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Charities want you to text in your donation. Does it work?

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Over the past two years, text giving, which once represented only a tiny portion of overall donations in the United States, has quickly became a major component of many successful philanthropic campaigns. Nonprofits have adopted the technology as a way to collect small donations from a large pool of givers; groups such as the Red Cross have launched major campaigns. Analysts say that text message donations are a good match for the pace of 21st-century life: The process is fast, simple, and requires nothing more than a device that most Americans have in their pockets.

"We have 260 million cellphones in the US," says Christian Zimmern, a cofounder and vice-president of the nonprofit Mobile Giving Foundation. "The nice thing about mobile giving is that anyone can do it. If you want to use [the online pay system] PayPal for a donation, you have to be a PayPal member. With SMS [text-message] donations, everyone that has a cellphone can do it. You don't need to have a credit card. You just need your phone." Furthermore, Mr. Zimmern points out, younger Americans – a demographic less likely to give through traditional means – are more than happy to tap out a quick donation on their keypad or touch screen.

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