Washington Nonprofit Conference Roundup: Lively Q&A at Session on Mobile Fundraising
Nonprofit organizations around the world are raising millions of dollars via mobile fundraising for disaster relief in Haiti. And their experiences might well turn out to be both proving and testing grounds for this still-new medium.
In the session “Mobile, Online, Offline” at the DMA Nonprofit Federation 2010 Washington Nonprofit Conference last week, the “mobile” part of the presentation — moderated by Mark Smith, fundraising director, Greenpeace — took center stage as attendees engaged with speakers in a lively Q&A portion.
Among the questions and answers:
What information does the nonprofit receive about a donor who gives via text message?
According to Bill Bailey, manager of nonprofit partnerships at Washington, D.C.-based mobile technology company Distributive Networks, mobile carriers are very protective of their customers' personal information. In most cases, the nonprofit only receives the donor's cell phone number, the date and time at which the text was sent, and the word that was texted to make the donation. Nonprofits can follow up with a text message asking the donor to reply “yes” if she wishes to receive further communication from the organization; however, Bailey said, “way less than 5 percent” of donors opt in to receive further communication, likening this type of donation to placing cash in a Salvation Army kettle outside of a supermarket.
Bailey also advised fundraisers never to call the cell phone numbers of donors who have given via text, which sparked debate in the session hall from fundraisers who struggled with the concept of potentially losing a connection with more than 95 percent of mobile donors.
“I know you don't want to throw away donors, but you have to respect that they've chosen to communicate with you via text,” he said, noting that people generally are less open to receiving solicitation calls on their cell phones than on their land lines.
“This will continue to evolve and change,” noted fellow panelist Steve Groeninger, director of marketing for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, referencing the relative infancy of this type of philanthropic giving.
Suzie Armstrong, senior director of development at Save Darfur, stressed that “it's all about diversification” and that mobile is only one piece of the donor puzzle. As an example, she referenced the organization's Facebook page, which she said is one of the top five Causes pages on the social-networking site but only has garnered $2,000 to $3,000 in donations.
How long does it take for the nonprofit to receive money donated via a text message?
It typically takes about 60 to 90 days from the time the person texts the donation, according to Bailey. In the case of the Haiti relief efforts, because of the urgency of the need, mobile carriers are giving the donations immediately to the organizations, rather than waiting to collect the money from donors via their cell phone bills.
“This is the exception, not the rule,” Bailey noted.
One audience member indicated concern that it might be stressful for donors to know that it will take that long for their donations to be received by the organization.
What portion of a mobile donation does the nonprofit receive, after associated fees?
Save Darfur, which solicits $5 donations via text message on fliers and other promotional materials, the organization pays a $250 monthly retainer to Distributive Networks, which powers its mobile giving, as well as a 35 cent processing fee per each $5 donation, Armstrong and Bailey said. Retainers and processing fees vary by vendor, Bailey noted.
How will a donor receive a receipt for a donation made via text message?
According to the Internal Revenue Service, “a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the donee organization, the date of the contribution and the amount of the contribution.” Click here to see the guidelines.
Is there a dollar limit to how much someone can donate via text?
According to Bailey, most mobile carriers have a $30 monthly limit on the amount a customer can donate via text.
Click here to get more information on the DMA Nonprofit Federation 2010 Washington Nonprofit Conference.