Donating Digitally

The jingle of a collector’s bucket and the mad rummage in your pocket or purse for loose change may become a distant memory in the not too distant future.

As our world has become increasingly digital, so too have our payments in almost every area of our lives. The charity sector has lagged behind some of the most digitally-enabled sectors of the economy, such as point-of-sale retail and regular utility bill payments. But with fewer Kiwis carrying cash it is crucial for the charity sector to innovate with new ways of receiving donations.

Text messaging specialist Run The Red founder and chief executive Ben Northrop says one of the main areas for growth in charity payments is in text donation services via mobile phones.

“The landscape of giving has changed. Going door to door, street appeals and cold calling used to be predominant models in the charity sector but the digital world is changing that. Charities now have to think of innovative digital ways to connect with the public and facilitate donations for their cause.”

There are a range of different services available depending on the size and scope of your fundraising campaign.

Telcos Vodafone and Spark are among the companies that have dipped their toes into donation services.

Vodafone’s TXT2Give initiative allows Vodafone customers to give between $3 and $10 to a charity or cause of their choice via text message while Spark’s website Givealittle provides online campaigns. TXT2Give is a low cost option while Givealittle is fee-free.

Run The Red has been working in the charity sector for about four years, providing low cost text campaigns.

This works best when a charity is running a campaign or annual appeal, allowing the public to donate $3 via text message, Mr Northrop says.

“The Christchurch earthquake in February 2011 was one of Run The Red’s first text donation appeals. More than $132,000 was raised for the Prime Minister’s Appeal through text donations which was used to provide temporary community facilities and social services.”

Mr Northrop says text donations work because they’re easy and fast, and people get instant satisfaction from their donation through a response text thanking them for their contribution.

“The most successful text donation campaigns have advertising or media publicity around them to ensure the message gets out. For example, in July UNICEF NZ ran a campaign for relief work in Gaza during the Israel – Palestine conflict.

“Campbell Live got behind the campaign, appealing to viewers to donate $3 to UNICEF NZ via text message. The appeal received more than 30,000 responses, raising more than $90,000.”

UNICEF NZ fundraising director Ellen Voller says: “We have used Run The Red several times for text campaigns and have always found them very helpful and informative. They are very quick to respond when we have needed to and we always get a high level of friendly helpful support.”

While there are other organisations available to provide mobile giving, the benefit with providers such as Run The Red is that the charity only pays a small set up fee and 100% of the money donated is given to the cause.

“We know the need in the competitive charity sector and have made sure that campaigns return as much as possible,” Mr Northrop says.

Run The Red was acquired by mobile payments company Pushpay in June. Pushpay is listed on the New Zealand stock exchange and has developed an app for mobile phones that makes mobile payments and donating simple and fast. The Auckland-based company has carved out a successful business servicing the US church market – turning the mobile phone into a collection plate. This new focus has encouraged Run The Red to expand its mobile giving service to include donations made as regular contributions.

“Every time someone donates by text message, they receive a response by SMS thanking them for their contribution. What we’re now able to do through Pushpay is to ask whether the giver wants to set up an automatic payment to that charity. The message can include a link that will direct them to the Pushpay app, which they need download. The simple system asks the giver to select how much they want to donate and how often, and the transaction is complete.

“For charities, growing the number of regular donors is a huge benefit. However many people are wary of signing up to regular payments as they don’t know how much of their contribution goes to the charity. With this system donors feel confident that their money goes directly to the charity to be spent in areas of need.”

Sophie Speer

Tags:   SMS