Text Message Charity Brings Cash for Hurricane Victims and Telecos

Hurricane Gustav victims won’t be the only ones to receive a boost from the candidates’ appeals for mobile phone donations. Telecom companies stand to benefit from the text message donations urged by both the McCain and Obama camps.

During the RNC’s televised conference events Sept. 1, GOP officials asked the audience to donate $5 to the Red Cross by texting the word “give” to 24357—or “2help” spelled out on a telephone keypad. “Through a single text message, you can give crucial help” to those on the Gulf Coast, said RNC chairman Mike Duncan.

Obama’s campaign broadcast a similar message the same day. “Barack asks that you give to the Red Cross,” read the message, followed by the same text code. “Please Fwd.”

Though the Red Cross will keep the entire $5 donation, the telephone companies will assess standard text messaging fees to each transaction, say Red Cross officials.

The major US telecos charge an average of 10 cents per text message. Some, such as AT&T and Verizon, raised their rates this year to 15 cents. If five million people are inspired by the parties' pleas, that's another half a million to $750,000 for the telephone companies.

That's not to say the telephone companies are not giving a little. In some cases, the telephone companies charge the seller a commission on e-commerce transactions. They're not doing that here. Also, a fair percentage of people pay for monthly data plans with unlimited text messaging. So, the phone companies won't get any extra revenue from them.

But, when every cent counts, as party officials are apt to say, it's important to know that some of those cents don't go to victims.

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