Learn from James Eberhard: Get familiar with mobile giving

In a generation where nearly 290 million people in the United States are using cell phones, it is important to keep in mind that mobile devices are a great way to reach your audience. James Eberhard, founder of Mobile Accord, helped establish an easy gateway to donate to nonprofits via mobile devices. The mGive platform, which launched for 10 seconds of TV time during the 2008 Super Bowl, has helped collect $41 million for Haiti. Although your ad may not make it on TV during the Super Bowl, it is essential to start engaging in mobile donation and more importantly to get familiar with it. By just adding a donation application for your nonprofit, you will reach an untapped audience of millions.

How does a text campaign or “mobile giving” work? Rosita Cortez explains the concept in her Mobile Giving blog for nonprofits. People donate funds via their cell phone by sending a text message to a specific number (provided by mGive). Donors don’t have to visit a particular website to fill out personal or financial forms to make a small donation. All they have to do is send a short text code to the given number. mGive then manages everything from sending confirmation text messages to tax receipts to aggregating the carrier’s payments. mGive’s transaction fee is similar to that of a credit card transaction fee. mGive charges 70 cents for a $10 donation. Their pledge then appears on their next cell phone bill.

In the case of Haiti, all people had to do was text the word HAITI to the number 90999 to make a $10 donation. Several million people then did so—raising over $40 million. It’s fast. It’s simple. It’s effective.

Eberhard, who has been named “Fundraising Professional of the Year” by FundRaising Success magazine, helps nonprofits, universities and private foundations develop mobile connection and content for fund raising purposes. His company has managed to bring cell phone companies on board while agreeing to pass 100 percent of the donations to nonprofits. This influence serves as an important victory because cell phone companies usually claim up to 50% of donations to cover billing costs.

Many organizations are jumping onto this mobile bandwagon. Some organizations that are taking advantage of it include United Way, the ASPCA, Feed the Children, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Keep a Child Alive. Keep a Child Alive, specifically, found glory in this donation strategy, raising $450,000 in just three minutes.

Combining mobile devices with social media is essentially a powerful way to reach people quickly and effectively. Eberhard believes this mobile donation platform is here to stay for nonprofit organizations.


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