Info You Can Use: Cell Phone Donations

If you have been excited by the prospect of using cell phones as a mode of donation after hearing of the success in raising funds for Haiti, you may want to do some research and calculations. The cell phone and credit card companies have gone out of their way to make it easy to donate for Haiti relief and waived most of the ancillary costs.

You on the other hand, probably won’t be so lucky.

Hawaii Public Radio had a short piece covering a meeting sponsored by a local foundation on the subject of cell phone donations this week. (link downloads mp3 file. This link if first doesn’t work. Look for raising media) A representative from a cell phone company talked about the costs to set something like this up- $500 set up fee, $400 monthly fee and a a .35 per transaction fee.

With costs like that, it would likely only be worth your while if you had a large group of people already giving that you wanted to provide an alternative mode for donating.

Now that said, I can easily see the costs coming down as those for whom it makes sense use the service. Once all those involved with the transactions create more efficient processes, the service may become more affordable. Someone is likely to invent an app for the iPhone or Facebook which will facilitate the whole exchange and two years from now it will be a $2 billion business in $25 average increments.

Another observation that is made in the story related to social media was in regard to who one puts in charge of coordinating it. One speaker cautioned against putting the youngest person in the office in charge of social media just because they understand the software the best of anyone. “They know the tools, but they don’t understand the sophistication of your message and they don’t always understand the intangible qualities…of how you actually communicate with people out there.”

I have a suspicion this is something a lot of people have already thought to themselves but were afraid to say it for fear of showing just how out of touch with social media and its great power they are. It just takes a visit to sites like to see some pretty poor choices when using Facebook. Though to be fair, I sort of question the wisdom of this water safety ad by Royal Life Saving Society Australia.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


1 thought on “Info You Can Use: Cell Phone Donations”

  1. Great post Joe, especially the part about relegating social media work to younger employees.

    In general, I think this is a symptom of a larger issue of groups that look at social media efforts after the fact as opposed to incorporating them into strategic marketing planning. Marc van Bree @ Dutch Perspective has some very good material on this but I don’t have a link handy.


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