smart charity

Smart Charity: Mobile Donations Allow Tech Lovers to Give

Haiti Earthquake Donations

Fundraising is an essential yet difficult task for nearly every nonprofit organization. Fortunately, a study related to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that many people are looking to their smartphone when they feel compelled to give to a charitable cause.

This news is even more promising considering that in another survey, more than 90 percent of smartphone users depend on their device on a daily basis and there are over 91 million smartphones in the United States alone. This seems to indicate that if a charity opts to reach out to users by offering smartphone giving opportunities, they could increase their reach in a big way.

Details of the Pew Research Study

The Pew Research Center’s efforts targeted over 850 people who decided to contribute money following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. After that catastrophic event, entities such as the American Red Cross used television campaigns to urge people to donate a small amount via their phone. Interested persons merely had to text a specific number to contribute.

The study found that this spontaneous method seems to have been worthwhile. Specifically, 89 percent of respondents said that their awareness of fundraising efforts began after they saw a television advertisement. Surprisingly, only two percent said they found out about the campaigns through social media, radio ads or other types of text messages, and just four percent heard about the ability to donate after reading the news online.

Did Imagery Play a Role?

Aaron Smith, one of the study’s researchers, noted that although people get information from many sources, television is still one of the most memorable. Also, he clarified that because television fundraising commercials were paired with graphic imagery, they could have appealed to a donor’s sensitive side, ultimately spurring them to reach into their pocket and donate via a smartphone.

The Rise of Impulse Philanthropy

Marketers have long known that images can be crucial in encouraging a person to take action, and this also appears to be true in the nonprofit sector. Beyond the powerful images used within the advertising campaigns, Smith mentioned that donating through a text message doesn’t require a person to fill out a form, and in many cases they don’t even have to provide credit card information. Instead of impulse purchases, smartphones may encourage impulse philanthropy.

Unfortunately though, only three percent of people in the Pew study said they remained aware of the reconstruction efforts in Haiti after making their donation, and 15 percent said that they did not follow the progress at all.

Other Successful Smartphone Fundraising Efforts

Despite the data above which indicates that people may not check in for a status report after making a donation, researchers found that over half of respondents, specifically 56%, gave a text donation to another cause after the disaster in Haiti. Perhaps this is an indication that people are improving their efforts to stay involved in world events at large, which is a step in the right direction.

For example, 27 percent of people who contributed via text to the Haiti campaign also donated to assist with the 2010 BP oil spill in the United States Gulf region, while 40 percent gave a financial contribution via text to help out with the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that occurred in March of 2011.

If these statistics demonstrate anything, it’s that nonprofit organizations should not overlook reaching out to tech-savvy donors during fundraising campaigns. Some data notes that in 2011, 92 percent of smartphone users depended on their device to send a text message, and as this recent study shows, there’s no reason why one of those text messages can’t be used to help someone in need.

Beth Fillnow is an avid tech blogger. Interested in non-profit work? You may want to think about getting an MPA degree. USF’s online Masters in public administration is now available, one of many schools offering this degree.

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