October 10, 2010; Source: Newsweek | Newsweek gets about as bullish as it can in a story in its current issue that argues that “the mobile-giving industry has the potential to change the face of global philanthropy.” To help make its case, the magazine points to recent events such as $40 million collected for Haitian relief over nine months from people sending as little as $5 or $10 from their cell phones. It adds, “The Haiti campaign has proven the possibilities of mobile giving—particularly in response to a high-profile crisis.”
Both proponents and providers of mobile giving services say it’s all about the ease of use and ability to donate on the fly—which more and more people are doing for all kinds of transactions—that makes text-giving so popular and why they expect it to grow even more. “In the on-demand world that’s being created, the longer you wait to do anything, the less likely you are to do it,” says James Eberhard, founder of mGive, the company that coordinated the Red Cross campaign for Haiti. “If you put something that’s easy in front of people and compel them, they want to help.”
Still there are some limitations on what mobile giving can do. Newsweek points out that donations can’t exceed $10 and charities don’t get their funds until customers pay their cell phone bills, which means it can take as long as 90 days before they see any cash. In contrast, donors can give as much as they want online and the money is transferred in as quickly as two days.
Other factors that experts say will help propel mobile giving, in addition to immediacy, are the connections that can be created between givers and causes. As the magazine notes, “donors can opt to receive messages about fundraising progress, volunteer needs, or new drives.” And Eberhard, of mGive adds, “The phone is the common denominator that connects the person with the cause.”—Bruce Trachtenberg