Mobile phones ring in good news for young people giving in 2012

2012 is set to see a boom in charitable giving and volunteering using mobile phones, with young people leading innovation in giving, predicts PhonepayPlus, the watchdog that oversees charity text donation in the UK.

PhonepayPlus, the UK regulator of premium rate telephone services, saw a huge increase of interest in charity text donation in 2011 and this looks set to continue in 2012.

Over 200 charities registered with PhonepayPlus in 2011, enabling those charities to set up mobile shortcode numbers that allow donors to give up to £10 to the charity via their mobile phones. Latest end-of-year figures from nfpSynergy’s Charity Awareness Monitor show that the monthly average for people donating to charity using text donations increased by 40% from 2010 to 2011.

This confirms earlier figures in a report by nfpSynergy supported by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) that people likely to donate by text rose from 1 in 10 in 2010 to close to 1 in 4 in 2011. These early indications show that the estimate that text donations will be worth £96 million annually by 2014 is easily achievable.

In particular, over 70% of charities see the potential of mobile phones to engage with a younger generation of donors. While the ability for people to give money by mobile is welcomed by charities, this is not just about giving money. As CAF’s recent World Giving Index shows, although globally 1% fewer people have given money to charity this year, there has been an overall rise in people giving their time and volunteering.

Young people’s interest in using mobile technology to give in innovative ways is seen in competition entries to PhonepayPlus’ PhoneBrain competition being up by over 330% this year.

The PhoneBrain social enterprise competition challenges 11 – 19 year olds to come up with a service that has a community or social benefit. Finalists, from across the UK, will present their ideas in January to a panel of industry experts at ITV’s London headquarters. The finalists will battle it out for awards of up to £1,500 to help make their idea a reality, provided by the young social entrepreneurship support organisation, Live UnLtd.

One example of such innovation is the e-Tips service idea from PhoneBrain finalist Siobhan Giles, 13, of Avonbourne School in Bournemouth. Siobhan is hoping to cross the generational tech divide with her e-Tips service. Siobhan leads an after school club for older ‘Silver Surfers’ who want to engage with digital and mobile technology. Siobhan’s service would allow older people to text any tricky questions they may have outside of the club to young advisors who would step in to offer advice and support via their mobiles.

Siobhan said:”My idea, e-Tips, is a text service which our club members will be able use if they run into any problems following a session. For example, if they have a specific question about the internet or if something pops up on their phone that they’re unsure about. We’re really keen to support local elderly residents and ensure they do not have to fight digital exclusion alone – e-Tips will help us do that.

“Other examples of innovative ideas for services that the ‘PhoneBrainers’ have come up with include: iSport, a phone app that encourages young people to walk and cycle to school, as well as making donations to charity during their ‘commute’; Safe Streets, an app that advises people on their local neighbourhoods and any areas that they should avoid, particularly at night; and a social network for 16-24 year olds that’s focused on pointing young adults in the direction of jobs and getting them in to work.”

PhonepayPlus’ Paul Whiteing said:”All of these innovative, socially useful ideas from young people point to charity text donation being the tip of the iceberg of what smartphones and micropayments, such as premium rate, can offer to volunteers, community groups, charities and social entrepreneurs. We are working hard with charities and the wider premium rate industry to ensure that this growth area of giving retains the confidence of potential donors and is a space where innovation can flourish. I am looking forward immensely to judging the competition and wish all the finalists the best of luck in their preparations.”