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Mobile charitable fundraising to reach $2M in 2009, says expert

Mobile giving this year is expected to end with $2 million in pledges, an exponential increase from last year?s $350,000. In this Q&A, the Mobile Giving Foundation?s Jim Manis expounds on the state of mobile giving.

As president of the Mobile Giving Foundation, Mr. Manis is leading the charge toward turning mobile into the ideal channel for donations. Working with wireless carriers to handle billing issues, the Bellevue, WA-based foundation is out to prove that nonprofits can easily use mobile to tap the next generation of donors even as charitable giving is under threat from a nation living in straitened circumstances. The interview with Mobile Marketer?s Mickey Alam Khan:

What's the state of mobile giving nationwide?
The personal and immediate nature of mobile establishes it as one of the most effective channels for engaging new donors who trend younger, raising money and providing transparency to donors on how their donations are being used through permission-based mobile information. 

Mobile giving has dramatically evolved as a new philanthropic channel over the last year and a half of being operational. 

Starting 2008, with having just been granted our 501C(3) status, we were able to put together contracts with all the major wireless carriers, each of which allows for text-based donations using the carrier billing systems with 100 percent of the donation going to the recipient charity. 

Over this past year, the MGF and the wireless carriers have worked together to make the campaign on-boarding processes more efficient with the goal of improving predictability and time to market. 

Mobile giving standards have been established to reinforce a positive user experience, and trusted channel for nonprofits and the wireless operators alike.

The number of nonprofits that integrate mobile into their traditional fundraising campaigns continue to grow, with more than 350 nonprofits running more than 400 campaigns. 

Donation price points have expanded from $5 to $10 and have generated well more than $1 million in $5 gifts alone. 

So is that the average mobile donation?
Donation price points are either $5 or $10 today, with the ability to give up to $30 in any given month billed to the carrier bill. You can elect to give each month. 

Price points will likely continue to expand in 2010, but still stay within a micro-donation context for some time. 

Are consumers aware of this new option for donations?
Consumers are being made aware. That should be one of the industry?s common goal in 2010.

We have had some opportunities to drive awareness by participating on popular television, including Keep a Child Alive on American Idol, and we will have more. 

Greater awareness will drive more giving options, and better response and conversion rates, which are pretty good even today.

Which nonprofits have found most success with mobile donations?
Success is measured by a number of variables including dollars raised, donors acquired and response rates. 

Like any fundraising or marketing effort, nonprofits with a compelling cause, effective cross-platform promotion, a well-run organization and the ability to personalize the call to action have had the most success. 

Any charity that can personalize a call to action while on television or in a more intimate venue has tremendous success.

Faith-based organizations are having strong success. Nonprofits like Stand Up to Cancer with their media and entertainment backing, Keep a Child Alive with their spokesperson Alicia Keys, and causes that respond to emergency situations have done very well.

The American Red Cross is the poster-child for mobile donations. How did it get there?
The American Red Cross is a pioneer of mobile giving specific to emergency relief through the leadership of the wireless operators, the Wireless Foundation and companies like VeriSign/m-Qube. 

The Wireless Foundation?s Text2Help program is the first structured industry response designed to enable mobile donations in response to a Category 5 emergency, most famously beginning with Katrina. 
The American Red Cross saw mobile as a way to encourage broader community response to an emergency situation. 

In 2004, I was privileged to develop the concept of mobile giving in response to the Asian tsunami along with Doug Busk and Dave Oberholzer and a number of other people who looked for ways to respond to this horrific tragedy. 

All wireless operators stepped up to enable mobile giving to this emergency with a 100 percent pass-through donation within a 48-hour period with CARE as the beneficiary nonprofit. It was a phenomenal and altruistic response. 

The Wireless Foundation was able to institutionalize that response with the American Red Cross before Katrina, the next big emergency to occur. 

How does mobile giving work for a nonprofit?
Nonprofits work with the MGF and one of our approved ASPs to set up campaigns using a shared common short code, such as 20222, and a unique keyword, such as SHARE, at a specified price point ? $5 or $10. 

The ASP role is to work directly with the nonprofit in support of strategy, with agency services and cross-platform integration and in venue technical requirements. 

The MGF will always have a contract with the nonprofit that allows us to remit funds received directly to them.

The nonprofit is responsible for promotions either directly or with sponsors.

The nonprofit receives the donations within 30 days of MGF?s receipt of funds from the wireless operators, which can be up to 60 days from the time of pledge depending upon the donor?s billing cycle. 

How can charities promote mobile giving?
Mobile giving has been promoted in concerts, at major sporting events, during marathons, in churches and across all channels. 

As with any mobile engagement, it is best when integrated across platform ? Web, print, radio and, of course, television ? [and] always produces the best results. 

Causes or promotions that leverage the personal nature of the device with a compelling reason to give now will do well. 

And the Mobile Giving Foundation - what role does it play in the ecosystem?
The MGF provides a critical and enabling organizational layer for the mobile giving channel with the consent of wireless operators, the support of qualified charities, and the trust of donors. We:

? Establish and manage standards for participation of nonprofits and charities through an industry wide sanctioned committee co-chaired by a carrier and the MGF.

? Ensure compliance with all laws and regulations concerning charitable giving

? Certify wireless application service providers specific to their support of nonprofit organization usage if mobile giving

? Certify to carriers the qualification of charities and their campaigns with the MGF mark

? Act as a billing settlement and records clearinghouse between carriers and participating charities, plus issue donor receipts as a partner 501C(3)

? Research and publish metrics and case studies on the effectiveness of donor response and mobile giving

? Educate consumers about the mobile giving channel

What's mobile donation's edge over online and mail?
The donor?s immediate ability to respond anywhere and anytime, plus a demographic that tends to skew somewhat younger ? an important new demographic for many causes that will allow them to build loyalty over time.

Mobile requires carrier buy-in. That happening?
Yes, we would not be in existence without the support and goodwill of the wireless operators.

Their willingness to work with us to fix numerous obstacles that prevented the use of mobile as a philanthropic channel and do that at no cost has been generous and reflective of the passion to give back by a lot of people within the wireless community. 

There will always be a natural tension between carriers and any effort that uses their billing and customer-care systems with a shared customer base, but that tension is usually focused on legitimate issues of ensuring a quality user experience and assigning liability for actions. 

These last few months have seen particular improvement in campaign launch processes that have contributed to better predictability and shorter schedules.

What about donor fears over billing and transaction security?
A premium SMS billing trigger removes the risk of exposing personal data, plus it is simple and easy to use. 

What are your expectations for mobile donations this year and next in dollar amounts?
It will vary based on the economy and various marketing campaigns.  

We know that with opportunity people respond.

We finished 2008 with over $350,000 in pledges. We will finish 2009 with over $2 million in funds raised.

We should easily keep that year-over-year growth if all retain a commitment to building the channel in a trusted and secured manner for donors and all parties.

So what's the tipping point for mobile donations to take off?
We are just now reaching the point with mobile marketing where short codes are commonly used along with URLs as part of a means to engage the public.

That point will come with mobile giving as well, as we provide a trusted medium for donors, respectable ROI and a predictable experience for nonprofits, painless and ubiquitous opportunities to activate sponsorships, and broader awareness by the general public of the value of giving via mobile offers.

If ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and other networks work with us to help integrate mobile giving into their properties, we are there.