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Red Cross extends agreement with mGive to use mobile for social good

July 28, 2010

A $10 donation to Red Cross relief in Haiti via SMS

A $10 donation to Red Cross relief in Haiti via SMS

The American Red Cross has extended its agreement with mGive to further engage supporters and raise funds using the mobile channel.

The two companies originally partnered in January to raise $33 million in donations for relief efforts in Haiti. Now, the companies plan to extend their partnership, and mGive will roll out a string of innovations to improve and refine the mobile giving sector.

“[The Haiti campaign] created a real opportunity to grow the mobile donations space with an innovative approach” Mr. Blanken said. “We can look at different applications and services and look at different price points.

“We are interested in finding what the price elasticity is like with various constituencies – is it $20?” he said. “What about recurring monthly donations?”

“All these things are going to be coming, and we’re rolling out test campaigns that may best be suited for various price points.”

Washington-based American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters. It supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood, teaches lifesaving skills, provides international humanitarian aid, and supports military members and their families.

MGive’s mobile payment service can generate mobile donations using calls to action in many channels, including traditional media, Web site widgets and social networks.

Partnership with Red Cross
The original collaboration between the Red Cross and mGive for the Haiti relief effort let mobile users text the keyword HAITI to 90999 to donate $10.

The companies pushed calls to action through a variety of media vehicles (see story).

During the campaign’s peak, the mGive platform was receiving 900 messages per second from participants.

The Red Cross and mGive want their extended partnership to encompass a broader range of SMS activities to facilitate information dissemination, send text reminders and sign-up volunteers for relief efforts.

“The goal is communicating with donors and constituencies through nontraditional means,” said Brad Blanken, chief operating officer at mGive, Denver. “For example, broadcasting to an opt-in list to people they know are interested in particular causes.

“We can say ‘Here is an event’ or ‘Here are some things you could do,’” he said. “’Here are Red Cross shelters where you can get some help or refer to other services using text messaging.

“We are developing a number of information services to help the nonprofit community engage those interested in helping.”

Driving charitable donations
Since the Haiti relief success, the two companies began looking for more ways to collaborate for charitable causes, including a text-to-give campain to fund Red Cross relief in Chile after a devastating earthquake in February.

Mobile users could text CHILE to 90999 to donate $10 to relief.

The companies also set up an all purpose channel for donations that lets mobile users text the keyword REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to a general relief fund.

MGive says the creation of the channel was motivated by the legal requirement that says any text donations with a country as a keyword have to be used for charitable causes in that specific country.

The new channel will allow the Red Cross to disperse text donations with greater flexibility.

As the companies continue to explore new ways of soliciting charitable donations via mobile, it is clear that the medium will continue to be a boon to relief efforts across the world.

“When you look at the ability for someone to [donate via text], it’s almost like buying a pack of gum, that impulse purchase,” Mr. Blanken said. “It gives people the opportunity to feel that they are participating where previously they didn’t have a good means to do so.”

Final Take
Peter Finocchiaro, editorial assistant at Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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