Analysis: Gift Aid is the next target of the text donations campaign

Key campaigners tell Sophie Hudson that despite the launch of JustTextGiving there is still a way to go on mobile fundraising

Giving by text
Giving by text

The recent launch by Vodafone and JustGiving of JustTextGiving, a service that will enable all UK-registered charities to raise money through text messages for free, is a huge step in a long-running sector campaign.

It was almost three years ago that the Institute of Fundraising and the Charities Aid Foundation launched the campaign, led by the IoF's then chair Joe Saxton, calling for cost-effective text donations.

At the time, fees and VAT that were charged on these texts meant charities often received only 55p from every £1 donated.

The campaign has had great success: one is the creation of five-digit numbers for charities, each of which begins with '70'. These recognise a text as a charitable donation and VAT is not applied.

Until recently, all the major mobile phone operators, bar two, had been persuaded to drop all commissions and charges on text donations. Only Everything Everywhere, an umbrella company formed by Orange and T-Mobile to run both operators' mobile phone networks, was still not passing 100 per cent of donations on to charities.

The launch of JustTextGiving came only a few weeks after a separate campaign by the IoF asking Everything Everywhere to drop its charges. Less than 24 hours after the IoF publicly put pressure on Everything Everywhere, the firm agreed to suspend its charges. At the time of writing, however, it had not made this permanent.

This move by Everything Everywhere appeared to be the last piece of the jigsaw that had to be in place before Vodafone and JustGiving could launch JustTextGiving.

Its key selling point is that no commission is taken from and no charges are added to any donations made through its service - no matter which provider the customer is using.

Louise Richards, director of policy and campaigns at the IoF, says Vodafone supported the campaign against Everything Everywhere's charges, but is not aware of a link between the timing of the two announcements.

She says the IoF had been privately asking Everything Everywhere for nearly two months to drop the charges before the public campaign was launched.

"They were refusing and that's why we went public," says Richards. The IoF still wants the company to agree to a permanent change in policy rather than just a suspension.

Saxton, co-founder of the consultancy nfpSynergy, says huge progress has been made in improving the cost-effectiveness of text donations over the past few years, but he believes there is still a long way to go before the most can be made of text message fundraising by charities.

He says HM Revenue & Customs could replace the opt-in Gift Aid system with an opt-out version so that text message donations could benefit unless otherwise stated. But the next big step in this area will be nudging people towards more text-based giving, he says: "The mechanics are in place, but the ball is in the charities' court as to how they can best use this technology. That might take 10 years - charities are still working out the most effective ways of using the internet."

Richard Harrison, director of research and insight at CAF, says that charities now need to consider how JustTextGiving can be best used in the overall scheme of fundraising. "New opportunities usually bring an element of needing to find the right way to execute them," he says. "The execution of the marketing offer will be key here."

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