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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Are Text Donations Safe?

By now, most of us have most likely seen or heard many appeals for monetary donations to aid the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Have you noticed that more and more organizations are using social networking sites, and that your friends on Facebook are urging you to send a specific text to a certain number, claiming the money will go directly to a charity?

How do text donations work? A charitable organization registers with a donations processor, who in turn cooperates with the cell phone providers to add the agreed up set donation amount to the users’ cell phone bill. The popularity of text donations has increased rapidly over the past few years. From $200,000 in response to the Tsunami (December 2004), to $400,000 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (August 2005), to an astonishing $3 million in the first full day since text donations have been set up to aid victims in Haiti. The American Red Cross has already raised close to $4 million, a substantial amount of that total coming in via text donations.

We have received many inquiries from concerned donors about this practice, and have some more information for you. First, we found out via this excellent article on the topic by Richard Mullins of the Tampa Tribune that several text donations processors (MGive for example) are waiving the administrative fees that they typically charge. However, you may want to double check this with the charity of your choice before pushing the ‘send’ button.

Second, as with all your donations, please make sure you have done your research. While it may be a very convenient and efficient way to donate a small amount of money, you still need to feel confident that you are supporting a charity you believe is legitimately impacting the situation in Haiti. Of course, you can always check out Charity Navigator’s list of vetted organizations, or donate to one of the following Charity Navigator rated charities:

  • Text "Haiti" to 20222 to donate $10 on behalf of The Clinton Foundation (former President Clinton is Special Envoy to Haiti) – 4stars

  • Text "Haiti" to 25383 to donate $5 on behalf of the Internal Rescue Committee. – 4stars

  • Text "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 on behalf of the Red Cross in the U.S.- 3stars

So, should you drop your online or mail donation for a text donation? It depends. Phone carriers may have a maximum limit that you can donate on a monthly basis, so if you are in a position to donate more than $20 - $25 at this point, you may be better of donating via a reputable organization’s website (or donate directly to that organization via our website). While processing fees for online donations have not been waived at this point, a larger donation may offset the associated fees that come with any donation.

As a 501 (c) (3) organization itself, Charity Navigator depends on public support to help donors make informed choices. Please consider investing in the future of Charity Navigator by making a donation today.  Donate now >>


Becky Boutch said...

This is excellent information. Thank you for posting it. I read an article this morning about how credit card companies are profiting off of charitable donations by charging the organizations processing fees. It is nice to see that 100% of the (legitimate) text donations go where they should.

Veronica Sawyer said...

Save the Children has been in Haiti 25 years and is responding to the earthquake right now.

Please support our responses to affected children and families by texting SAVE to 20222 to donate $10 to Save the Children for Haiti earthquake victims! (US Only)

Unknown said...

As an agent for a payment processing company, I can see how the press can criticize the banks for not waiving the processing fees for charities, but that's a bit like criticizing the phone companies for not waiving the phone bills for charities taking phone donations. Don't assume that the banks are trying to profit from the tragedy in Haiti. Personally, I'm planning to take a trip with my church once we get word that we can go in.

Keestone said...

Do any of these text numbers work for networks other than American networks?

Unknown said...

Thank you for this important information. Indeed, one of the major concerns were that there are hidden fees and although MGive has waived their fee, the cell phone carriers have not. The donations at this point are also limited to a small amount.

XIPWIRE, based out of Philadelphia, allows individuals to pledge up to $500 for Haiti by sending a simple text message to 56624 to any of the following charitable organizations, many of which are endorsed by Charity Navigator:

American Red Cross
Beyond Borders
Catholic Relief Services
Doctors Without Borders
Habitat for Humanity
Oxfam International
Salvation Army
UN Central Emergency Response Fund

XIPWIRE is waiving all fees associated with mobile pledges to Haiti, allowing 100% of the donations to reach the relief organizations.

Besides allowing significantly larger donations than other text pledging systems, contributions made through XIPWIRE will reach the charities in a matter of days instead of weeks or even months.

Also, unlike other text pledging systems, XIPWIRE's secure platform protects individuals from potentially fraudulent donations being made on their behalf.

This was posted on CNBC.
XIPWIRE Speeds Mobile Donations to Haiti. http://www.cnbc.com/id/34957172/

Roger Craven said...

As a UK provider of text donations (www.vir2.co.uk) I can say that in the UK we have special charity short codes that start 70... The networks will not allow 70 short codes to be used by anyone not registered by the HM Revenue & Customs (our equivelent of the IRS) to use them.

Anonymous said...

Donating by text has been the easiest way to give money yet that I have seen!

Unknown said...

I would never use a text to make a donation. I am just not that confortable with having a charge just added to my cell bill.

I will make my donation by calling the charity or donating directly through their site. I just feel better doing it that way.

Ilan Joseph C.a.p.l.a.n. said...

Thanks for this post! Calls to mind an interesting design competition being run this month through American Jewish World Service called "Where Do You Give?", asking artists to represent how we think about philanthropy today. What would our piggy banks look like if their designer were aware of text donations??? www.wheredoyougive.org

Anonymous said...

Ive tried text donation service in the past, they are quite expensive if you cannot raise enough money. They usually start around $250/month plus 5%