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Text-to-Pledge turns SMS messaging into philanthropy

Funds raised since the 2007 inception of Text-to-Pledge succeeded the $25 Million benchmark last month during the Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar party in Los Angeles.

The mobile donation service allows fundraiser guests to pledge a limitless monetary contribution via text message, after which, the content is broadcast on-screen in a live feed, creating a social giving network. Deploying a service based upon a ubiquitous mobile phone feature, the possibility to collect donations is exceptionally prospective.

“Apps require access,” said Reed Baker, CEO of Sophist’s Text-to-Pledge, New York.

“The likelihood that an organization could convince 1,000 people, many of whom are unregistered guests of table sponsors, to download something to their phone is a lot lower than asking all of these people to use something they use every day, and may even be using while you ask — that something would be text messaging,” he said

Elite parties

Text-to-Pledge receives voluntary charitable funds during exclusive fundraising galas host to media personalities, Academy Award winners, sports heroes, famous politicians, platinum artists and the like.

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has historically raised funds onsite by live auction. With nearly 1,000 guests and only 10 or so auction lots, many people were unable to donate.

This year, EJAF’s producer Andy Boose had the idea to include a mobile ask at the start of each Oscar’s commercial break.

Text-to-Pledge had approximately 10 bursts of screen time, each three minutes in duration, during which social messages including varied pledge amounts posted on the screens. This created a room-wide conversation and a viral giving environment.

While this wasn’t a traditional integration for Text-to-Pledge, the results were very substantial and EJAF received hundreds of mission-based gifts as opposed to just their usual auction revenue. Ultimately, it was the perfect storm. They activated their major donors through the auction and created a way for major donors and their guests to give in volume through Text-to-Pledge.

Sophist represents a variety of non-profit clients including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Ronald McDonald House and Wounded Warrior Project.

Many esteemed celebrities attended the gala

Success stories

Outside of celebrity charity, mobile fundraising has been notably fruitful when deployed for rapid and broad fundraising efforts for natural disaster relief.

Mobile giving offers near-instant fundraising as individuals receive an SMS message allowing them to make an immediate contribution.

Numerous mobile donation campaigns in the wake of global emergencies such as 2004’s the Indian Ocean Tsunami and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina generated substantial relief funds for victims via SMS.

For example, after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the American Red Cross launched a donate by text program which collected $43 million via text, accrued from $10 increments sent by individuals texting “HAITI” to the shortcode 90999 that were billed to donor phone carriers.

Text2Give, the mobile microdonation program branching off Text-to-Pledge, also helped in raising money for Haiti Disaster Relief. This program is best used for mass market events, mass media and viral campaigns and the mobile carriers require 501c3 status and annual revenues exceeding $500,000 as evidenced by a Form 990 in order to qualify.

Mobile makes sense

Mobile donations are appealing because they are convenient and offer instant gratification, making philanthropy possible for anyone with a mobile phone.

“Everyone has a mobile phone. Every mobile phone has the ability to text. And text message donation allows donors to control their experience,” Mr. Baker said.

“They can give as high or as low as they’d like,” he said. “They can give as publicly or as privately as they’d like.  Our process caters to the donors’ own giving style.  And ultimately, because the platform is mobile, all participants are identified by mobile number, at the very least, and mobile number, name, email, and physical address at the most, so that the organization and our back office have a database to refer to when attempting to collect pledges in the future.”

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York