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How nonprofits can raise funds through the mobile channel

By Michael Becker

There is little doubt now that the mobile phone and related wireless-enabled devices such as the Apple iPod touch, Amazon Kindle, Sony PSP and a slew of others have become an important fixture in the daily lives of nearly everyone.

These devices and the myriad of corresponding wireless networks supporting them give us the ability to communicate one-on-one and, with our communities of choice, to be entertained, informed and to engage in marketing and commerce.

For example, we can call and text friends, contribute to our Facebook accounts, conduct business, watch videos on YouTube or have the joke of the day sent via text and through and with our mobile phones.

We can check out trailers for the latest move releases (e.g., see or follow the recent events surrounding our favorite celebrities and shows (e.g., see

We can also participate in sweepstakes, get coupons (check out what MoneyMailer is doing with couponing at ), buy pizza (see ) and so much more.

In addition to these types of engagements, the mobile phone and the various paths through the mobile channel (SMS, MMS, email, voice, Internet/mobile Internet, applications and Bluetooth) are also increasingly and successfully being used by nonprofits for cause marketing purposes.

Mobile profits other sectors too
Mobile is no long just used for consumer packaging goods, retail and entertainment sectors, as is often thought.

Nonprofits are using mobile to share their organizational messages, stimulate volunteerism and community, as well as, to raise money through a new mobile practice commonly referred to as mobile giving.

With mobile giving, nonprofits can invite people to donate to their organization by simply asking them to text message a keyword to a common short code and donate $5 or $10 to the charity.

The donation appears on the mobile subscriber's mobile phone bill. For example, the Special Olympics Northern California ( recently launched a mobile giving program to raise money to support its athletes.

People can text the SONC keyword to the 20222 short code to donate $5 to the Northern California Special Olympics.

The Direct Marketing Education Foundation ( has a similar program. Consumers can text DMEF to 20222 and donate $5 to support the foundation's cause in helping educate students in the maturing practice of direct marketing.

For more details on the terms and conditions of mobile giving programs, see or the respective Web sites of either of these organizations for their privacy policy.

Today, mobile giving billing happens through premium SMS (PSMS), i.e. text messages flagged for billing.

Steps to mobile giving
The consumer engagement process for mobile giving is straightforward. Here are the steps.

1. Consumers see call-to-action for a donation in traditional or new media channel and responds by either text messaging, as discussed above, or they can enter their mobile phone number into a form field on a wired Web or mobile Web site by clicking a prompt in an interactive voice response audio call, shaking their mobile giving iPhone application or a similar Web services application. This is step is referred to as the "opt-in."

2. The opt-in triggers the application service provider and/or mobile giving foundation's servers to send a confirmation text message request to the mobile subscribers, asking them to confirm their donation.

3. The mobile subscribers then reply Yes to the message to confirm the donation.

4. Once the Mobile Giving Foundation receives the confirmation response, its servers process the billing and send a confirmation receipt via text to the mobile subscribers informing them that their phone bill has been charged and that they can donate up to a total of five times, not to exceed $25 dollars in a month.

It is at this last step that the billing happens. The mobile subscribers will not be charged until confirmation is received.

Note, mobile subscribers can always go the Mobile Giving Foundation Web site ( to get a report of all the donations they have made.

The mobile giving messaging flows are fixed and strictly controlled to ensure compliance with carrier and industry regulations.

Mobile giving players
Mobile giving in the United States is powered by the Mobile Giving Foundation ( and its partners and customers, including:

· Wireless carriers: AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel and U.S. Cellular

· Mobile Giving Foundation certified application service providers: iLoop Mobile ()/>, Mobile Accord (, MobileCause (, Mobile Commons (, Wireless Factory (, Distributive Networks (, g8wave Inc ( ), Give on ( and Guide by Cell (

· Nonprofit organizations such as the Northern California Special Olympics (, Direct Marketing Education Foundation (, Keep a Child Alive ( and others (see for a partial list of the many nonprofit charities benefiting from mobile giving)

The entire mobile giving process hinges around the Mobile Giving Foundation and its relationship with each of the three organization classes above. The following describes the role of each player, including the nonprofit organization.

