The Democratization of Giving

Boosting Small Mobile Donations Can Make a Big Difference

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C. Douglas Plank
C. Douglas Plank
Everyone has heard of mobile giving, thanks to a number of successful initiatives such as the Haiti drive earlier this year. More than $40 million was raised for aid to that country through mobile giving of $5 and $10 at a time. Approximately 6 million people were moved to respond to various calls to action.

While a single microdonation may not appear to have any measurable effect, it's clear that a lot of people making small donations at the same time can have a huge impact.

Text messaging has already outpaced e-mail and even talking on the phone. The reality of social giving, making quick donations en masse at the same time, is fast becoming the norm. Just look at the calls to action spreading across all media—traditional radio, TV, print—along with friends encouraging each other via text, Facebook and Twitter. Also, given that more than 50 million people in the U.S. do not have credit cards or checking accounts, mobile giving represents the tool that anyone with a cellphone can use to participate and make a difference for an international tragedy such as Haiti or for a local cause.

A call to action for nonprofits
Mobile is clearly becoming a preferred way for consumers to make microdonations, to express an opinion and to volunteer time or an opinion. Just look around: There are billboards with calls to action for volunteers to become a "BIG" for Big Brothers Big Sisters; earlier on this blog was the story "Texting to House the Homeless"; each week millions vote on TV's "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars"; and more and more companies are sending coupons via text.

All nonprofits need to establish their mobile presence now. Just like having a web URL, 800 number, online giving options or e-mail, nonprofits need to begin to educate themselves now about these mobile tools and how to incorporate them with more traditional forms of communication.

Why? Because smartphones will soon outnumber computers three to one—some estimate this will happen by 2011. We know youth are the largest users of texting; however, the fastest-growing mobile texting market is made up of people 35 and older. It is imperative, especially given the current economic times, for nonprofits to increase their lists of support by all means available. And, of course, the potential lifetime value of a first-time donor can be huge: That $10 microtext donor may become a monthly donor giving $120 or more within the first 12 to 18 months following that initial donation—not bad, considering the small expense involved in attaining a new supporter via text. There's also the opportunity to secure mobile pledges of any size gift that are then billed through traditional credit-card or call-center methods.

Global becomes the new local
Donors can make a microloan; provide a water well to a specific village; sponsor a child or family; or even purchase livestock—a flock of chickens, a lamb, a cow or oxen—to support a poor family in the Appalachians (yes, in the U.S.) or India. In a matter of seconds, a donor can make a gift that can impact someone half a world away or right in their own community. So the question for nonprofits isn't if they should implement a mobile solution; rather, it's when and how.

The Innovative Giving Foundation is hosting the first-ever flagship Mobile Giving Conference designed for all nonprofits. It was created to bring together the best of industry practices to serve and train NPOs about the evolution, success and future of mobile giving. The goal of the conference is to demystify, simplify and educate the nonprofit market on the evolution of mobile and other innovative giving solutions.

From wireless carriers to local or national nonprofits that are already successfully implementing mobile in their overall strategies, service providers with the most experience in the nonprofit space will be on hand to share success stories, advice and counsel, as well as present best practices and how-tos for implementing a mobile strategy. The conference is scheduled for Sept. 27–28 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. Check out our website for more details.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C. Douglas Plank is the co-founder and CEO of Mobilecause, a provider of mobile services to the nonprofit community.