January 27, 2012
A new study produced by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Give Foundation, examines a new cohort of charitable givers—those who make donations via text message from their cellphones. It’s the first in-depth look at these mobile donors.
The report—which analyzed the “Text to Haiti” campaign after the 2010 earthquake—found that three quarters of the donors contributed using their phones on the same day they heard about the campaign, and a similar number say that they typically make text message donations without conducting much in-depth research beforehand.
Yet while their initial contributions often involved little deliberation, 43 percent of these donors encouraged their friends or family members to give to the campaign as well. In addition, a majority of those surveyed (56 percent) have continued to give to more recent disaster relief efforts—such as the March 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami response—using their mobile phones.
“In contrast to other types of charitable contributions, which often involve some background research, or are directed towards organizations with which the donor has an existing relationship, mobile giving is often an ‘impulse purchase’ in response to a major event or call to action,” said Aaron Smith, senior research specialist at the Pew Internet Project and author of the report. “These donations come from people who are ready to give if they are moved by what they see and hear.”
“These findings have vast implications for non-profits, other cause-related charities, and even philanthropists,” noted Rob Faris, research director for the Berkman Center. “The age of mobile connectivity is creating a new class of networked donors who learn quickly about tragedies that occur anywhere on the planet and respond immediately.”
The results in the report are based on telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates among a sample of 863 individuals who contributed money to the Haiti earthquake efforts using the text messaging feature on their cell phones, and who consented to further communications at the telephone numbers they used to make their donations. The margin of sampling error is +/-3 percentage points based on Haiti text donors who consented to these additional communications.
Read a more detailed summary of the report’s findings.