boulder, where people can come by and make an online donation," said Dan Hanley, director of development for the Boulder County AIDS Project, a support, advocacy and educational organization. "Our goal is to raise $30,000 in one day online."
That would rank as the single largest online tally for the organization, which has been around for 25 years and has an annual budget of about $1 million.
Four years ago, online donations accounted for about 5 percent of the AIDS Project's budget. That is now up to 40 percent, Hanley said.
The Network for Good, which processes donations for thousands of charities, said its total online donations increased 31 percent in December 2009 compared with a year earlier. Sites such as GivingFirst.org, a service funded by the Arvada-based Community First Foundation, are helping boost online gifts.
GivingFirst.org collects online donations for about 500 area nonprofits, including the AIDS Project, and covers all credit card and transaction fees so that 100 percent of donations go to the organizations.
"If you're a smaller nonprofit . . . it's hard to set up an online giving site because of the merchant services and all the back-end stuff," said Dana Rinderknecht, manager of GivingFirst.org. "For some of our nonprofits, this is their Web presence."
GivingFirst.org will process transactions for Colorado Gives Day.
FirstBank has pledged $250,000 to an incentive fund that will be distributed to every nonprofit that receives a donation that day.
Andy Vuong: 303-954-1209, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/andyvuong