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April 2011
Help is Just a Few Keystrokes Away
By Kip Cozart

     With the recent earthquake and tsunami devastation in Japan and last year’s disaster in Haiti, we are reminded about the potential power of the Internet to draw us together as a worldwide community to offer help and donations to those in times of need. Emerging online technologies now make it easier than ever before for individuals and businesses to raise funds for worthwhile causes. There are numerous ways to get involved. Think “Online Giving.”

     Mobile SMS Texting Donations… Utilizing “short message service” (SMS) texting on most mobile phones is a convenient and effective way to rapidly generate small cash donations at critical times of need. By texting a keyword to a designated “short code” address, a small payment (typically $5 or $10) is added to the donor’s upcoming phone bill which is later forwarded to the designated charity. (Example: Text “REDCROSS” to “90999” to give $10 for Japan disaster relief.)

     Through this simple “call-to-action” response, both contributor and recipient bypass traditional online credit card processing fees that might otherwise be deducted from the transaction. SMS contributions are currently restricted to fixed amounts and individual donors are limited to a small number of donations any given time. But, while disbursements from the participating phone carriers can take time (approximately 60 to 90 days), the popularity of this form of “impulse gifting” is growing exponentially. SMS contributions are facilitated by fundraising agencies such as mGive, the Mobile Giving Foundation, GreaterGiving.us, Qgiv and others.

     E-commerce Strategies… Social minded businesses that operate existing e-commerce programs may incorporate charitable giving within the framework of their commercial storefronts. Shoppers may be encouraged to add an optional donation to their order at checkout, or offered an online product discount that includes a matching contribution to the designated charity. Businesses without existing storefronts can get involved by creating simple online collection points, utilizing inexpensive plug-ins by PayPal Donations, Google Checkout, and others. Companies can further support deserving causes by promoting links to independent donation websites such as JustGive.org, DonorsChoose.org, NetworkForGood.org, eOfferingPlate.com and many more.

     Educate and Inform… There are many creative avenues available to organizations that engage in “cause marketing.” Consider hosting an informative webcast, using a service like GoToWebinar.com, where the event registration fees are donated to the featured charity. Offer a weekly, subscription-based podcast, where the proceeds are passed along as a donation. Sponsor a CharityGiftCertificates.com rewards program, allowing frequent customers the opportunity to earn loyalty points that may be converted to charitable gifts for an organization of their choosing.

     Give with Confidence… Be a wise contributor. Ask important questions before donating online. “What percentage of my donation will actually be delivered directly to the charity that I have chosen?” (Many mobile SMS texting campaigns lose as much as 50 percent of the amounts collected due to processing fees that are charged by the users’ cell phone carriers, while other straightforward e-commerce donations are diluted by traditional online credit card processing and administrative fees.) “Is the charity a good steward of my money?” (Consider selecting a gift recipient that has met the standards for accreditation through the Better Business Bureau’s “Charity Seal Program.”)

     Content provided by CC Communications, a Web design, programming and Internet media company providing a full array of services to businesses and organizations to enhance and produce effective Web, email, multimedia marketing initiatives and business process improvements. For more information, contact Kip Cozart at 704-543-1171 or visit www.cccommunications.com/resources_articles.cfm.

Kip Cozart is CEO of CC Communications, a Web design, programming and Internet media company.
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