Mobile Donations Come From Diverse Impulse Givers

By January 19, 2012
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Texting donations makes it easy to support action groups. Impulsive mobile benefactors are tech-savvy and can be uniquely leveraged by brands.

Mobile donations are changing the way that Americans philanthopize - the efficient and convenient act of texting an amount of money to an organization, charity or disaster relief effort is engaging a different type of person, as well as creating a new type of donation - the “impulse donation.” The Pew Internet Project, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, the mGive Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, conducted the first in-depth studyof mobile donors by contacting individuals who donated money by texting from their mobile phones to support the relief effort after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Mobile donations come by text for the first time, by impulse and to other efforts

Convenience has given rise to impulse giving - 89 percent of this group learned about the relief effort on television, half made a contribution immediately, and an additional 23 percent gave later that day. These text contributions are usually made spur of the moment, rarely with additional research. Most were first-time text patrons, 80 percent only contributed through their phones (not via other means), and one third made more than one donation using their device for the same campaign. Since then, many of this group have donated to other efforts, such as those following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the 2010 BP oil spill or the tornadoes in the US throughout 2011. Altogether, 56 percent of Haiti relief supporters contributed to at least one of these.

Marketers can best engage this unique group with cause alliances

Non-profits and charities can market with the specific demographic of those who text-donate in mind, and for-profit companies can create visibility in this category with charity tie-ins and sponsored relief campaigns. While this group is similar to the general US population in their civic involvement and news following, they are younger, more racially or ethnically diverse, own more digital devices (e-readers, laptops or tablets), and are more likely to use Twitter. Marketing strategies can also focus on lengthening user engagement after the impulse donation period is over.

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