#How to Value a Charitable Donation
Non Profit Management Specialist
It is important to keep accurate documentation of your donations so you will know the approximate value of each item you gave to charitable organizations. But sometimes, knowing how to value a donated item is hard. Fortunately, there are lots of guides and programs to help you do it right.
Valuation Guide for Donated Items
It’s important to remember that the value of the donated item is not equal to how much money you originally spent on it. Instead, the item is valued at how much it is worth when it is donated. In other words, if you originally spent $40 on a sweater, it may only be worth $5 after it has been used. Be careful of overvaluing your items, as it is a red flag for the IRS.
Other Ways Value Your Donated Items
If you are uncomfortable assigning a value to your donated items, don’t worry. There are lots of resources to help you figure out how best to value your donations.
It’s Deductible is provided by the good folks at Intuit of TurboTax fame. It is a program that allows you to keep a running total of all your donations as you give them and automatically provides a value based on a database of several thousand goods and current blue book estimates. What’s especially nice is that if you use TurboTax to prepare your taxes, you’ll find that you can simply import the information onto your tax form. Even if you don’t use TurboTax, the information is well-organized and easy to use come tax time.
Other Valuation Guides
Often when you donate items to a charity, they will give you a receipt and leave it blank so that you can fill in the amount you think the items are worth. Therefore, the following places provide valuation guides to help you figure out what the fair market value of your donated item really is:
- Salvation Army Valuation Guide – A long list of the most commonly donated items including clothing, appliances and household items.
- Goodwill Industries – Goodwill provides a downloadable guide that covers everything that you could conceivably donate to Goodwill.
Many third party tax preparers such as H R Block use these two guides to help their clients value donated items.
IRS Regulations on Donation Values
The Internal Revenue Service has strict guidelines with regards to estimating value for charitable donations. Keep in mind the limits set for deductions before estimating the value of items you donate, because while some donations do not require additional IRS forms when requesting a deduction, some amounts will certainly result in extra paperwork.
- Amounts of $250 require documentation from the charitable organization.
- An IRS Form 8283, Section A is required for charitable donations exceeding $500 that are noncash donations.
- An IRS Form 8283, Section B is required for charitable donations exceeding $5000 that are noncash donations.
High-Priced Donated Items
The IRS has special regulations for estimating the value of high-priced items that are donated to charity. For example, objects of art that are valued at less than $5000 require a written appraisal from a qualified professional. Art objects valued over $20,000 must have an appraisal as well as a photograph and detailed description of the object attached to the tax return. Art objects valued over $50,000 require an entirely different process involving requesting a Statement of Value from the IRS (which involves a fee of $2500 for the request) and the art might wind up being examined by an IRS official before the tax deduction is allowed.
Cash donations generally are much easier to value since the amount you donate is the value of the donation. Stocks, annuities, life insurance and patents are a little more difficult to estimate with regards to the value, but the IRS has regulations in place explaining the value estimation process for donations such as these as well.
Seek Professional Advice
It is a good idea to consult a tax professional if you are planning on making a sizable donation to a charity. A professional can make sure that you are in compliance with tax guidelines and requirements and will be able assist you with receiving a credit for your donation.
#How to Start a Nonprofit Organization – Guidelines and Resources for Entrepreneurs
This topic in the Library provides comprehensive advice and materials for anyone who is considering starting a nonprofit organization. The reader can use the free information in this Library topic, along with other Library topics that are referenced later on below. If you need more help, see our coaching services.
Sections of This Topic Include
Also See the Library’s Blogs Related to Starting a Nonprofit
STARTING YOUR NONPROFIT
Should You Really Start a New Nonprofit?
There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the benefits of starting a nonprofit. Particularly in times of a poor or rough economy, people think they can start a nonprofit to quickly generate income. Or, when people see a strong, unmet need in the community, they often focus only on the singular solution to start a new nonprofit. The following article gives a very useful description of the realities of starting yet another new nonprofit.
Before starting a nonprofit business, there is some preliminary business thinking that you really should do. Doing this thinking now can save you — and maybe your employees and clients — a great deal of anguish.
What Do You Mean by Starting a Nonprofit ?
