There She Blows! Cause Marketing, Mobile Gifts Surface with

I've talked a lot about the coming of mobile payments and their intersection with cause marketing on both my blog and at speaking appearances. It's something I'm really excited about. But up to now there hadn't been any sign in the water of this huge beast that would change giving and cause marketing with the same force The Whale shook Captain Ahab on the Pequod.

But the waters are parting and I see something rising:

Developed by Tulsa, Oklahoma based CharityCall, may be the best option yet for businesses and nonprofits that want to partner and raise money via mobile technology.

Here's how works.

1. Shoppers scan a QR code which takes them to a custom giving page. The QR code can appear anywhere: on a register sign or product, in a sales flier, etc. Check out this QR code appeal from Cinnabon bakeries.

2. The first page highlights the details of the program, in Cinnabon's case a fundraiser for anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Users can also easily share the campaign with friends on Twitter and Facebook.

3. Click on "Give Now" to visit the donation page. An advantage here is that you can contribute more than you could with the $5 and $10 donations common to text giving. Not sold on donating on your phone? You can make a "pledge" by entering an amount and email address so you can receive a link to donate via PayPal, credit or debit card.

4. Once you enter a gift amount and click on "Give Now" you'll be asked to sign-in to your Paypal account and make a gift. Of course, the process isn't as easy if you don't have a PayPal account. isn't free. There's a $75 set-up fee, $39 monthly fee and the company gets 5% of collected donations. You'll also have to pay PayPal 2.2% on donations plus 30 cents per transaction. You're basically paying around a buck for every ten dollars you raise. I can live with that.

Does this new mobile platform work? I was impressed that Cinnabon raised $3,800 for Share Our Strength in just five days. That's pretty good for a passive cause marketing program. The average donation was $43 and the average cost per donation was $3.40.

Cinnabon president Kat Cole is a believer: "The ability to reach out and allow patrons to donate using their mobile smartphones made a big difference." is the best option right now for mobile cause marketing. You should give it a try. Bur remember: will have plenty of competition in 2012 as other mobile giving platforms are rolled out.  Mobile is the future, the future of cause marketing and perhaps the future of giving.

But that doesn't mean the right platform is right around the corner or will always be smooth sailing.

Like the legends of white whales that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick, we'll have to chase down each new mobile development for fundraisers to see if it's for real or a fake. But Cinnabon's success with Share Our Strength proves that is not just another fish story.

Tevolution Brews Cause Marketing Success with SMS


You all know I love cause marketing - a partnership between a nonprofit and for-profit for mutual profit. But I also love iced tea. So it's no surprise that I love Tēvolution, a delicious new brand of iced tea from Purpose Beverages, Inc., launching right now in in Washington, DC and Los Angeles.

This is purpose-driven entrepreneurship as Tēvolution was created specifically with causes in mind. But their model is also a great example of cause marketing that uses text messaging - SMS - to direct donations and engage consumers.

The company has initially partnered with four nonprofits and contributes 25 cents from every bottle sold to one of these causes.

Those of you who read my post on SMS last week know that I have a renewed interest in SMS because of its ease of use and widespread adoption. In short, just about everyone knows how to text. But not everyone understands QR codes, location-based services and apps.

And that's just one of the reasons Tēvolution co-founders Ian Simpson and Gerard Artavia chose to go with SMS.

Here's how Tēvolution works.

Once you tear off the label, you still have the choice of going online to enter your bottle’s unique code. This is a good idea your first time as you can create a profile for yourself that, among other things, allows you to share your giving with friends on Twitter and Facebook, and track your total contribution.

The Tēvolution guys have even gone the distance there, optimizing the same message for SMS text (160 characters), Facebook (embedded branding), and Twitter (140 characters, @ user names, and great use of Twitter-speak).

