The U.S. State Department is using online donation service mGive to drum up donations for the LGBT community as part of the Global Equality Fund initiative.
By Elaine Cohen
If you thought that national governments were stuck in the Dark Ages of Bureaucracy encumbered with tedious, administrative paper-pushing, the U.S. State Department is out to prove you wrong.
Perhaps that's not surprising. With President Obama fully understanding the meaning of "trending" and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton going viral, you might not be surprised to see a U.S. government department leveraging the power of modern communications technology and online tools to spread its message.
The mGive Foundation: Private-Public Partnership
Yes, you heard that right. The latest initiative of the U.S. State Department, to raise awareness, and funds, in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) communities all around the world, is a mobile text donation campaign in partnership with the largest online philanthropy initiative, The mGive Foundation.
By texting the word PRIDE to 80000, anyone can donate $10 to ensure that members of the LGBT communities get help when they need it. Donations will help further initiatives aimed at advancing human rights, fostering equality, advocacy, protection and dialogue to ensure human rights protection for LGBT's around the world.
The U.S. Government is not new to the use of mobile philanthropy, having used text-$-to-this-number campaigns to muster support for disaster relief, with some success. But donating to save people from fires in Colorado is a little different from generating support for victims of human rights discrimination in far-away countries, so this new campaign may be more challenging.
Add to this the fact that that at home in the U.S., all is not entirely rosy when it comes to gay rights. U.S. legislation is still not at the point where LGBTs have fully equal rights and provisions differ significantly from state to state. However, progress on U.S. home ground has been made in recent years, with advances such as the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy in the military and even President Obama's widely publicized support for same-sex marriages.
U.S. State Department Supports Human Rights
Looking further afield, however, the U.S. Global Equality Fund was started in December 2011 as part of the commitment of the U.S. State Department to maintain a leadership position on global human rights.
“There are 76 countries which criminalize same sex relationships,” Jim Thompson, Deputy Special Representative for Global Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State, told me.
“This has impacts on men and women, on societies, public health, and on economies. With the Global Equality Fund, supported by our mGive text donation campaign, we are looking to achieve legislative outcomes to change laws that are discriminatory.”
The funds raised will be used to engage with civil society in different countries, to increase dialogue, to enhance the capacity of NGO's to advocate on human rights issues and to provide resources in emergency situations, according to Thompson. “We have not defined a specific money target – we are more interested in creating an avenue for people to engage.”
Mobile Technology A Highway for Philanthropy
Mobile philanthropy is certainly an avenue. In fact, it's become more of a highway. Jenifer Snyder, Executive Director of the mGive Foundation explains: “At mGive, we process 85 percent of all mobile donations in our work with over 560 nonprofit organizations in over 700 campaigns to date."
"Your mobile phone is the one thing that you won't be without; it's very personal. Making a connection through people's mobile phones creates an intensely personal interaction, which enables donors to receive direct updates about how their money has been used. With mGive, donation dollars are higher overall, and 93 cents in every dollar go directly to the supported cause.”
With an average of 60 texts per day by teenage mobile users, text-to-donate integrates seamlessly with modern lifestyle habits and often, after making a text donation for the first time, mobile users are more inclined to do it again, as research from the Haiti Relief Fund showed, where more than half of the mostly first-time mobile donors went on to use text donations to support other causes as well.
Creating “Everyday Philanthropists”
The U.S. State Department collaboration with the mGive Foundation, a public-private partnership, seems like a smart move. Providing an easy, cheap and instant platform using modern mobile technology creates a new level of access to mass, grassroots, real-time, impulse-based charity, with virtually no risk.
Jenifer Snyder calls this "Creating Everyday Philanthropists".
With more than four billion mobile subscribers worldwide, the potential of giving-by-text is barely tapped. This is not going unnoticed by some corporations as part of their corporate responsibility efforts. AT&T has used text-to-donate to help end childhood hunger, Verizon Wireless quickly mobilized to provide a text-donation service to support the Japanese earthquake relief fund in 2011, and General Mills uses text donations to generate support for its cause-campaign A Spoonful of Stories.
Now, the U.S. State Department is counting on a text-donation campaign to help advance U.S. foreign policy and strategic international leadership, with the LGBT community being a worthy beneficiary.
Mobile technology is replacing dollar bills. Impulse clicks are the new purchase power. Mobile phones are the indispensable accessory for almost half the people on the planet. It's not surprising, therefore, that mobile philanthropy is now an official tool of the U.S. Government, coming soon to a Government Near You.