Texting Boosts Donations to Charity, Raises Millions

Texting Boosts Donations to Charity, Raises Millions

Text messaging boosts donation rates after natural disasters, as mobile technology provides instant new opportunities for charitable giving.

A study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project examined mobile giving in the wake of major disasters, particularly the massive earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, after which spontaneous donors in the U.S. contributed more than $43 million in the months after the quake.

The report, “Real Time Charitable Giving,” suggests the practice is an effective fund-raising tool for charities, cementing the role of mobile technology in the non-profit world.

Text messaging provides a convenient and instant way for donors to route money where it’s needed, especially during an emergency. Donors text a word or code to a charity’s number to make an automatic donation which then appears on their monthly cell phone bill.

Donations after the Haitian earthquake spread rapidly among mobile networks of family and friends, and even though most were first-time text givers, 56 percent of those surveyed continued to give in the wake of more recent disasters like the tsunami in Japan and devastating tornadoes in Missouri last year.

Text messaging systems allow charities to reach more unique donors than ever before, and are especially popular among young people, since they’re often using their smartphones anyway. That growing demographic means text giving is likely to increase in the future.

Further, more than three-quarters of respondents said they did little to no research before donating. Most cited television campaigns as their prime motivation, which propelled them into action after seeing devastating photos and stories on the news.

Mobile giving minimizes the need for drawn-out check-by-mail campaigns and call centers staffed with operators, reducing overall costs for non-profits and relieving donors of having to follow-up weeks or months after pledging a contribution.

Beyond charitable giving, fund-raising through texting is also finding its way into political campaigns, proving itself a valuable tool for candidates to connect with supporters and quickly raise money.

The text-based donation system also benefits carriers, who saw text messaging rates spike due to the number of responders.

More charities are likely to take advantage of the new opportunities mobile technology provides, and with few drawbacks, text donations will play a prominent role in future fund-raising campaigns.

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