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Donating small amounts to charities via cellphones starting in Canada

Mobile giving capitalizes on the popularity of text messaging and islaunching in Canada on Monday. "We thought this was a way to help newdonors be charitable," said Bernard Lord, head of the Canadian WirelessTelecommunications Association.

MONTREAL - Pull out your cellphone, text a keyword and make a donation on the go.

Mobile giving capitalizes on the popularity of text messaging and is launching in Canada on Monday. "We thought this was a way to help new donors be charitable," said Bernard Lord, head of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

It's aimed at younger people, who might not otherwise donate to charities, and lets them contribute small amounts at a time and get a tax receipt.

"In some cases people, can only give small gifts," Lord said. "They don't know how to do it and they don't want to write a cheque for $5 or $10, but they can give $5 or $10 through their cellphone."

Almost 100 million text messages are sent daily in Canada, Lord said.

Singer Alicia Keys raised thousands of dollars on the TV show American Idol by encouraging people to text $5 donations to help children with AIDS in Africa. It's also being used at concerts and sporting events to raise money.

"We think it will reach mostly a younger generation, the new generation coming up, the 20s or 30s, but it could be anybody," said Lord, the former Conservative premier of New Brunswick.

Donors text a numeric code and then a short word to give money via their mobile phones.

Consumers won't have any sales tax or fees added to their donations, which will be included on their monthly bills from their wireless carriers, Lord said. He added that "100 per cent" of the donation goes to the charity.

Non-profit organizations Plan Canada, Best Buddies and the Children's Wish Foundation are among charities that are part of the mobile philanthropy effort so far.

Katrin Verclas, co-founder of New York-based MobileActive.org, said making a donation with a mobile phone is still its infancy.

"There's very little evidence that this is generating a new set of donors that might become loyal instead of one-off contributors," said Verclas, whose organization promotes social change through the use of mobile technology.

Verclas also noted there can be as much as a 90-day lag time between the time the money is donated and when the charity gets it.

But she said it's a "prime way" to build a strong relationship between a donor and an organization, but not all charities have figured this out yet.

Lord's industry association, representing wireless carriers such as Rogers (TSx:RCI.B), Telus, (TSX:T) and Bell Mobility (TSX:BCE) worked with the U.S.-based Mobile Giving Foundation to bring this kind of charity giving to Canada.

Jim Manis, chairman and CEO of the Mobile Giving Foundation, said the idea is to keep it small and simple when it comes to donating.

"Rather than those small gifts being lost for tax purposes, now you have an accumulated receipt for tax purposes," Manis said. His organzation has about 450 U.S. charities registered for mobile giving.

If mobile giving is used at concerts, anywhere from five to 18 per cent of people will donate, he said, adding that response at Major League Baseball games is lower.

Lord said that not all of his organization's members to accept donations yet because some still need to do work on their billing systems.

Plan Canada will be able to receive donations to help children around the world by texting the word, HOPE, to shortcode 30333.

Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) said on Sept. 25 at the Blue Jays game, its wireless customers will be able to make donations to the Jays Care Foundation, which helps youth in need. Donors can text CARE to shortcode 20222 to make a donation.

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