Charity

21 posts categorized

July 15, 2015

Swedish Blood Donors Receive Thank You Text Messages for Successful Transfusions

Depositphotos_14150489_s-2015
 

Around the world, blood donation rates are at an all-time low. Britain has 40% fewer donors today than 10 years ago (according to the NHS). In the United States, only three out of every one-hundred people donate blood. The latest statistics from Executive Healthcare (EHM) shows that about 60% of the American populace is eligible to give blood, but only 5% of the people elect to give. This is a difficult problem because, despite the necessity to maintain a healthy blood supply, the Red Cross needs to find clever ways to convince donors to give.

In recent news, the Stockholm blood service may have come upon an excellent way to increase donations. If you donate blood in Sweden, you are sent an SMS text message each time your donated blood is used to save a life. The SMS texts go on to report on the impact of their donations, which can help to motivate donors as well. These “thank you” texts have created not only a way to make donors feel good about their altruism, it also is a subtle way to remind donors to come back for another donation at a later date. 

The program has been lauded as a success. Swedish citizens who participate have reported that they feel more appreciated once receiving the SMS text messages. Furthermore, donors often share the news with their peers via social media.

The outreach of the Stockholm blood service doesn’t stop there, though. Other text messages are sent to people who’ve donated before to remind them when they are eligible to donate again. In addition, the blood service has been using Facebook and email reminders to reach their potential donors as well. And it doesn’t hurt when they add light-hearted messages like “We won’t give up until you bleed.” Donors have shared that they appreciate these texts as well, since people often forget to donate amid their busy schedules.

Finally, on Stockholm blood service’s website, they have a chart giving a running total of how much blood of each type is left in stock. The idea is that if people know that the blood service is in need, then the people will be more likely to give.

There’s scientific proof that these techniques work. In a study by Johns Hopkins, researchers examined a Facebook initiative that allowed friends to share their organ donations in their status updates – the study observed a 21-fold increase of organ donor registrations in a single day! 

While this program currently only exists in Stockholm, it is likely that similar programs will be rolled-out throughout Sweden. Other countries, like Britain and the United States, are searching for similar techniques to get people to donate. The NHS Blood and Transplant service in the UK is looking to create some viral advertisements to increase donor turnout. Only time will tell how much these programs actually do to increase donor turnout but, in the meantime, we can all agree that SMS text messages and social media have proven to be excellent means to motivate the general public.

April 28, 2015

Disaster Relief & the Tech Community

Depositphotos_11570012_xs
 

Technology provides an incredible asset to those dealing with a natural disaster if utilized properly. Cyclone Pam recently hit the Pacific nation of Vanuatu, and while the tornado resulted in relatively few casualties, it was a stronger storm than New Orleans’ infamous Hurricane Katrina. Vanuatu is considered the world’s poorest nation, and as the rest of the world looks for ways to assist after the disaster, what can the technology industry do to help? Communication failures have made it difficult to determine the actual extent of the damage. 

 

Improved Communication Efforts 

While communication is imperative following any natural disaster, network overloads and satellite failures cramp the abilities of relief workers, hospital staff, and families searching for loved ones to keep in contact. Google launched crisis maps in response to such failures, a service aiding emergency preparedness and relief. The service utilizes Twitter and Facebook to help with communication during disasters should alternative methods remain unavailable.  

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti saw open-source software crowdsourcing information provided by locals, resulting in an interactive map of the crisis. A mostly urban environment, cell phones were the main forms of communication during the disaster, with those from affected communities offering eyewitness reports via SMS and social media. 

Reports were created and mapped with GPS coordinates before being sent to rescue teams thanks to information submitted from around the globe through text message, email and the web.

“I’m buried under the rubble, but I’m still alive” is an example of reports sent to the Ushahidi platform, making it possible for U.S. Marine Corps and hundreds of aid organizations to coordinate relief responses to the quake.

 

Contain Epidemics

Viral outbreaks are common following a natural disaster, however technology is helping to contain epidemics. Real-time analytics make it easier to provide huge amounts of data concerning previously-unknown virus trends, thus limiting death toll and dramatically reducing the spread of disease. For example, Harvard’s HealthMap called the recent worldwide Ebola virus outbreak an astounding nine days before the World Health Organization made the announcement. HealthMap used information from social media posts, including those of healthcare workers in Guinea, to create a visual outbreak report. 

