In the first 2 days after the earthquake in Haiti, the American Red Cross and others raised $21m from small donations given via mobile phones. It is the latest and most successful example of mobile giving.
Why it works Mobile giving is simple. By sending a key word to a short code, mobile users donate using their mobile contract or pre-paid account. No credit cards are required.
In South Africa, donations via short code are subject to substantial deductions from mobile operators and their partners and the intermediaries (WASPS) who manage the short code numbers. These deductions mean that anything up to 70% of the amount donated is lost to the cause.
As a result, it is very difficult for non-profits to use this channel for appeals. Most donors are not happy to see such a high proportion of their donation being diverted from the cause they want to give to.
More than 85% of South African adults are mobile users. Most of them do not have bank accounts or credit cards. So, for too many South Africans, giving is just too difficult.
We have identified three obstacles that need to be addressed. First the Operators and their partners need to commit to waiving their charges, or at least reducing them substantially. Second, an intermediary needs to be established to manage the relationship between non-profits and mobile operators. Thirdly, operators and the non-profits need to agree how the system should be protected from abuse.
In some countries, operators and WASPS have come together to address these issues. In the US and the UK, Charities can receive 100% of donations without any deductions, leading to a massive growth in mobile giving and benefitting many good causes.
We are requesting that the mobile operators (Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom1) and their affiliates - including WASPS and service providers in South Africa - combine to enable short code donations where 100% of the donation is received by the Non-Profit.
In order to achieve this we propose:
1.Operators agree to forward 100% of donations given via these shortcodes to the Non-Profits (via the non-profit WASP) 2.A set of shortcodes be allocated by operators for the exclusive use of non-profits. 3.SANGONeT and other interested NGOs establish a non-profit WASP (similar to Mobile Giving Foundation2 in the US) to vet and process applications by non-profits, and to ensure that only bona-fide organisations benefit. This organization could also be responsible for dispersal of funds. 4.The Non-Profit WASP and all users of its short codes would agree to abide by WASPA rules concerning marketing, maximum levels of donations, privacy and other issues.
We need to build substantial support for this proposal in order to convince mobile operators of the need to change how sms donations are treated.
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Indra de Lanerolle, SA Emergency
Peter Benjamin, Cell Life
David Barnard, SANGONeT