Get Clear About the Purpose (the Mission) for Your New Organization
Perhaps the best way to really clarify to yourself what you intend to accomplish by starting a new nonprofit is to write a basic mission statement for your organization. You’ll soon need this mission statement anyway if you plan to incorporate your nonprofit (more about incorporation a little later on). The following guidelines may be helpful to you when writing your first, basic mission statement.
1. At is most basic, the mission statement describes the overall purpose of the organization. It addresses the question Why does the organization exist?
2. The statement can be in a wide variety of formats and lengths, ranging from a few sentences to a few pages. At this stage in the development of your nonprofit, it might be best to keep your mission statement to at most about half a page.
3. When writing the mission statement, try include description of what you think will be the new nonprofit’s
a) primary benefits and services to clients
b) groups of clients who will benefit from those services
c) values that will guide how your nonprofit will operate
d) how you’d like others to view your nonprofit
4. It’s often useful to refine the first, basic mission statement by adding or deleting a sentence or a word from the mission statement until you feel the remaining wording accurately describes the purpose of the new nonprofit organization.
Now Think About What Kind of Nonprofit You Want to Start
The phrase starting a nonprofit can mean several things. Read the following very basic information to begin thinking about what you mean when you set out to start a nonprofit . Keep your mission statement in mind when thinking about each of the following. (There will be more specific guidance later on when you read the next subsection Variety of Checklists to Reference When Formalizing Your New Nonprofit .)
- You can be a nonprofit organization just by getting together with some friends, eg, to form a self-help group. In this case, you re an informal nonprofit organization.
- You can incorporate your nonprofit so it exists as a separate legal organization in order to a) own its own property and its own bank account; b) ensure that the nonprofit can continue on its own (even after you re gone); and c) protect yourself personally from liability from operations of the nonprofit. You incorporate your nonprofit by filing articles of incorporation (or other charter documents) with the appropriate local state office. (An incorporated nonprofit requires a board of directors.) In Canada, you can file for incorporation at the provincial or Federal levels.
- If you want your nonprofit (and if you think your nonprofit deserves) to be exempt from federal taxes (and maybe some other taxes, too), you should file with the IRS to be a tax-exempt organization. (The IRS states that you must be a corporation, community chest, fund, or foundation to receive tax-exempt status. Articles of association may also be used in place of incorporation.) (Probably the most well known type of nonprofit is a the IRS classification of 501(c)(3), a charitable nonprofit .) (Being tax-exempt is not the same as being tax-deductible.) In Canada, you can file for tax-exemption at the provincial and Federal levels.
- Depending on the nature of your organization, you may also granted tax-deductible status from the IRS. Publication 526 lists the types of organizations to which donations are deductible. In Canada, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) grants charitable status, and you must be incorporated to achieve charitable status.
- So, for example, you could start a nonprofit that is incorporated, tax-exempt and eligible to receive tax deductible donations.
- The particular steps you take when starting your nonprofit depend on your plans for your organization, including the nature of its services. They also depend on how the IRS interprets the nature of your organization, including its services. Again, in Canada, you can file for incorporation and tax-exempt status at the provincial or Federal levels.
You may want to read more about What is a Nonprofit? .)
Consider Fiscal Sponsorship to Jump Start Your Organization
In some cases, you might find and work with another nonprofit organization that will act as your fiscal sponsor. A fiscal sponsor might be useful to you if your nonprofit:
1) Does not have sufficient resources to handle startup costs and fees
2) Does not have sufficient skills initially to manage your finances
3) Will address a community need and then no longer need to exist. See Fiscal Sponsorship — Help You Get Started?
Do You Need a Lawyer to Start Your Nonprofit?
Business incubators are usually facilities that help businesses share resources as low-cost means to getting started. You may have a nonprofit incubator in your community. Contact the local office of the National Council of Nonprofit Associations to find out. The following links will give you an overview of business incubators.
Checklists to Help You Register Your New Nonprofit in U.S.
NOTE: Be sure to first read the above section, First Things First — What Do You Mean by Starting a Nonprofit ? before you jump into any of the following checklists.