 

More Than One

As with most things, it’s important to use more than one technique to ensure a full rather than partial picture of the issue. Accessing health clinic reports, social media posts, information from public workers, media updates, helpline data, and transactional data from pharmacies and retailers is clearly the way to go in regards to the “big picture.” One of the easiest ways to obtain such data quickly and easily? SMS.

SMS tools and campaigns are among the best options for ensuring all involved have the data they require at the right time. 

 

March 20, 2015

Did American Idol Help Kickstart the Text-to-Donate Fundraising Culture?

Depositphotos_12503441_xs
 

Aside from launching the music careers of several aspiring singers, American Idol can also be credited with inspiring a new way to raise money for disaster relief. 

The show’s primary voting system, which allows viewers to cast votes via their mobile devices, became a springboard for AT&T engineer Marin Croak who realized a similar use for the technology as hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast in 2005. 

Instead of transmitting fan votes via text message to an operator, Croak came up with a way to pass donations via text to participating charities. The donation would later show up as a charge on the person’s cell phone bill.

However, Croak recalls, during this time, that the use of text messaging was not nearly as popular as it is today. According to an informal poll taken in 2008 on AT&T’s website, approximately 22% of respondents reported having learned to text as a result of American Idol’s voting system—an interesting perspective attributed to the powerful reach of AI. The subsequent increase in text messaging may have also helped prepared voters to become donors.  

AT&T who originally set up American Idol’s voting system in the early 2000s, placed a patent on behalf of Croak in October 2005. And although AT&T currently maintains this patent, Croak says AT&T is not seeking to make the patent propriety—which is great news for nonprofits and disaster relief programs.

For example, in 2010 text-to-donate made its first major headline debut during the earthquake in Haiti. The relief organization collected an unprecedented $30 million via impulse disaster-relief donations— a term which describes the ease and accessibility of this technology. What’s more, these donations were collected $10 at a time. Other significant text-to-donate relief campaigns have included Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.  

Aside from generating these donations through a streamline system, nonprofits are now able to acquire donors, not just cash donations. Opening up this intimate communication channel may be more valuable than a $10 donation. Organizations can engage donors over time, build a relationship and collect future contributions. 

Notable organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, GlobalGiving, Mercy Corps, and Saving the Children have all established similar text-to-donate programs. 

Although Croak holds dozens of patents, she is particular proud of this one, which has made an enormous difference in the way people interact with their mobile devices as well as in the world of philanthropy.

 

March 10, 2015

SMS Helping Sierra Leonean Become 'Citizen Reporters'

Depositphotos_7116813_xs
 

Advances in text messaging have extended to social causes, including those fighting disease and providing assistance to third-world communities. 

International development charity Christian Aid launched “SMS Voices” in January of last year, working in partnership with ENCISS, a Sierra Leone-based governance program funded by U.K. Aid and the European Union. The program is designed to help elected officials and citizens maintain an open dialogue, and was created by Radar, a U.K. communications nongovernmental organization.

SMS Voices trained 45 volunteers from Sierra Leone’s Bo and Koinadugu districts, including farmers, traders, students, and teachers, to become “citizen reporters.” Throughout 2014 they used text messaging to report issues of concern to their local councilors via anonymous micro-reports. Issues raised included the lack of teaching materials in schools, conflict among local groups, unsafe roads and bridges, clean water access, female genital mutilation, teen pregnancy, inefficient waste management, and violence against women and children.

Messages were received by nine participating elected officials, who were instructed to respond to micro-reports through text messaging and explain to reporters their plans to rectify these issues in their respective communities. Some said they would investigate, while others claimed they would bring the issues up at council meetings or alert the relevant police officer or mayor. Whatever the decision and outcome of the reports, an effective dialogue was indeed created between officials and citizens. 

Over 300 reports were sent during the 12-month period, and towards the end of the year some two-thirds concerned the Ebola crisis. Volunteers discussed how households were affected by quarantine regulations, reported regulation breaches, and shared concerns about infection.

“During the rebel war there were no mobile phones; now with Ebola, communication is possible,” remarked Martin M B Goba, deputy chairman of the Bo District Council. “During my time in quarantine, I was able to communicate with my ward development committee with an immediate response.” Goba lost several family members to the disease.

“It’s been challenging, but it’s helping me to improve on my job and to know the problems in my community, so that I can find solutions to them,” he added. “It has improved my interaction with civil society and shown me how to act immediately and promptly to community concerns.” 

The project has demonstrated the possibility of running low-cost, innovative programs in low-resource environments, such as within Sierra Leone, where less than 10 percent of the population have access to electricity, and a mere 2 percent use the Internet. 

