Have Mobile Donations Hit the Tipping Point?

January 19, 2010

10:00 am

I will admit that I only recently started using SMS on my phone as a habit for communication.  Even though I had smart phones, I tended to use email as opposed to SMS messages.  However, ever since Google Voice allowed SMS forwarding as well I finally moved over to using SMS on pretty much a full time basis.

I know SMS was a major factor in the recent Presidential campaign and was used very effectively and efficiently by the Obama campaign, but it was not until very recently while listening to an NPR broadcast that I learned of the use of SMS for donations.  I do not remember the cause but if you simply sent an SMS message to a certain short code, a donation of $5 was added to your cell phone bill.  I thought at the time how ingenious this was.  It literally took all the leg work out of making a donation.  Prior to this we had to either call and pledge money on a credit card or go to a web page and do the same thing.  So even if you were inclined to donate when you heard of the program, by the time you got to a place to do it, you most likely forgot about it.  However, SMS donations make it drop dead easy.  People ALWAYS have there mobile phones with them now and there is no lag time to allow them to either forget or think differently.  They simply pull out their phone and in a matter of seconds, viola a donation has been made and it will appear on their monthly bill, which honestly we can all admit no one ever looks at, right?

So I was not surprised in the least to be seeing the news articles about just how much had been donated via SMS towards the victims of the recent tragic earthquake in Haiti.  According to the Washington Post

The American Red Cross has received more than $22 million in U.S. text-message donations for Haiti earthquake relief efforts, far outpacing the charity’s previous record of $400,000 for emergency relief using similar technology.

The text-messaging effort involves sending the word “Haiti” in a cellphone text message to the number 90999, which automatically adds a $10 pledge to a person’s phone bill.

Most of the telecom providers are also immediately transferring the money to the Red Cross instead of waiting for customer payment.  As of right now it seems to be the younger crowd that is most apt to donate in this fashion, but as their generation grows and new ones adopt mobile technology I do not see this going away, quite the opposite.

So have any of you made donations via SMS ?  If not, why not and will you?  Love to hear your feedback.

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Jimmy Gardner is a Senior Unix/Windows Engineer, a lover of technology and photography. Follow him online at @jjgardner3 and enjoy his portfolio at jjg3photo.com/.

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