Info You Can Use: More Cell Phone Donations

Back in February I wrote about using texting to donate to charities the way people were doing immediately after the Haiti earthquake. I had noted the high cost of setting something like this up was probably cost prohibitive for most. I also suggested that the costs would likely come down as its use became more prevalent or someone figured out a more efficient way to process the payment.

According to Fast Company , it looks like someone has done the latter. Mobile companies Obopay and Benevity have created a way in which you can text a word, choose your cause and have the money and acknowledgment issued immediately. Not only does everything get processed faster, but there is flexibility in the amount you can donate. According to a press release issued by the company:

“The new mobile giving solution enables charities to collect much higher amounts – up to hundreds of dollars – and provides the non-profit with much faster access to the funds, compared to other text-to-donate offerings that have been limited to $5 and $10 amounts and have taken over 90 days to get funds to the cause.


…said Bryan de Lottinville, CEO of Benevity. “As personal and corporate philanthropy recovers following the recession, mobile donations and campaigns will have increasing importance. We’re delighted to be part of a new solution that will provide companies and consumers with an easier way to give to causes that resonate with them. We’re also thrilled about making this functionality accessible to all charities and consumers, regardless of their size or the amount they can donate.”

No mention of the costs which I will grant, could be just as high as with the text giving I reported back in February. With faster receipt of funds and increased amount people can give, the costs can start to look more reasonable. Again, as people use it, the costs may come down. This partnership may or may not become the dominant player, but what the CEO says about donating by phone becoming more prevalent is likely true.

Since people tend to act on impulse with their phones, texting and calling their friends as soon as something happens, non-profits may benefit and receive more donations than they normally might if people had to pull their check books or credit cards out. I think it also likely non profits will face donors remorse in the wake of such giving and will need to formulate policies to address it.

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.


4 thoughts on “Info You Can Use: More Cell Phone Donations”

    • Yes, those prices are pretty reasonable. However, my assumption is that it isnt the same pricing structure they would offer a non-profit. If they are offering immediate acknowledgment, etc. I would imagine they would be charging something for an organization to receive money rather than just have it free.

  1. While this is interesting, it will cost you either 50 cents or a dollar to retrieve money that is donated to you. And, when you text MYNONPROFIT to 48510, you get a return SMS that has a link to a webpage that has a standard fill in the info billing page. It does not add the cost to your phone bill, which would encourage people to donate. I really don’t think our audiences will choose to do this.

    • Mark-

      Yes, I noticed that it sent you to a web page. My hope/assumption was that it is optimized for cell phones rather than computers. The latter doesn’t really make it any easier to donate at all. Might as well go to the arts org website.

      There is certainly a trade off to consider. The quicker, but higher priced cellphone method that limits the amount that can be donated and provides slower delivery vs. the slightly slower/more step method that allows more immediate delivery and response and a higher giving cap


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