“I have seen change,” remarks volunteer Evelyn Turay. “I have now seen council officials in the community raising awareness on issues around teenage pregnancy and early sexual activities [of young people] which I have been reporting on.” 

As the program progresses, it’s increasingly obvious that text messaging provides a powerful tool for helping third-world communities stay engaged and empowered.

 

December 02, 2014

Crank Up Your Marketing Efforts for Christmas

Depositphotos_13615598_xs

As the holiday shopping season draws near, it’s important to “amp up” marketing efforts. Let’s check out a few holiday promotional tactics small businesses can implement and subsequently increase brand recognition while ensuring customer loyalty.

 

Email Marketing

A straightforward option, email assorted blasts to opted-in customers about deals, sales and other promotions, and create holiday messages discussing new promo codes or other exclusive, limited-time offers. Existing customer discounts and free gift cards with purchase are generally the most successful email blast options, as they build brand loyalty and referrals in addition to increasing sales. Find an appealing holiday template, add the right information, and go from there.

 

Content Marketing

Whatever you “put out there” for your customers should engage them--don’t simply go for the boring sales pitch. Place attention-grabbing content on social media channels, blogs, press releases, articles, videos...think funny holiday clips, last-minute tips, guides on using your products, fun and helpful newsletters, and more. Information on day-before-Christmas ordering is another great content marketing method.

 

Social Media

Social media is a viable option for promoting your brand and products. Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all provide real-time access to customers and their online communities, with social media marketing even more essential during the holiday season. Upload holiday-themed images to your accounts, such as product shots in holiday settings or stores/offices decorated for the season. Provide regular updates on holiday promotions, sales, return policies and shipping cut-off dates, but don’t forget to add fun seasonal facts and similar information as well. Promoting gift card opportunities with links back to official websites is another option.

 

SMS Marketing

Text message marketing is becoming more and more prevalent, as it provides an easy, cost-effective method for reaching the vast majority of your customers instantly. Send holiday promo codes to opted-in customers, as well as exclusive holiday coupons and sales alerts. Advertise Christmas-themed discounts and specials to potential customers who opt-in, and enjoy a larger database you can utilize all year long.

 

Open House 

Another excellent Christmastime marketing idea is to host an open house at your place of business if applicable. Provide cookies and warm cider and or mulled wine, as well as free gift-wrapping for shoppers. Raffles, discounts and other special promos also work when advertising an open house, as do cross-promotional efforts, such as offering handmade chocolates from the confectionary across the street. If your business caters to children, have a friend or co-worker dress up as Santa and hand out candy canes or Christmas-themed coloring books while taking free photos with customers and their little ones.

These are just some of many marketing options to try this holiday season. Good luck, and Happy Holidays. 

November 04, 2014

How Spamming is Helping Fight Ebola

Depositphotos_43765219_xs
 

Spamming is aiding the fight against Ebola.

Operators of text messaging system Tera, which provides advice and help to people fighting Ebola in the Sierra Leone region, are looking to extend the service to seven other African nations—Mali, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Burkina Faso. Ebola kills victims via dehydration and multiple organ failure, and more than 4,000 West Africans have perished from the disease.

The network allows Red Cross and Red Crescent charities to “send SMS messages to every switched-on handset in a specific area by drawing its shape on a computer-generated map.” Automatic, appropriate replies to incoming texts are also featured. Both charities aim for expansion completion over the next nine months, but cooperation of local mobile authorities and networks is needed.

"It's been doing an excellent job in Sierra Leone, sending out in the region of 2 million messages per month, helping the communities there to prepare themselves, try to avoid getting infected, and then if they do, to know what to do about it," notes Robin Burton from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “Unlike TV and radio, if we send them a text message it's retained on the phone."

The trick is quelling each nation’s concerns or fears about joining the network.

"The thing operators might have a problem with is that they are basically being asked to spam millions of their customers, and people often object to that," says Ken Banks, an SMS expert who advises the UK's Department for International Development. "When people in Haiti received messages asking them to donate blood [after the 2010 earthquake] that were blasted out willy-nilly some were not in a position to do so, and they found it annoying.”

However, Banks notes operators can’t really argue this one, as no one wants to be accused of blocking potentially life-saving messages during an epidemic. He adds that the significance of the Red Cross as an organization will also fuel the proverbial fire. The IFRC also wants Tera to appear as "network friendly" as possible, and allow individual subscribers to opt out and operators to apply exclusion lists.

