Jan 14 2010

text to donate innovation

Published by at 1:22 pm under architecture,documentary,news,press,social media

My interest in social innovation prompted me to notice a new fundraising development being used to help the victims of the Haitian earthquake. Mobile giving has played a huge role in massing many small donations to the relief cause. A promotion by the NFL Playoffs over the weekend produced stunning results. The current total reported now on Thursday morning is over $25 million dollars.

Now I gave money the old fashioned way. An email from the Red Cross arrived yesterday morning and I visited their website to make a donation. I’m sure that plenty of other donations came in through this method as well. I was surprised that this new mobile method sprung up seemingly over night. Wondering about when the cell phone system was established I found a plan that was set up after Hurricane Katrina by the Wireless Foundation in September of 2006. Called Text 2HELP, this system partnered with the American Red Cross.

The current system (via MSNBC) of mobile giving effort was organized by theĀ mGive Foundation, as well as theĀ Mobile Giving Foundation, which are coordinating with wireless carriers. In the Red Cross’ case, phone users can text the word “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10,” and when prompted, hit “YES” to confirm the donation.

The mGive Foundation tried the system in a Washington Nationals baseball game two years ago to generate funds for the Diabetes Care Complex, but the idea didn’t work well then, and the method only raised $190,000 in 2008 for the Red Cross to help with Hurricane Ike.

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The text to donate system was set-up after Hurricane Katrina

The difference this time has been credited to the endorsements from Secretary of State Clinton and the White House blog.

The text to donate system has been so effective at both generating funds for the rescue as well as mobilizing the community. Supporters donate, then turn around and spread the word to friends in their social networks. This cycle of giving and sharing sets up a system of social proof that will encourage others to do the same. People often want to help in disasters like Haiti and look for a tangible way to assist. The cell phone texting method is a quick and easy way to move their sympathy into action.

It’ll be interesting to see the studies of this system that will come out in the following months. I’m sure that other charitable groups and foundations are looking into the system now. Will, or should this be saved for the big disasters. Would you like to use this for everyday giving as well?

What do you think about this way of giving? Have you seen this method being used before or is this just the first massive use of the method? How would you like to see text to donate be used in the future?

For a collection of groups that are helping in the rescue and other ways to give – a page has been organized at the NPR site. You can go there for news updates and for links to the other relief groups.

Mark Harmel



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