The following are a variety of checklists to help you proceed through the various steps to formally start your nonprofit. It’ll help a great deal if you’ve done some preliminary planning — if you haven’t, the above link Preparation for Planning a Business Venture will help you.
You might glance through a variety of the checklists to get an impression of what needs to be done and to select the checklist that you believe is most useful to you. The topic Nonprofit Taxes will be useful reading after you’ve reviewed the following checklists.
Various Online Checklists for Starting a Nonprofit Organization
1. Here’s a comprehensive, narrative description of the steps: How to Start a Nonprofit Organization
These are very basic overviews of the major steps to start a nonprofit.
3. You might also see How to Start a Nonprofit. It mentions several of the same steps, and adds references to more forms needed by the IRS.
#How you can support a charity – Knowhow Nonprofit
Different ways you can support causes you care about.
There are numerous ways in which you can engage with and give to non profits.
You can donate financially or donate your time (as a volunteer or a trustee ) and talent in a way which reduces the amount that would otherwise be spent.
Financial donations are most valuable to a non profit when they are given over time and reliably and through a tax efficient route. Here are some examples.
Regular giving and gift aid
Making a regular gift by standing order or direct debit from your bank account accompanied by a gift aid declaration to cover all such gifts from you is the optimum way to donate from the charities point of view. They can rely on the income and know how much and when it will be, they can receive the gift-aided uplift back from the Inland Revenue, they are administratively straightforward and inexpensive to process.
So for example a monthly gift-aided and committed donation of £20, gift-aided, with a prevailing basic tax rate of 25 per cent means that the gift costs the donor £20, an additional £5 (25 per cent) is added by the Revenue giving the non profit £25 to spend in achieving its charitable purpose.
Increasingly, non profits are seeking to benefit from the gift aid uplift on one off donations by asking individuals to make use of gift aid envelopes which carry a gift aid declaration or to add your own declaration when responding to a particular appeal.
To benefit from gift aid, the donation must be made by someone who pays income or capital gains tax at least equivalent to the amount of the uplift. It requires the donor to give their name and address to the benefiting organisation alongside. If you do not wish the organisation to contact you for other purposes you can stipulate this.
Gift–aided sponsorship is also actively encouraged and provided for by good on-line giving facilities as well.
Simply visit a charity’s website or call them up ask how you give a regular gift.
It is also possible for individuals to gift shares to non profits tax effectively; where this is done professional advice is likely to be beneficial.
Legacies are another way of donating whereby an instruction is contained in your will to distribute cash or other assets to a named non profit organisation. Your solicitor can readily advise on how to do this.
Remember A Charity was launched in 2000 and is formed of over 140 of the UK’s favourite charities. They have a network of solicitors and will-writers who will be able to advise you on making a will and leaving gifts to charities.
CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) provide CAF accounts whereby individuals can lodge a lump sum into their CAF accounts and then write CAF cheques in favour of particular non profits as and when they wish to donate. CAF cheques may only be used for donations and not for purchasing items being sold in aid of charity.
Regular giving schemes such as payroll giving enable regular amounts to be deducted at source and passed on to non profits if employers offer such a facility. Sometimes employers will commit to matching (sometimes up to a fixed cap) their employee’s committed giving in this way.
Employers may also encourage staff to undertake fundraising activities the proceeds from which they may match and they may also encourage staff to volunteer time, during work hours, in working as a volunteer in a charity or other non profit organisation.
Encouraging children to give
School children are frequently encouraged by their schools and supported by their parents to develop the habit of engaging with non profit organisations by a committed programme of fundraising activities and events and volunteering where appropriate.
Later on, in tertiary education or through social ,sport and leisure groups are motivated to work together to devise and participate in fundraising for chosen non profit beneficiaries; these include organisations such as Rotary, Round Table, Inner Wheel, the WI, and a host of special or mutual interest groups Religious groups are regular fundraisers and donors to non profits.
Further help and advice
#How You Can Help
Be a part of the solution
Like most charities we rely on donations. These enable us to do our work. We work our hardest to try and improve the lives of the less fortunate, and we have seen many successes that motivate us to continue. Please consider supporting us!
Also: Send a pair of running shoes you know that has at least another 100-miles of running still left in their life so they can be properly used for the health fitness programs we promote. Please do not send shoes you are about to chuck away because you deem them useless.