The network is specifically designed to send texts to powered-up handsets. This avoids build-up of millions of undelivered messages, and therefore potential network strain. Staggered texts are yet another way the network is preventing overload, and the system is location-sensitive, so messages are sent to affected areas only.

An inexpensive system to operate, Tera may be utilized during natural disasters and for relief effort feedback, potentially emerging as one of the key factors in helping to limit the damage from both natural and human-spread calamities.

July 31, 2014

Beyond Marketing: 4 Unexpected Uses for SMS

Depositphotos_9759045_xs

SMS messaging has become a key component of any mobile marketing strategy. It’s use as an advertising tool has been well documented – not least on this very organ – but there are all sorts of weird, wonderful ways to leverage the power of text. Schools, community groups, churches and even emergency services have begun incorporating SMS into their processes. We’ve cherry picked our favorite unusual uses of SMS messaging outside of the mobile marketing realm…

Finding Lost Pets

Companies like MobiPet are helping pet owners locate lost furry friends. When notified of a lost animal, they send photo alerts by text message to registered vets, animal shelters and pet owners within a 30 mile radius. Animal lovers have rallied round the idea which, unlike microchip implants, is non-invasive and requires no equipment apart from a camera-enabled mobile phone with text message capability.

Donating to Good Causes

Text-to-donate has proven highly effective at engaging people who don’t donate to charity by other methods. In 2007, a Super Bowl commercial raised $10,000 within seconds for the victims of the recent tsunami in Asia. The Haiti earthquake relief effort also benefitted from a text campaign, with the Red Cross eventually pulling in $32 million for victims. The success of text-to-donate is owed to the simplicity of the process. People too busy to go through the hassle of visiting a website and uploading credit card information can simply reply to a text message and have their donation applied to their phone bill.

Emergency Alerts

Closer to home, Hurricane Sandy – the second costliest hurricane in the US since records began – had a devastating impact on local businesses, but SMS proved to be a true survivor in the face of infrastructural collapse. Businesses and emergency services used SMS to keep residents up to date on the weather and how the damage it caused would affect them. 

Talking to Home Appliances

‘Smart appliances’ allow their owners to control them remotely via text message. Appliances are programmed to respond to a series of commands, so if you have an unexpected guest coming to your house, and you don’t have time to go home and clean, you can send a text to your robotic vacuum cleaner or mop. Intelligent SMS systems are also being used in fridges to tell owners what they need to pick up from the store, and even suggest recipe ideas!

March 19, 2014

Is Text-to-Tip The Future?

Depositphotos_19440963_xs

Starbucks has added a digital tipping feature to its mobile payment program, allowing customers to easily add tips to their purchases. The app will be available for iOS on March 19, 2014, with an Android option to launch later this year.

Users in the United States, Canada and the U.K. will enjoy access to this app, which provides customers with a two-hour window following a transaction to add a tip of 50cents, $1 or $2 to the bill. The subsequent digital receipt will reflect the added tip. Starbucks Mobile Pay has been available for three years and allows users to pay with a digital version of their Starbucks card on their smartphones. Entitled “Shake to Pay,” users simply shake their phones to pull up their Starbucks card barcodes and make payments.

"We're really excited because tipping has been something our customers have been really asking for," said Starbucks Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman to CNET. "More and more customers...carry cash with them less and less these days. It's nice to be able to leave a tip for your barista and your store using mobile payment now on the iPhone app."

This is the first time mobile phone users will be able add tips to their digital bills. Some 10 million customers have already downloaded the Starbucks payment app, which covers about 11% of in-store purchases. It makes sense that the coffee giant added the tip option to this already wildly-successful mobile marketing strategy, and will undoubtedly set the bar for other companies who employ tipping. 

More and more companies are utilizing SMS messaging to promote their business or brand, including opt-in apps that alert customers to store sales, provide exclusive discounts and downloadable coupons, remind customers of appointments and much more. Most companies have found such mobile marketing tactics highly effective and are scrambling to come up with new and effective ways to maintain client relationships while simultaneously attracting new customers.

Restaurants, hotels and other customer service-based businesses and companies are likely to develop and market their own tipping apps, assuming Starbuck’s app is successful. Given how popular the company’s mobile payment app is, it is very likely the tipping option will be yet another successful mobile marketing strategy. Customers could easily tip those who clean their hotel rooms when checking out, or add a tip if using their smartphones to pay for takeout. Even smaller operations that use smartphones to take payments, such as independently-owned hair and nail salons, can benefit from tipping apps.

