On April 25, 2015, a massive 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the South Asian country of Nepal, causing incalculable devastation. While the climbing number of those dead or injured has stabilized in recent weeks, in its May 29, 2015 one-month update, The American Red Cross’ global network confirmed 8,600 dead and tens of thousands of injuries. With more than 7,000 volunteers in Nepal, the network is an example of how when severe natural disasters strike, the world extends humanitarian aid to those in need. A decade ago, continued relief efforts required wealthy benefactors to donate to non-profit organizations. However, in 2004 the Czech Donors Forum began work on a project to make it easier for others to donate. The result was DMS or Donor SMS. This development created and revolutionized the way people around the world support whatever cause they choose.
The concept of DMS is simple; the mobile user selects a national or international cause they would like to support and send a quick text message to the corresponding number. On the next billing statement, the mobile user will be charged a nominal fee of 30 CZK. International groups like the Red Cross noticed the ease in implementing this technology and adopted it as a way for American mobile users to donate when natural disasters occur, such as the Nepal earthquake.
The accessibility of mobile donations requires service providers to be more transparent in how the money is delivered to the causes rather than redistributed elsewhere. Daruj Správně, the official site for the Czech DMS service, published the results of its work in a report compiled over the last decade which reveals that since the development of the service the Czech people have sent close to 17 million DMS text donations that resulted in 460 million CZK or roughly 18 million USD donated to various domestic and international causes. Along with the statistics regarding the total amounts collected since its development is a list of the top 10 organizations that have received the most donations.
Although the technology allows people to donate anywhere in the world, the causes the Czech people support are often domestic rather than international. The most popular in terms of donations received is Světluška – or Firefly — a project of the Czech Radio Foundation that helps Czech children and adults with severe visual impairment. Since the creation of the program in 2003, public relations director Barbora Marcova says Světluška has involved 66,000 volunteers in its project and continues to receive hundreds of donations daily.
The requirements of the Czech Donor Forum which still oversees the DMS program has also helped draw awareness to several key philanthropic organizations. The organization’s web page showcases a different philanthropy daily along with a brief biography of its president.
“The Donor Forum is the only national collection of donor organizations and has been for over 14 years,” said assistant of donor programs Darja Novakova, “we also actively work to improve the promotions of philanthropy and community building programs.” Joining the Donor Forum is no easy feat as an organization must gain a quality mark which demonstrates the organization’s ethical business practices and commitment to its cause.
To ensure that each organization is able to funds from the Forum, several startups have been leadership training institutes. One of these non-profits is the Czech Fundraising Center whose partial mission statement is to help build confidence and long term sustainability for fledgling organizations. Another organization that actively promotes participation in both domestic and philanthropic efforts is the VIA Foundation who recognizes and awards those who improve the community through activism.
It took more than a decade for people to use DMS because of its careful implementation and legislation on behalf of the project developers. Because of all the contributions by both donors and the board of trustees over the last 10 years, domestic causes like vision impairment have begun to be mitigated and relief for international disasters like the Nepal earthquake can reach those in need faster than ever before.