Harnessing the power of mobile giving

Written by Franck Bernard

“Charitable giving amounts to almost $300 billion a year, with 76% of that coming from individuals. Given the almost total saturation of the population by wireless devices (250 million subscribers), and the exponential rise of text messaging (used by 68% of 18-24 year-olds, 37% of 35-44 year-olds and 14% of those over 65), it is easy to see how the development of a “Mobile Giving Channel” could vastly increase the pool of charitable donors” US statistics, generationygive.blogspot.com, April 5, 2009

The statistics are overwhelming. It is estimated that purchases made via mobile phones will rise from 1,2 billion in 2009 to a staggering 119 billion by 2015. Now consider this: 84% of Canadians gave a total of 10,6 billion dollars last year. It’s obvious what the next step is for the nonprofit sector: harnessing the power of mobile for fundraising.


The success and popularity of text donations experienced tremendous growth following the devastating Haitian earthquake when Americans rallied an estimated $43 million in donations by text. 74% of surveyed individuals indicated that their text donation for the Haitian relief efforts was the first time they gave through this channel. However, 54% of them gave to other causes via text messaging afterwards, while 43% encouraged and advised peers to do so. Having a text message based endeavor is cheap, effective and can boost your income while remaining virtually effortless for your donors.

Sponsors can also join in. A great example is the Bell Canada’s “Let’s talk” endeavor. Each year Bell encourages Canadians everywhere to text as much as possible for a day. For each message sent, the company gives a five cent donation to a mental health related non-profit organization. Partnering up with a for-profit could become very lucrative and save non-profits a lot of advertising money for their event. In the “Let’s talk” example, it doesn’t cost anything to the public or to the organization because the sponsor (Bell) assumes the cost of marketing and services.

A more realistic approach for both your non-profit and your sponsor could be a matching-gift program. For every dollar your fundraising event collects, your sponsor gives a dollar as well. It’s a great incentive for the public, it allows you to collect valuable data on your donors and it makes for an interesting event where donors don’t have to physically be anywhere in particular.


Developing an app is another an interesting way to fundraise via mobile. Some companies make billions by selling apps, why couldn’t your nonprofit succeed there too? Sell your app at 1,99$ or 2,99$ while making it clear the proceeds go towards your cause. Again, it is virtually effortless for the donor and can grant you access to high-quality data. However, developing an app is costly (can range from 5,000$ to 150,000$ dollars) and will see a margin of its revenue go directly in the pockets of Apple or Google. Developing an app is a good idea if your fundraising goals are high since it takes a lot of effort, coordination and investment. It has to be well planned to be worth it.

The exploration on how mobile devices can be used to raise money or gain attention for non-profits has only just begun. It will be interesting to see what creative uses are to come in the next years as the trend grows. This is where fundraising is heading, will you be leading the pack or falling behind?