Although this blog is bought to you from Nick Gandon’s account it was written by our intern Michael Heighway.
Communications giant Vodafone and website JustGiving.com recently teamed up to create a new initiative that makes it easier than ever before to donate money to charities by text message. The scheme, called JustTextGiving, has significant appeal for charities wishing to bring their fundraising strategies into the twenty-first century, and they are signing up to the scheme at a rate of 1,000 a week. Previously, service providers charged processing fees, with some smaller charities complaining that they were losing up to 20% of text donations. Anne-Marie Huby, Managing Director of JustGiving, said that ‘the future success of the charitable sector depends on making giving relevant for the next generation of donors and fundraisers. With mobiles a pocket essential, the ability to harness the power of a simple text is game-changing for the country’s charities.’
It is with this in mind that Vodafone and JustGiving.com decided to make their new initiative a free service, with no subscription fees and 100% of donations going to the charity. In the UK there are 50 million mobile phone users, and earlier this year charities such as Comic Relief were able to tap into this ‘mobile’ potential, raising £7 million via text donations on Red Nose Day. Statistics gathered by nfpSynergy (published in Sending out an SMS paper) show that 96% of people use their mobile phones to send/receive text messages. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, believes that by 2014 text donations in the UK could reach £100 million a year.
However, although statistics seem to indicate the emergence of a new wave of charitable giving, the outlook is not so bright for smaller charities which do not have the publicity and exposure of larger organisations. It is frustrating for smaller charities that 88% of all charitable giving goes to the top 6% of good causes.
Many charities do not have the resources or infrastructure to engage with these new technological fundraising possibilities. This is identified in a paper by Nick Aldridge, CEO of Mission Fish, who tells us that in reality the majority of charities have had little success in generating text message donations.
It should be remembered that although text giving is probably the ultimate mechanism for spontaneous giving, it is not the universal answer to all charity’s fundraising issues. It only works for charities which are supported by a sophisticated technological infrastructure, combined with huge publicity. Even if text giving is a viable option, it only realises a part of the whole opportunity that mobiles represent. While applauding Vodafone and JustGivings’ venture, we must bear in mind the plight of small charities, who should first be encouraged to consider how technological innovations might increase their effectiveness and reduce costs, rather than immediately embarking on a ‘mobile fundraising’ strategy.