SMS messaging and subsequent mobile marketing tactics aren’t going anywhere! It therefore makes perfect sense for companies to continue to develop their mobile marketing strategy, whether it involves tipping apps or not! 

November 16, 2013

Leverage Mobile Marketing for Fundraising

 

 

Depositphotos_25147143_xs

Mobile marketing strategies used for commercial purposes can be equally effective in the non-profit and charity sector. Natural disasters and other emergency situations call for precisely the sort of instant response facilitated by texting, which is why charities and aid organizations all over the world are leveraging the power of SMS to generate awareness as well as monetary donations.

Earlier this year, World Vision used a typical mobile advertising strategy in the run-up to the Chicago marathon. They implemented a text program to inspire athletes preparing for the race, and found that those who got involved ultimately raised 50% more money than those who didn't. The informal messages allowed runners and spectators alike to share their experiences of participating in the fundraiser. In one instance, World Vision issued a message asking trainees to tell them how many runs they had completed that week. Those that hadn't run at all received the following message:

“Training is tough, but you can do it. Jump back into the training plan, and take it one day at a time.”

Another great application of common mobile marketing trends for charitable purposes was achieved by the Red Cross, during the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The organization launched a donate-by-text program, heavily promoted by the US government and on social media. According to a Pew internet report conducted in the aftermath of the appeal, half of all donors went on to encourage their friends and family to donate, and 76% of those people ultimately contributed money via text message. It was a classic mobile advertising strategy: get an informal message out to x amount of people, and rely on word-of-mouth to do the rest. The same happened after Hurricane Sandy. Nearly a million dollars was donated to the fund solely by text message

But why are mobile marketing solutions so effective for fundraising? In part, it's the payment process itself that appeals to people. By donating money via text instead of credit card, the transaction is made significantly easier, with less of the attendant stress regarding fraud, and just a lot less hassle. People tend to regard text costs as money already spent, so if they can put it towards a good cause, all the better. The convenience of the medium is perfect for generous people who feel they don't have time to fill in online forms, or send checks through the mail.

Finding the right time to ask for money is crucial to the success of such campaigns. According to recent statistics, Fridays and Mondays are the most rewarding times of the week. It's also important to stay in touch with users; give them regular updates about your charity's work so they can stay informed. By looking at successful mobile strategies for small business ventures, and adapting them to your fundraising appeal, you can achieve better results than for-profit companies can dream of. Look into starting your own mobile marketing strategies for charity fundraisers, and start making a real difference. 

 

February 21, 2012

5 DIY Digital Communication Tools to Highlight Your Cause

Entry By Jason Brick

Even more than a for-profit business, a non-profit cause needs to maximize its reach while minimizing expenses. DIY digital initiatives, because of their scalability, are some of the best ways to achieve this goal. Your organization is probably already using some digital communication tools, but here are others you should consider implementing.

Diy Digital

1. Flash Demonstrations

This is the most visible way to take advantage of mobile media. Using a text message broadcast, you can organize a meeting of followers with short notice and big results. Depending on your goals, the result can range from a simple presentation, to an artistic display, to a full-bore protest. 

2. Send Reports

Informing your contact list about your cause is key to keeping them involved and giving. A regular report citing statistics, recent developments, and progress made on projects, is a necessary part of your website. An occasional announcement, sent via text marketing, can serve as an extra "ping," to keep your cause front of mind.

3. Text-To-Give

A recent UK report found a 15% response rate for text-to-give fundraising efforts. While low compared to other methods, because the costs are small, text-to-give generates strong returns in spite of the low response rate. So, include a text-to-give message in your publicity initiatives, as well as in occasional broadcasts, to maximize the reach of this method. 

4. Go Viral

The power of digital media is in sharing. Encourage your original recipients to share your broadcasts with their network, and to ask their network to help spread the message as well. Remember, impactful and insightful messages are the most likely to get re-broadcast. As for humor, it can get a lot of shares, but may not be appropriate for your cause's message. Always err on the side of caution.

5. Integrate QR

Quick response codes are easy ways for a potential contact to get involved in your cause, and have a "gadget factor" that may draw some early adopters who would otherwise be less attracted to your organization. Plant your QR panel on bumper stickers, paperwork, fliers, print advertising -- even on your T-shirts. The more places that panel pops up, the better your response will be. 

 

Scam Alert

Unfortunately, more than a few scams have used digital media -- and especially text-to-give campaigns -- to draw fraudulent donations. Your organization will see the strongest results if you pair your digital media initiatives with a professional web and physical presence. This can help contacts feel safe about getting involved with and giving to your cause.