Charitable donations are going mobile. Two years ago, following the earthquake that devastated Haiti and killed injured or displaced three million people, Americans contributed more than $43 million to a program encouraged by the U.S. State Department that allowed cell phone users to text automatic contributions of $10 to the recovery efforts.
Using a mobile phone to text charitable donations has pluses and minuses. The pervasive use of cell phones gives people the ability to follow through instantly on their charitable impulses, and because the technology is used mostly by younger and more ethnically diverse people, it broadens the base of donors. However, once someone gives $10, do they feel that they have met their obligation, or would they perhaps have given more had they visited the charity’s website?
It’s a brave and unfolding world for charitable organizations looking to harness this fledgling revenue stream. A new study released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project surveyed those who texted donations to the Haiti relief effort. For 74 percent, the Haiti relief effort was the first time a donor used his or her mobile phone to text a charitable donation. Overall, 80 percent made their contributions solely by texting.
Impulse was a major driver for making a donation. Eighty-nine percent of respondents to the Pew survey heard about the charitable text program on television, and half made their contribution immediately. Nearly a quarter (73 percent) made a donation via text on the day they heard about the program, while 76 percent said they are moved to text a donation without conducting much in-depth research.
Forty-three percent of donors have encouraged their friends or family members to text donations to the Haiti relief effort, and 56 percent have used their mobile phone for follow-up donations to subsequent disaster relief programs.
Not surprisingly, the Haiti text donors are more avid users of technology. Eighty-two percent own a laptop computer vs. 57 percent of all U.S. adults, while 23 percent own a tablet vs. 10 percent. twenty-three percent of the Haiti donors surveyed use Twitter compared with 12 percent of all online adults, while 83 percent use social networking sites vs 64 percent.