Giving on the go

Posted on August 4, 2011


How mobile technology is changing the way we give back.

As the age of the smart mobile Internet unfolds, we’re finding new ways to work, play, connect – and give – using phones and tablets. Charities are using mobile technologies to help donors:


Love it or hate it, texting is here to stay. Text messages tripled between 2007 and 2010, with people now sending about 200,000 texts every second.

Text-to-give options make it simple for donors on the move. You text a keyword to a 5-digit short code, verify the gift with a “yes” and a donation is added to your next phone bill. Many steps happen behind the scenes to make this gift seamless for you. (See Mobile Giving Foundation to learn more.)

Last week, Kenyans donated $200,000 via mobile phones in first 12 hours of a famine appeal. And it can add up to big totals. Charities raised more than $40 million through mobile giving to help Haiti. The number is staggering, when you consider individual gifts are $5 or $10 at a time — the Kenya appeal minimum donation is 10 cents.


We love to give time, but everyday life often gets in the way. But what if you could help a school while you wait for the train? Or support animal shelters instead of playing Farmville?

The folks at Sparked created an online volunteer network “for busy people (like you).”

In just a few minutes, Sparked connects you with online microvolunteer challenges that meet your skills and interests.  You might help develop a new website, write a fundraising email or brainstorm a new event. You share your own ideas, and can comment on others’ ideas.


Mobile apps and online petitions will soon replace going door-to-door with a clipboard to get signatures. Nonprofits can text mobile activists to pitch in, wherever they are. With one tap, you can call an elected official or sign on to a mobile-optimized petition. 

For m-advocacy examples, check out a good Nonprofit Tech 2.0 post: Three ways nonprofits can pioneer m-Advocacy.

But do mobile acts of kindness cannibalize other forms of giving? Are we sacrificing long-term, larger donations for the small stuff?

Maybe not.  Target Analytics Internet Giving Benchmarking study finds that donors are increasingly making their first gifts online.  And online-acquired donors have higher value over time than traditional mail-acquired donors. Mobile technology makes online giving more accessible.

When combined with traditional methods, mobile interactions can better connect donors to the causes they love.

How do you give on the go?