The American Red Cross’ Text 2HELP was one of the first text-message donation programs in the United States. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the ARC worked with the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, an international association for the wireless telecommunications industry, to institute the program to support its Disaster Relief Fund, which it promoted through ads in newspapers. Through the program, which ran from Sept. 6, 2005, and Oct. 31, 2005, people could donate $5 to the Red Cross by texting the organization the message HELP.
Jeff Simmons, director of technology programs for the CTIA, says people with cellphone plans with participating carriers who texted the word HELP to the ARC’s short code number would then receive a message asking them if they, indeed, wanted to donate to the Red Cross. If they answered “Yes” they then got a confirmation/thank-you message back. The donation amount showed up on donors’ cellphone statements for the next billing cycle, and the cellphone carrier company remitted the amount to the ARC. Simmons says the technology is still very new and CTIA plans on getting more equipped to offer this service. “We want to be able to respond as an industry to catastrophic and/or devastating circumstances that occur as a body and we are working to provide that functionality,” he adds.
Some other new-ish strategies to think about include gift registry; peer-to-peer e-mails, e-Cards, and paid placement, such as banner ads on well-known sites with special landing pages. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for example, worked with CNN to include a link to its site on the news station’s Web site next to an article about a drunken-driving accident.
Finally, Johnston touched on one decidedly low-tech idea: direct dialog, which puts people on the street engaging in face-to-face conversations with passers-by. Used by organizations such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International and the World Wildlife Fund, direct dialog was pioneered in Europe and has helped organizations raise millions of dollars.