FUNDRAISING NEWS: Mdonate enables text message fundraising

ANNIE KELLY

People will be able to donate to charity via their mobile phones through a new system being launched at the end of May.

Using the Mdonate service, charities will be able to send send text messages to donors, who can give up to £1.50 by hitting "reply". The amount is added to their mobile phone bill at the end of the month.

Mdonate will take a small percentage of the donation as a service fee and collection cost. Charities will monitor and manage donations through the Mdonate web site (www.mdonate.com), and users can log-on to check their personal history.

Simon Grice, managing director at Mdonate, says the service will allow charities to interact with its supporters on a one-to-one basis.

"We're giving charities the power to reach individual supporters through an extremely effective communication channel,

he said.

To activate the service, donors will send a text message to a phone number appearing on participating charity web sites and on marketing and campaign material.

The service, which is run by mobile services company Mzoku, will work across all four mobile phone operators. Mdonate is in talks with four major charities about the launch.

Steven Lee, fundraising researcher at Henley Management College, says that the service raises several issues about how charities interact with their supporters.

"Such a system has the potential to create great confusion among donors,

he said. "People must know that their personal details will remain private."

Mdonate insists that supporter numbers will remain secure and that the terms and conditions of the service will be clearly stated on all promotional literature.

"Nobody's personal data will be made available to sources that have not been approved by the giver,

said Grice.

Charity Breast Cancer Relief is also in talks with several major mobile phone operators to launch a similar service in-house using its own list of 40,000 volunteers.

"If you've got the expertise in-house, it's an extremely cost-effective and innovative way of reaching people,

said Robert Winter, head of fundraising at Breast Cancer Relief.

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