The Haitian relief effort has attracted a well-document outpouring of donations via text message. But an recent poll suggests people don't necessarily trust texting as a means of charitable giving.
An online consumer survey by Forrester Research that asked people if they thought money donated through texting actually went where it was supposed to, found only 16% (of 134 respondents said yes. Thirty-two percent said no, and 51% just weren't sure. Most felt that companies involved in the process, like phone carriers, would take a cut for administrative fees, and that they would be better off donating directly through the sites of organizations like the Red Cross.
Forrester concluded that the reaction is consistent with broader research showing consumers' general wariness with trusting companies. "So while the idea behind being able to simply text and donate seems like a great use of technology, it's missing one important piece to fully realize it's true potential: consumer trust," noted Forrester analyst Jackie Anderson in a blog post.
The carriers' limiting Haiti text donations to $5 to $10 has probably been a big factor in allaying concerns about where the money was going (and there is always the chance for abuse). The smaller the donation the less risk involved. And mGive, the mobile donation company that has raised $37 million for American Red Cross and other Haitian relief groups, says it has in place more security measures than general online donations.
They include a carrier requirement to vet all charities before they can be included in mobile giving campaigns and not requiring people to use their credit cards to make contributions, avoiding phishing scams.
Could mGive raised even more if people had more trust in donations sent by text? Who knows? But apparently, even a little trust can go a long way.
The amount of money raised by the Red Cross for Haiti using mobile phones also significantly raised the awareness for the use of text donations. The Haiti disaster showed the power of this fundraising channel, but it also exposed questions some people have about the security and effectiveness of mobile donations. It’s human nature to question new things and mobile giving is no different. The good news is the channel is extremely safe for a variety of reasons. In order to provide additional comfort to donors I have outlined a few of the main safety factors below.
The power of text donations is on the rise for several reasons. One is that it is such an easy way for people to donate. Another is that people are becoming more familiar with mobile technology -- their phone is always with them. In the age text messaging, mobile web and smart phones people are comfortable using their phones for more than just talking. We expect this cultural shift will only accelerate in the future. Another reason mobile donations are on the rise is that many people who don’t normally donate – people who may not have a lot of money or maybe don’t even have credit cards or bank accounts -- can donate using their cellphone. This is a huge enabler for expanding the base of donors. Donors can be confident that charities using the mobile channel are good stewards of the dollars they receive based on the thorough vetting process required. At the end of the day mobile is now an additional way for donors to interact with nonprofit organizations they support. As always, donors should do their own research on the charities they wish to support regardless of the channel the use to make the donation.
Because mobile donations are just now coming into view for most people, many are asking for reassurance that the channel is safe. Here are a few things to consider about text donations.
Safety and Affordability:
• Mobile donations are very safe for donors. Donors are not required to enter a credit card number and the maximum donation for mobile campaigns is $10. In fact mobile donations are probably the most secure of any donation method.
• Each charity wishing to participate in the mobile giving channel are thoroughly vetted and must meet several stringent criteria to ensure they are a 501C3 in good standing and compliant with recognized charitable operating standards.
• Carrier networks are high highly secure and have programs in place to prevent mobile spam.
• Carriers pass through 100% of all donations. They do not charge for the use of their networks or billing systems.
• Mobile donation platforms like mGive charge a small monthly fee to charities, but these fees amount to much less than normal fundraising fees like telemarketing or direct mail. This is especially true for new donor acquisition programs. Note: mGive waived all fees for Haiti Relief efforts.
• Organizations like The mGive foundation and Mobile Giving Foundation both 501c3 non-profits, were formed specifically to be the vanguards of the channel and to track mobile pledges as they are transmitted through the mobile ecosystem and then distribute 100% of the funds according to the pledge commitments once payment is received from the carrier.
We are enthusiastic about the use of mobile phones for social good, and we are looking forward to advancing the potential for this powerful tool.