The whole phenomenon of the fundraising that occurred via texting in response to the Haiti earthquake was amazing. And what a telethon -- $57MM raised from the telethon alone at last count, with millions of that coming via texted donations.
People may not remember this but the 9/11 event was the first time that there was an outpouring of donations via online giving. The American Red Cross website actually shut down for a day after 9/11 because they couldn't handle the amount of traffic of people trying to make online donations to them. It cost them many millions in lost donations when that happened, and opened up the whole new way to give: online.
Prior to 9/11, online donations were possible but not likely. Nonprofits often didn't have a way to accept online donations and the security of the credit card transactions was inconsistent based on the technology. After 9/11, nonprofits tried everything they could to get people to migrate to the web -- it's much less costly to get people to donate online than to create a direct mail piece, print it, stamp it, send it out, then process the paper donations upon their return. What a way to open up to a whole new generation of donors, people for whom the internet is an integral part of their lives, including shopping, purchasing, entertaining, ultimately living.
After 9/11, nonprofits finally made in-roads in their attempts to drive people to the web. Trust in online giving increased and a breakthrough was made.
The millions that were texted to the American Red Cross in response to Haiti is yet another break through in giving.
A way of transacting that was previously known to a small subset of the population has gone mainstream. People like myself, who have never texted any kind of financial transaction, and have hardly texted at all, gave via texting for the first time. The intrastructure which allows for this kind of donating was already in place -- no systems went down, no donations were rejected, all went smoothly.
A new channel for giving has been opened up.
Now the question is, what will nonprofits be able to do with the new channel? Will they once again go through the process of trying to drive people to give via texting, only to find that generating content and reasons to migrate to the nonprofit will be immensely more powerful than pushing people there? Only time will tell. I'm excited to be a part of this new world in philanthropy, to be able to test things out and see what works.