Small charities will now get more opportunities to conduct low-cost fundraising efforts by text message under a deal announced Tuesday. But they’ll have to do so under new guidelines designed to prevent fraud.
A deal between the Mobile Giving Foundation, which connects charities to mobile carriers, and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a nonprofit connected with the Council of Better Business Bureaus, seeks to assure donors that their $5 to $10 text donations will go to trustworthy charities. They also hope that by demonstrating the legitimacy of the charities, the guidelines will make mobile-phone companies more willing to allow charities to use their networks to seek large gifts by text or solicit monthly text donations from supporters.
“We want to position charities so that they can increase their return on investment through mobile giving,” says Art Taylor, president of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, which, along with the Mobile Giving Foundation, will monitor charities to see if they are following 20 standards. “The [mobile] carriers aren’t going to be comfortable unless the charities are thoroughly vetted.”
Until now, only charities that have raised $500,000 in total donations for one year were eligible to start mobile-giving campaigns under Mobile Giving Foundation’s rules. For-profit companies that perform the same task are not participating in the new effort.
The expansion of mobile giving depends in large part on the goodwill of mobile carriers like AT&T Mobility, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless. Right now, neither the charity nor the donor pays anything to the carrier to process donations handled through the Mobile Giving Foundation, so the organization wanted to find a way to reassure the carriers.
Under the new rules, small organizations can seek text gifts, but first they’ll have to pass 20 standards of accountability, as opposed to just 11 that were in place for groups that raise $500,000 or more a year. Charities will be expected to demonstrate how they handle governance, financial, and fundraising issues and might not be approved if their annual reports lack key information, if they hold too few governing board meetings, or if they don’t post their informational tax return online.
Aside from preventing fraud, Mr. Taylor said, he hopes to encourage charities to get beyond using text messages to raise money for disaster relief and to reach out to younger donors, who are increasingly relying on text-messaging for daily communications.