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Group hopes to use iTunes to collect donations for disaster relief

Matt Hamblen, Computerworld | March 4, 2011
ORLANDO -- The success of efforts by charities in collecting $10 mobile texting donations to help Japanese and Haitian disaster relief efforts has nonprofits considering whether to raise the amount to $25.

ORLANDO -- The success of efforts by charities in collecting $10 mobile texting donations to help Japanese and Haitian disaster relief efforts has nonprofits considering whether to raise the amount to $25.

Groups are also talking to Apple about allowing millions of iTunes customers to use the technology to give directly to relief charities.

"We've talked to Apple. We're hopeful," said Jenifer Synder, executive director of The mGive Foundation (TMF) in Denver, which vets charitable groups to prevent fraud.

Apple could not be reached immediately to comment.

A TMF survey found that most people who donated $10 to one of the disaster relief efforts would prefer to give a higher amount, Snyder said in an interview at the International CTIA Wireless conference here today.

"That $25 would not be a lot and would be well spent," said Snyder.

TMF certifies that nonprofits are truly charitable groups that would use the donated gifts properly, Snyder explained. Her nonprofit, with five employees and an annual budget of less than $200,000, relies on texting software from Mobile Accord for the charitable effort. Mobile Accord is a for-profit company founded by Snyder's brother, James Eberhard.

TMF is a subsidiary of Mobile Accord.

The $10 mobile texting donations for Japan earthquake and tsunami relief now total about $4 million in the U.S. More than half of that total is going to the Red Cross effort, according to CTIA officials at the International CTIA Wireless event here this week.

A $10 donation can be made to Japan relief through the Red Cross by texting "RedCross" to 90999.

Texting donations for Haiti relief through various organizations have totaled $49 million since an earthquake hit the country in January 2010, Snyder said.

However, about 10,000 fraudulent groups claimed to be taking text donations for Haiti relief, giving impetus to TMF's mission to check whether the groups it certifies have bylaws and meet the charitable donation standards set by 41 states.

TMF's own survey shows that 74% of those texting $10 for relief efforts favored a higher price point, while 87% of the nonprofits certified by TMF wanted the higher amount.

It is possible to allow various levels of giving, but having one choice at $25 keeps the text donation simple.

Nonprofits report that their average online contribution with a desktop computer is about $60, she said.

Snyder said a concern of some giving text donations is that it might take up to 90 days for the funds to reach charitable groups, a delay that TMG is trying to reduce.

 

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