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Telcos Text Giving Australian Trial Starts

1 October 2015 at 12:23 pm
Ellie Cooper
After more than a decade of tinkering with the technology, Australia’s telecommunication giants have joined together to launch a trial of one-stop text message donations to help fund Australian charities.

Ellie Cooper | 1 October 2015 at 12:23 pm


Telcos Text Giving Australian Trial Starts
1 October 2015 at 12:23 pm

After more than a decade of tinkering with the technology, Australia’s telecommunication giants have joined together to launch a trial of one-stop text message donations to help fund Australian charities.

Premium SMS (PSMS) donations were launched on Thursday as part of a pilot program with up to 15 charities using “text to donate” campaigns over the next 12 months.

The pilot program, coordinated by the Telco Together Foundation and involving Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and mobile engagement provider OpenMarket, has overcome issues of cross platform coordination and telco billing issues.

The Foundation said the new fundraising channel would provide the opportunity for charities to include an SMS “call to action”, such as “Text GIVE to 19 xx xxxx to donate $5”, in their campaign materials. Each charity can use their own unique short code, and each PSMS sent under the pilot will cost $5 (GST free).

Once the donor sees a call to action from a participating charity, and decides to donate, they can text the keyword to the number shown.

Provided that PSMS technology is available on their service, the $5 donation will be charged to the user’s phone bill or show up in their usage history. The donor will then receive a free “thank you” SMS, which will also constitute a valid tax receipt. There will be no charges to the donor in addition to the $5 donation.

The Foundation said that during the trial, the aggregator would receive one percent of the transaction and the charity would receive $4.95 of every $5 donation. It is understood the telcos will not be charging for the pilot but any cost structure will be reassessed after the trial.

“Text giving is such a fantastic way to leverage telco technology and reach to help Australian charities raise funds,” CEO of the Telco Together Foundation, Renee Bowker, said.

The first charities to trial the new fundraising channel will be UNICEF Australia and World Vision Australia.

“Every five dollars that people donate through UNICEF can help make the difference between life and death for a child in a major emergency,” Director of Fundraising and Communications at UNICEF Australia, Michael Newsome, said.

“UNICEF Australia acknowledge the support of the Fundraising Institute of Australia, who helped to galvanise charities behind the value of PSMS – and are enormously grateful to the telcos and the Telco Together Foundation for making it possible for Australians to give in this incredibly simple and immediate way.”

CEO of World Vision Australia, Tim Costello, said he was excited to see the telcos get on board with text giving technology in Australia.

“We know this model has worked well in the UK, so I’m excited to see that Australia’s leading telcos are listening to the needs of charity supporters and investing in this initiative,” Costello said.

“This platform also presents World Vision with a unique opportunity to communicate to Australians about the very real needs of the communities we work with, but perhaps even more importantly, it gives our supporters a simple and immediate way to respond to urgent needs around the world.”

Other charities taking part in the pilot include Australian Red Cross, Cancer Council, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Oxfam, Salvation Army, Smith Family, St Vincent De Paul, Surf Life Saving, The Song Room, Vision Australia and World Wildlife Fund.

Text giving will also be trialled for emergency relief campaigns, with mobile users able to text to donate to emergency relief appeals for the Red Cross, UNICEF and World Vision.

The Foundation said the pilot program would run through to October 2016, after which all parties will review the pilot to determine the future of the program in Australia.

In September 2015, digital fundraising platform, GiveEasy, launched the ability for charities to receive regular donations by SMS.

GiveEasy CEO, Jeremy Tobias, told Pro Bono Australia News at the time that the changes would mean charities could convert supporters to regular givers via text message.

Tobias said that after a donor signed up for SMS giving they would receive a text message at the same time every month telling them their donation was being processed.

Donors who pledged via SMS using the GiveEasy platform would then go to the website to complete their donation. The Telco Together Foundation said their pilot would see the transaction completed within one text message.

Launched in July 2012, the Telco Together Foundation brings together the telecommunications industry in support of Australian communities in need. It raises funds for disadvantaged communities in Australia, with a focus on homelessness, refugees, Indigenous and mental health.

Members of the Foundation include Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, NBN Co, M2, iiNet, Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent and 16 other ICT organisations.

Australian telcos have been discussing the use of SMS donations since 2003.


Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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