Apple Inc. has beenfundraising/donation-soliciting software for the iPhone to be developed and sold through The App Store because Apple’s contract expects a cut of the profit and expects some control of the money flow. Apple claims (not without cause) that its iTunes/iPhone success is built on consistent user experience and unified expectations among developers and consumers. Thus, to adjust those dynamics after-the-fact for the sake of charities and their expectations will prove detrimental to everyone.
Workarounds exist, like sending mobile users to websites via Safari where they can donate directly to their charities, though some complain of the relatively cumbersome process that will ward off potential givers.
In the UK (for now), the development of ‘Reverse-Billing SMS’ (Simple Messaging System – text messages) might be another, convenient and quick, way to use the iPhone to give to the charity of choice.
The technical process means that the recipient of a text message foots the bill. In the US, numerous news and sports organizations have used the technology to have mobile-phone owners subscribe to a texting service via a 5-digit number. The recipient pays both the standard texting costs of using his/her phone, plus the subscription fee per text.
But charities in the United Kingdom have developed arrangements with telecom services to have a significant percentage of the added payment go back to their organizations. One example that has caught the press’s attention is an ‘app’ by Eve’s Appeal that actually launches a text with an image of your kiss (or a preassigned kiss, but what’s the fun in that?!). Eve’s Appeal raises money for women with Gynaecological Cancer, and September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month in Britain, so the . Unfortunately, the app is not available via the US App store.
Though our research found Eve’s Appeal first, numerous charities outside the US are pursuing this line of fundraising. At the moment, most US Short Codes are held by for-profit companies (like Coca-Cola, NBC/Universal, USAToday…) and chat/social/sexting-texting services. The held its wildly successful drive to raise money for victims of the Haitian earthquake, but few other charities have used the technology with such success.
A number of financial institutions also use Reverse-Billing SMS to reach out to customers (and have them pay for the privilege), but as we shall soon cover on this blog, other mobile technologies are drawing the attentions of banks and telcoms as they develop ways to digitize monetary transactions.
For charities and nonprofits, reverse billing could prove an integral part of garnering donations because mobile phones and texting on them are so common and so convenient. Numerous donation streams can prove a real lifeline for charities and the constituencies they serve. Hopefully the use of reverse-billing SMS will prove a valuable too to reach out to potential donors. Even those with an iPhone.