· The nonprofit organization is the charity or foundation which seeks to collect donations and engage the target audience through and with the mobile channel.

· The Mobile Giving Foundation is the founder of mobile giving and the mediator that coordinates mobile giving. Simply put, the Mobile Giving Foundation 1) coordinates the development and maintenance of the business and technical standards for mobile giving, 2) oversees the money flow between the donor, wireless carrier, itself and the nonprofit organization, and 3) manages its network of application service providers and other partners.

· Wireless carriers maintain the mobile networks, the billing process and all the network mechanics for making mobile giving a reality.

· Application service providers. Mobile Giving Foundation certified applications service providers play a number of roles, including 1) acting as the primary point of contact for the nonprofit organization and overseeing all the processes for getting the nonprofit organization's programs approved and up and running, as well as 2) providing the nonprofit organization with any additional mobile channel and marketing services that the nonprofit would like to offer to engage its audience above and beyond the donation call-to-action, including text alerts, mobile Internet Sites and the mobile enhancement of the nonprofit's traditional new media programs.

And 3) often, the application service provider, along with the nonprofit's marketing team and agencies, will also provide mobile strategy and creative assistance as needed. The Mobile Giving Foundation hand-selects and certifies its application service provider partners.

Easy steps for a nonprofit to get involved
It is very straightforward for a nonprofit organization to get involved with mobile giving and to learn how to leverage the rich interactivity of the mobile channel to engage its audience. In fact, it can be done in five easy steps.

Step 1: Ensure Qualification. The nonprofit organization should check the Mobile Giving Foundation guidelines and ensure that it qualifies to participate. The basic qualification requirements are that the non-profit organization must 1) be a 501(c)(3) with reported revenues of at least

$500,000.00, 2) register in each state it will want to promote its program, 3) in compliance with all state and federal laws, 4) in good standing in its state and have been in operation for at least a 1 year, and 5) shall be truthful in all its representations and 6) maintain industry standard privacy policies and follow best practices. For a complete list of guidelines, see (

Step 2: Partner with an application service provider. Assuming the nonprofit is qualified, it should then contact one of the Mobile Giving Foundation certified application service providers.

The nonprofit should interview each one of these providers, not just for their ability to support the mobile giving process, but also for their ability to help the nonprofit organization meet its other marketing needs and how these needs may be met through and with the mobile channel.

The nonprofit should ensure that it finds a partner that can handle all its mobile needs, not just one element of mobile.

In addition, the nonprofit organization will want to find a partner that has a business model that works for it.

Each application service provider has a different business model. Some take a percentage of the donation, others may charge a monthly fee and/or transactional fees.

Step 3: Get the Mobile Giving Foundation NPO contract in place. The application service provider will assist the nonprofit organization in getting its contract in place with the Mobile Giving Foundation.

The purpose of this contract is to lay the foundation so that that the Mobile Giving Foundation can collect the donated funds and then distribute them to the nonprofit organization.

The contract process takes a couple of weeks and there is a nominal processing fee. At the time of this writing, the fee is a few hundred dollars.

Step 4: Work with application service provider on program details. The application service provider will work with the nonprofit organization to collect all the necessary program details and fill out all the necessary forms for setting up and launching the program. It will manage this process with the Mobile Giving Foundation.

The process typically takes two weeks to four weeks once all the necessary information is collected for the program to be set up and approved on most carriers. Sometimes there are unforeseen delays, which the application service provider will oversee while keeping the nonprofit organization informed.

Once the program is approved, the nonprofit organization is ready to launch, start marketing the program and collecting donations.

Step 5: Work with the application service provider to get the most out of the program. Most application service providers provide additional value-added services, such as strategy and creative consulting as well as help with text messaging, mobile Internet, Interative Voice Response, Bluetooth and applications - an iPhone application, for example - program development.

These other programs can be used to augment the mobile giving program and the nonprofit organization's marketing initiatives. Nonprofits organization should avail themselves of these services to support their overall program.

So that's it. Most nonprofit organizations can get up and running with a mobile giving program in a month or so in just five easy steps. Profit from mobile.

Michael Becker is vice president of mobile strategy at iLoop Mobile, San Mateo, CA. Reach him at.