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Alicia Keys issues mobile giving call-to-action during American Idol

Twelve-time Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys' appearance on Fox's American Idol last week raised $450,000 for charity from more than 90,000 mobile donors who texted in their donations.

Keep a Child Alive is the non-profit organization co-founded by Ms. Keys to provide healthcare and housing to children with HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. To date, the "Give $5 Text ALIVE" campaign has raised more than $500,000 for Keys' cause.

"When I saw that Live Aid raised 2.2 million pounds using SMS, I started to look at mobile giving as a way for nonprofits to use media attention to drive donations using text messaging, James Eberhard, chairman/CEO of Mobile Accord, Denver. "You can create an ecosystem wherein SMS is a direct response mechanism to get donations and helps explode organizations' overall base and grow what they're doing.

"American Idol was kind enough to allow Alicia Keys to come out there and make her call to action, and so many people texted in," he said.

Ms. Keys is co-founder of Keep a Child Alive and serves as the group's global ambassador.

In a first for American Idol, and a departure from traditional fundraising methods, Ms. Keys asked the show's 30 million viewers to use their mobile phones to give $5 by sending a text message with the keyword ALIVE to the short code 90999.

Seconds after texting in, they received a message back asking for confirmation. Mobile donors confirmed by replying with the keyword YES via text message.

The $5 donation will be added to their next mobile phone bill.

Ms. Keys was joined on American Idol by a 15-year-old Rwandan rapper, Noah, who is a patient at the Kigali clinic funded by Keep a Child Alive.

Noah received national attention on the Tyra Banks Show in December, and has a popular YouTube.com video.

The American Idol text messaging initiative for Keep a Child Alive was powered by mGive in conjunction with the Mobile Giving Foundation.

The brainchild of Mr. Eberhard, the mGive texting system is revolutionizing non-profit giving, creating a new base of low-dollar donors who can give without using cash or credit cards.

Other well-known non-profits using mGive include the ASPCA (see story), Clean Air-Cool Planet, Defenders of Wildlife, Feed the Children and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Mobile Accord is a mobile application service provider and cause marketing agency. The firm's clients include political groups, universities and corporate cause marketers in addition to major non-profit organizations.

Mobile Accord launched first TV mobile giving call-to-action in the U.S. during last year's Super Bowl, in partnership with the United Way and the NFL. A single 10-second bumper ad with an on-screen SMS call-to-action raised $10,000.

"Even in these tough economic times, people can give $5 from any part of the country in a matter of seconds using their handset," Mr. Eberhard said. "This is a valuable tool to extend what an organization is doing and let people donate via their mobile phone from wherever they are.

"Half a million dollars were given via mobile last year, so mobile giving is showing great promise," he said. "It's a great way for non-profits to raise money, communicate with donors and engage them wherever they are."

VeriSign powers the network that enables the program.

Mobile Marketer interviewed VeriSign and the Mobile Giving Foundation about their involvement in the initiative:

Q. What is the strategy behind integrating text messaging into live TV to raise money for Keep a Child Alive?

A. Mobile giving integration with live television, particularly popular programming like American Idol, is key to our strategy of increasing broad consumer awareness of mobile giving and driving early participation of giving itself.

iTV has proven very effective at resonating with the audience and encouraging participation. In a few minutes of TV programming last Wednesday mobile giving generated approximately $500,000 in pledges based on $5 increments.

These pledges are converted to donations when the contributor pays their phone bill. The wireless operator then remits 100% of those funds to the MGF for reconciliation and distribution to the charity based on our contracts with them. Mobile giving is important to the potential donor and nonprofit alike.

For the donor, it provides an immediate, convenient and trusted mechanism to support a cause of interest regardless of whether that person has a credit card. For the nonprofit, mobile giving enables an incremental impulse gift that frequently engages a new and younger demographic.

This dynamic is critical to nonprofits as they look for new ways to reach interested supports and maintain a relationship with them over time.

- Jim Manis, President and CEO, Mobile Giving Foundation

Q. Why are mobile and charity fundraising a good fit?

A. The mobile channel is transforming the way charitable organizations appeal to all audiences, and the Keep A Child Alive campaign is an excellent example of how text messaging can be used as a more intuitive way to facilitate contributions that truly help change people's lives.

We are proud to continue to be part of this effort and leverage our technology and services to power this mobile giving channel, by giving ordinary citizens the opportunity to make donations through a secure and easy-to-use medium.

- Ocean Fine, Director of Client Management, VeriSign Messaging and Mobile Media Division

Mobile giving is new but look for it to be integrated across channel. Just within this past week you saw both Alicia Keys issuing a mobile giving CTA on American Idol on behalf of Keep a Child Alive, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issuing a mobile giving CTA benefiting the USA UNHCR from the White House as a central element to the US response to the Pakistan Refugee relief efforts. Each of these efforts is integrated with on line, television, radio and print.

- Jim Manis, President and CEO, Mobile Giving Foundation

Q. What was VeriSign's role?

A. VeriSign Messaging and Mobile Media powers the network that supports the Keep a Child Alive, American Idol Live Mobile Donation program by enabling the message delivery of mobile donations.

VeriSign's Mobile Delivery Gateway (MDG) processed each $5.00 donation, through facilitating the donation charge directly to the participant's carrier bill. Last year, more than 224 Billion mobile messages were delivered across VeriSign's network.

- Ocean Fine, Director of Client Management, VeriSign Messaging and Mobile Media Division

Q. How did the company work with Mobile Accord/mGive and the Mobile Giving Foundation?

A. VeriSign Messaging and Mobile Media partners closely with the Mobile Giving Foundation to provide premium aggregation services for their Mobile Giving programs.

VeriSign's MDG provides the Mobile Giving Foundation the connection to all major tier one US carriers to power the SMS messages for their Mobile Giving Programs, and facilitates processing the actual $5.00 donation to participant's carrier bill.

- Ocean Fine, Director of Client Management, VeriSign Messaging and Mobile Media

The Mobile Giving Foundation enables the mobile channel for charitable giving and donor interaction. The MGF serves as the aggregator of nonprofits.

We qualify charities to standards for access to the channel, reconcile and remit payments to the recipient charities, issue donor receipts, plus research and educate consumers about this new giving medium available to consumers.

All billing events originate on our platform, and we in turn approve service providers to integrate to our platform to support work with nonprofits. Mobile Accord is one of our approved service providers and works with Keep a Child Alive.

VeriSign Messaging and Mobile Media is our vendor that provides messaging routing services plus it is one of our founding sponsors.

- Jim Manis, President and CEO, Mobile Giving Foundation