Aug 12, 2011

Mobile Giving: is M-PESA Fund raising The Next Frontier For Charities?

The most promising way for charities to raise money right now is by M-PESA. There has never been a better time to start an M-PESA fund raising campaign. The numbers speak for themselves: The Kenyans for Kenya fund raising initiative raised sh 13 million via M-PESA within 24 hours of launch of the appeal,and the number continues to rise. The latest M-PESA donations exceed sh138 million as of the time of this writing.

The swiftness and magnitude of the response for Kenyans for Kenya has made many charities in Kenya take note. Appeals to donate by M-PESA are swirling around via social networking sites such facebook,twitter, youtube and the blogosphere. Articles about the appeal are being printed in the traditional media. Thousands of Kenyans are donating and asking others to donate . Fund raising using M-PESA for a worthy cause is making headlines,both locally and internationally. M-PESA giving has gone viral.

So what is the truth behind the hype? Where did all these donors come from?

Allow me to paint you a picture of M-PESA mobile money transfer. M-PESA is still the most widely used method of mobile money transfer as evidenced by the sh305.7 million transactions effected and valued at sh727.8 billion in the year 2010. As at the end of May 2011 there were 14 million M-PESA users and 28,000 M-PESA agents countrywide. About 70 percent of financial transactions in Kenya are now handled by M-PESA, which is a ubiquitous venue for paying utility bill,water purchases,farm equipment purchase,payroll,goods and services and international money transfer. In a nutshell, M-PESA is the most successful mobile money transfer service in the developing world.

Given these facts, there are huge benefits to be gained in integrating M-PESA in any fund raising campaign. Charities need to consider M-PESA with their eyes wide open. So how can charities leverage the ubiquity of M-PESA to reach donors at the moment of inspiration?

Lesson from Kenyans for Kenya initiative
1. Use M-PESA Pay Bill Number
Safaricom vets any organization before allocating them a Pay Bill number. A charity has to be registered to get a Pay Bill number. This is important as potential donors will know a charity is legitimate. There are fees that are involved in using the M-PESA Pay Bill number. It is worth noting that Safaricom waived this fee for the Kenyans for Kenya initiative. For a donor, the steps to give via M-PESA are simple and the process can take less than a minute. After donating donors receive an sms immediately informing them that their funds have been deposited in the charity's account.

2. No amount is too small to give
Just as Bob Collymore Safaricom CEO put it, "No amount is too small to give". M-PESA enables a charity to collect micro donations most of which will come from first time donors. Kenyans for Kenyans initiative is encouraging donors to give as little as sh10 and the response has been amazing.

3.  Integrate M-PESA donations into the larger mix
It is important that a charity integrates M-PESA donations with other fund raising operations. M-PESA fund raising should not be run as a different project. Remember that the donation process begins when donor gives by M-PESA. That action happens as a result of the donor having an existing relationship with the charity.

4. Work with other stakeholders
Charities should work with other stakeholders. These stakeholders are instrumental in vetting the charities that want to participate in M-PESA fund raising. They will also help charities market their M-PESA fund raising initiatives to potential donors ultimately reducing the costs associated with running the campaign.

4. Integrity and Openness is everything
The credibility and reputation of the charity asking for money is critical here. A charity must be open about the amount of money they intend to raise and for what purpose, and they should let the donors know much they have collected every day in the course of the campaign. Kenyans for Kenya initiative is showing the amount donated in real time on their website. Most importantly the whole campaign is being audited by the accounting firm Deloitte East Africa. Kenyans are therefore fully guaranteed that their donations are being used for the right purpose.

6. Create a buzz online and offline
The key to M-PESA fund raising campaign is the campaign's ability to raise awareness. Create a buzz on social networking sites such as facebook,twitter and youtube as well as in the traditional media. This may prove to be the hardest part. Charities will have a hard time generating vital buzz necessary to make the campaign a success. In this case a charity should consider working with a media house, or a PR firm. Here you get free publicity as a sponsorship. Get a CEO of a blue chip company to endorse your efforts. Bob Collymore of Safaricom, Martin Oduor of KCB and Gina Din of Gina Din Corporate Communication  have been relentless in creating publicity for the Kenyans for Kenya initiative both online and offline.

Learn more about the M-PESA Pay Bill business account from the Safaricom website.