Embracing consumers with mobile giving, how to get it done

There is little doubt now that the mobile phone and related wirelessly enabled devices like the Apple iTouch, 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 movie releases (e.g., see http://mobileprivews.mobi) or follow the recent events surrounding our favorite celebrities and shows (e.g., see http://eonline.mobi).  We can also participate in sweepstakes, get coupons (check out what MoneyMailer, from your computer, and see what it is doing with couponing, www.moneymailer.com), buy pizza (see http://papajohns.mobi) 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 non-profits for cause marketing purposes.  Mobile is no longer just used for consumer packaging goods, retail and entertainment sectors, as it is often considered.   Non-profits are using mobile to share their organizational message(s), stimulate volunteerism and community, as well as, among other things, to raise money through a new mobile practice commonly referred to as mobile giving.

With mobile giving, non-profits 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 subscribers mobile phone bill.  For example, the Special Olympics Northern California (www.sonc.org) recently launched a mobile giving program to raise money to support its athletes.  People can text SONC, i.e. the Keyword, to 20222, i.e. the Short Code, to donate $5.00 to the Northern California Special Olympics.  The Direct Marketing Education Foundation (http://www.directworks.org) has a similar program, people can text DMEF to 20222 and donate $5.00 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 http://mobilegiving.org/T/Default.aspx or the respective web sits 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.  The consumer engagement process for mobile giving is straight forward.  

  1. Consumer sees 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 web or mobile web slide, by clicking a prompt in an instant voice response audio call, shaking their Mobile Giving iPhone app., or 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 subscriber asking her to confirm her donation.
  3. The mobile subscriber then replies 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 subscriber informing her that her phone bill has been charged and that she can donate up to a total of 5 times, not to exceed $25 dollars in a month.  It is at this last step that the billing happens. The mobile subscriber will not be charged until confirmation is received.  Note, mobile subscribers can always go the Mobile Giving Foundation web site (http://mobilegiving.org/SMS_Donations/Default.aspx)_to get a report of all the donations they’ve made.

The image below pictorially shows and example of this user flow:

Figure: Mobile Giving Example User Flow

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

Making Mobile Giving Coming to Life: The Players

Mobile giving in the United States is powered by the Mobile Giving Foundation (www.mobilegiving.org) and its partners and customers, including:

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 Non-profit organization.

  • The Non-profit organization is the organization, also commonly referred to as the charity or foundation, that wishes to collect donations and engage their 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 Non-profit 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 services providers, Mobile Giving Foundation Certified applications service providers play a number of roles, including 1) acting as the primary point of contact for the Non-profit organization and overseeing all the processes for getting the non-profit organization’s program(s) approved and up and running, as well as 2) providing the Non-profit organization with any additional mobile channel and marketing services the non-profit 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 non-profit’s traditional new media programs, and 3) often, the application service provider, along with the Non-profits 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.

How does a Non-profit organization get involved

It is very straightforward for a non-profit 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 5 easy steps.

Step 1, Ensure Qualification: the Non-profit 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 (http://www.mobilegiving.org/pdf/MGFGuidelines.pdf).

Step 2, Partnering with an application service provider: Assuming the non-profit is qualified, it should then contact one of the above Mobile Giving Foundation Certified application service providers, like iLoop Mobile.  It should interview each of these providers, not just for their ability to support the mobile giving process, but also for their ability to help the non-profit organization meet its other marketing needs and how these needs may be met through and with the mobile channel.   The non-profit should ensure that if finds a partner that can handle all its mobile needs, not just one element of mobile.  In addition, the non-profit 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 Mobile Giving Foundation NPO contract in place: The application service provider will assist the non-profit 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 non-profit 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 non-profit 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 2~4 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 non-profit organization informed).  Once the program is approved, the non-profit 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, like strategy and creative consulting as well as help with text messaging, mobile Internet, Interactive Voice Response, Bluetooth, and applications (like an iPhone app.) program development. These other programs can be used to augment the mobile giving program and the non-profit organization’s marketing initiatives.  The non-profit organization should avail themselves of these services to support their overall program.

That’s it, most non-profit organizations can get up and running with a giving program in a month or so in just five easy steps.

Learning more

There are a number of resources to learn more about the mobile giving process and mobile marketing in general.  The Mobile Giving Foundation web site includes a list of activities organizations, applications services provides, frequently asked questions and answers and guidelines, as do many of the application service provider web sites.  To learn more about leveraging the mobile channel for a wide range of consumer interactions, not just mobile giving, you should also check out the Mobile Marketing Association (www.mmaglobal.com), The Direct Marketing Association Mobile Marketing Council (http://www.the-dma.org/segment/mobile/) and Mobile Marketer (www.mobilemarekter.com) to name just a few of the many industry resources.   Good luck!