Tēvolution chose SMS for what it's meant for: broad reach. Text is just the messenger. In addition, Tēvolution smartly engages consumers with a variety of messages that are designed to educate them about the causes they’re supporting. It’s a cross-platform approach that really shows what a company can do when thinking outside the box. Their texts include a link to a richer media experience for those with smartphones, in this case a landing page with an embedded video on the cause.

“We wanted to be at the leading edge of cause branding,” explained Ian.  “We are transparent about how much we’re giving and how we support our nonprofit partners who make a real impact in communities across the US.”

Regardless of the type of cause marketing your cause or company is using, Tēvolution offers an excellent example of how and why more promotions should include the simple, but ever-present text message.

How is your cause or company using text messaging for cause marketing?

Is the Humble Text Message a Cause Marketing Star?

I'm reevaluating my thinking on text messages (SMS) for cause marketing. Previously, SMS only meant text-to-give for me. And unless you used SMS after some horrific disaster, or at a concert displayed it on a jumbotron at some major sporting event it wasn't very useful for cause marketing.

However, the more I learn about text and the more I sober up to the reality of adoption rates on things like smartphone apps, location-based services, QR codes and other mobile gadgetry in general, the more I appreciate the simple text message.

  • I know a lot of people who know nothing about iPhone apps, QR codes and location-based services, but know how to use SMS. I bet you do too. It's something my eight year old son and 85 year old godmother can both do.
  • The fact that you don't have to learn anything about text to use it is really the beauty of it. Most phones push text messages so they're hard to miss. Compare that to getting someone to download your app. Or explaining Foursquare to a newbie. Or explaining what a QR code is.
  • Maybe that's why 97% of mobile subscribers will read a text message within four minutes of receipt. I mean, WOW. Forget talking to my two kids. I should just text them!

Nevertheless, we should be careful not to oversell SMS. Hipcricket Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Hasen, a SMS campaign veteran, puts it nicely: use SMS for reach and something else for a "richer media experience" (e.g. landing page, QR code, mobile app). He also says that for the companies he works with SMS is best for special offers or time sensitive deals.

So while SMS is the knock that just about every consumer will answer, they're particular on what they will let in.

Which brings us to how text messages can be used for cause marketing (beyond text-to-give). For this, I turned to Douglas Plank who founded MobileCause, a company focused on providing mobile solutions to nonprofits and companies.

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Doug agreed that nonprofits generally think of just text-to-give when it comes to SMS. But it could be used for a lot of things.

  • Communication - An environmental nonprofit could use SMS to update supporters on key activities or "breaking news."
  • Outreach - An agency working to stop teen pregnancy could use text messages to target teens, the most common and responsive users of mobile devices.
  • Information Gathering - A local YMCA could poll members on their choice for gym hours over the holidays.
  • Activism - A city hospital could use SMS to urge supporters to call their governor, congressman or senator to weigh in on an important piece of legislation.

There are a lot of good ways to use SMS, and nonprofits should encourage their donors and supporters to opt-in for text messages.

But to make this a cause marketing effort, nonprofits should partner with companies that boast a long list of SMS subscribers. The company could tap its list to help a nonprofit with communication, outreach, information gathering, activism and even fundraising.

  • SMS could inform customers of an in-store promotion for your cause with a link to more information about your mission. (SMS is the QR code you type instead of scan!)
  • A point of sale or purchase triggered promotion could include a keyword and short code that would reward donors with a special offer or discount, which they can access right from their phones.
  • A text from the company could ask customers to give by replying with a provided keyword and short code to make an instant donation.

There's a lot of potential with SMS. Nonprofits should build their own SMS subscriber base. But another option is to explore the potential of SMS with current business partners and make a point to target new partners that are known for their SMS savvy.

I believe in the future of location-based services, QR codes and smartphone apps. Over 100 years ago, the early inventors and makers of the automobile believed in its future too. But good, strong horses were needed until the age of the automobile arrived. The same is true of SMS. It's the best thing we have right now and it can do more than we think.

SMS is a good, sturdy workhorse. We shouldn't look this gift horse in the mouth.