In the last couple of years, the practice of charity in the face of disaster has changed. Instead of giving online or making a phone call, people – especially the more wired digital generation – are giving via text. It’s simple: Send a text to a specific number and you automatically give a set donation amount, usually $10, to an organization. Since last Friday, the American Red Cross has received nearly $1.6 million in text donations for Japan. But there are downsides to text donations that you should think about carefully before you hit SEND.
First, realize that unlike giving via web or phone, the cash given via texting does not go directly to your chosen charity the moment the text goes through. Your cell phone company adds the amount of the donation to your bill for the current billing cycle, and the donation is not actually given to the charity until you pay that bill. Ultimately, the charity may wait for months after you make the text until they actually receive the money. Also realize there may be hidden fees involved with text donations, such as your cell carrier charging you your regular rate for texts.
Another issue is that text donations are for a set amount. You cannot specify to give $10 or $20 or $100; the donation is for a preset amount and cannot be changed. You can certainly give more than once, but some charities limit the number of text donations you can make in a billing period in order to prevent fraud. If you want to give a more substantial donation, a better option might be your chosen charity’s website.
Be aware that if your donation qualifies for a receipt for tax purposes, you may need to go through an additional process to receive that receipt (as opposed to giving on a charity’s website where the receipt is automatically generated).
Finally, the very ease of the text donation process also makes it more vulnerable to scams and fraud. Theoretically anyone could start a tweet or Facebook status meme saying that a legitimate charity is accepting donations to a specific number, and that number could very easily be fraudulent. It’s always a good idea to double-check before sending that donation to ensure the number is legitimate.
Ultimately, the advent of text donations is making it far easier for people to make a difference. But as with anything, it’s a good idea to determine beforehand if text donations are right for you.
Photo credit: Joi on Flickr