Politics and Grassroots, Tech

Text donations to…

In the wake of the wildly successful mobile fund raising campaign for earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, my Mom emailed me with a thought: could candidates do the same thing to raise money for a political campaign.  The answer: while this method worked very well for Haiti, it may be more trouble than it’s worth for 2010 candidates.

The Rothenberg Political Report discussed some of the regulatory hurdles earlier this week:

First of all, candidates and campaign committees need to collect basic information about all donors including their name, address, and occupation. This is not necessarily prohibitive but candidates would need to establish a “best effort” to obtain the information after the contribution, according to a Federal Election Commission spokesman. This is more of a practical roadblock than a legal one.

Rothenberg also points out restrictions on corporate giving directly to campaigns, which would make it necessary to have an intermediary firm collecting and processing donations.

Then there’s the campaign cost: while the carriers likely waived any fees they would have collected for the Haiti effort, a similar fund raising program might result in charges of up to 40% of the donations, according to one industry source.  That means for every $10 you donate, a campaign might see $6 – and less if there’s an third party processing the campaigns.  Considering the up-front costs of creating the program and sending the texts, the program would have to be wildly successful to pay for itself.

Mobile and text messaging will continue to be important conduits for get-out-the-vote efforts and other messages from a campaign direct to voters, but the infrastructure to turn your cell phone into a “donate now” button isn’t there right now.

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2 thoughts on “Text donations to…

  1. Nice post.
    Your Mom is spot-on! Her question…is exactly what candidates are asking. 2010 is the year of the mobile giving (apps) for political and nonprofit campaigns.

    The success of the mobile giving efforts for Haiti has opened the door for much more advanced mobile application innovation. Mobile applications that not only deliver data, and collect basic information, but provide a user-friendly mobile giving platform that enables supporters to contribute (and become fundraisers!) for a nonprofit cause or political campaign whenever and wherever they might be.

    Have you considered mobile-optimized online payment options (e.g. PayPal, Google Checkout, and Amazon payments)? These online payment processing sites are well known, highly used by all upwardly mobile users, and charge only a fraction of the % processing fees of existing online fundraising and campaign contribution sites.

    By combining mobile applications with mobile payment options, you can turn a mobile device into a “Donate Now” button. In fact, we already have – You can download the application being used by Sam Brownback for Governor http://appsto.re/samforgov or a nonprofit advocacy org example from Kansas Action for Children http://appsto.re/ikac.

    My company (http://www.mtbmobile.com) has spent the past 8 months developing a mobile solution to this exact problem. We have developed an iPhone and Android mobile application framework that allows us to quickly (and inexpensively) build a custom-branded mobile application that allows users to connect to mobile-optimized online payment options and many, many other features. Our flagship products Campaign 2.0 and NonProfit 2.0 enable supports to become better advocates, recruiters, and fundraisers using their mobile device anytime and anywhere! You can view an example at http://www.mtbmobile.com/politics/ or http://www.mtbmobile.com/nonprofits/.

    Feedback is always welcome!

    Jeff Pfaff
    jeff@mtbmobile.com

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