Ruthellen Rubin
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Consulting for Nonprofits and Philanthropies

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Op Ed: The Times

Making an Impact One Text at a Time

Making an impact one text at a time

Reprinted from The Times (Trenton, NJ)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

By:  Ruthellen. S. Rubin

When I read that $1 million had been raised in 24 hours by people texting "HAITI" from their cell phones, I thought we were on the cusp of an exciting opportunity in fundraising. When I learned five days later that $10 million had been raised in $5 and $10 texts, I was sure a new era had arrived. listed 130 partner nonprofits this week, and in the weeks to come, I'm sure there will be many more. offers a platform especially for fundraising at large events. displays a clean list of the six organizations currently accepting $5 and $10 text donations for Haiti relief efforts.

There are some limitations at the present time: Most wireless carriers will allow you to make only two donations per month; the giving amount is set at $5 or $10, depending on the charity; and the potential for fraudulent solicitations is always a concern. I view these as small glitches in the development of a vehicle that will turn the naturally charitable inclination of Americans into action and dollars in support of our social sector.

Online giving has been a great leap forward; however, statistics still indicate a tremendous number of abandoned forms because we don't have our credit card handy or because we begin to feel we are being asked too many questions as we fill in the online form. At the present time, one-step text giving may only offer the opportunity for a micro-donation, but the facility of it makes it a sure thing.

My mind is racing with the opportunities that lay ahead. Imagine rising to your feet after a thrilling performance at your local community theater and being asked to text "THEATERFORALL" so programs like that can be made available to all schoolchildren in the community.

Animal shelter advertisements often move us to tears, but we will still have the wherewithal to reach into our pocket and text "POOCHIE" to help an abandoned animal. After a day of volunteering at the local soup kitchen, a sign on the way out will remind us to text "FOOD," and after crossing the finish line at a 5K Race to End Homelessness, volunteers will be holding up posters saying: "Text "HOME.'" (And while you're at it, call home to let them know you finished the race.)

As a 6-year-old in the 1957, I remember bringing dimes to school -- $52 million in dimes was raised that year in the war against polio.

Every one of us knew someone affected by polio, and each of us felt our dimes were making a difference -- and they did.

Ruthellen S. Rubin, CFRE, teaches fundraising and philanthropy at New York University. She is a consultant to nonprofit organizations ( in New Jersey and New York.


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Op Ed: The Times

Making an Impact One Text at a Time 

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