Running shoes PREVENT hookworm and promote a person to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. We don t want to just hand out shoes; we hold races/events so people EARN shoes. Empowerment; not charity.
In 2007 Natalie Portman, spoke to InStyle magazine promoting our shoe program. She said, I have a friend collecting shoes for KenyA&Mdash;each pair that is worn will cut down on the spread of disease. It s about doing something constructive. If you are going to buy $200 nikes. then spend $7 sending your shoes to Africa. It s a nice balance.
[please] Send running/sports shoes to:
Shoe4Africa / M.Kiplagat
PO Box 6943
30100 Eldoret. Kenya
Visit our FAQs page for further details on shipping information. [see below]
Hey, we know there are 1.2 million charities out there – Why choose Shoe4Africa. Please look at what we are doing, and see if you agree that we are a value-for-money charity worth supporting!
#How we select our recommended charities – A letter from Peter Singer
People often ask me: “Which charity, or charities, should I donate to?” This letter explains how I arrive at my answer, which takes the form of The Life You Can Save s list of recommended charities.
Our recommendations are intended to offer donors a variety of outstanding giving opportunities, and provide them with the information they need to find those that best fit their beliefs and values.
We take this approach recognizing that reasonable people will disagree about many issues surrounding the best ways to fight global poverty. Should we favor targeted or holistic interventions? How should we balance the relative merits of health, education, and economic empowerment? What threshold of evidence constitutes proof of impact? How literally should we interpret cost-effectiveness estimates? On these questions it is possible for reasonable people to take different views, and we want our recommendations to be a useful resource for those who answer them in different ways.
Each charity we recommend is an organization that we feel comfortable supporting now, and for the foreseeable future. We believe that promoting these charities represents an effective use of our time and effort toward ending extreme poverty. They are also organizations to which I, or other members of our team, donate.
We don’t consider our recommended charities the only ones worth giving to. There are many organizations doing excellent work around the world, but for practical reasons we are not able to identify, or support, them all.
Types of evidence we consider
We place a great deal of weight on recommendations from charity evaluators that specialize in finding outstanding giving opportunities that help the world s poor. We favor an approach that begins by identifying issue areas with promising cost-effectiveness and then finds particular charities that are best at implementing those interventions. GiveWell has been a leader in conducting this sort of analysis and Giving What We Can has built on this progress with their own research. When one of these evaluators recommends a charity, we consider that to be a powerful and diligent endorsement, and we re glad to recommend that charity as well.
Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) are often considered the “gold standard” of evidence, and these experiments underlie much of the work that rigorous charity evaluators like GiveWell do. In an RCT, some people receive an intervention while others do not. People are randomly assigned to these groups, so subsequent differences in outcomes can be attributed to the intervention. Many of our recommended charities run programs that are backed by RCT research.
RCTs are a valuable tool for donors seeking to understand which interventions work, but they are not the only type of evidence that matters. An RCT can give us confidence, for example, that deworming programs lead to improved health and educational outcomes. But for other interventions, they’re less relevant. We don’t need an RCT to know that a cataract surgery can restore someone’s vision, or that young mothers who receive surgery to repair an obstetric fistula benefit from the operation. But it’s also important to know that organizations that perform these surgeries are not doing operations that would have happened without their intervention, or unduly diverting local medical resources away from other areas. When considering these types of charities, we look for organizations that not only perform a large number of surgeries, but also target underserved populations, have strong reputations, and have a track record of success and innovation in the field.
Due to our position in the effective giving movement, we are privileged to have access to a tremendous body of expertise. We stay in close contacts with experts, including researchers testing interventions and nonprofit professionals fighting poverty. We also have discussions with like-minded foundations to understand what the “smart money” is doing. In short, we seek out ways to stay informed about relevant topics, and share what we learn with you.
The information pages we’ve published about each of our recommended charities include information about what evidence was used in its selection. These sheets also include links to more information for those who want to do additional research.
We’re proud to support the work of our recommended charities, and I hope you’ll show your support by making a significant donation.
Your partner in the fight against extreme poverty,
The Life You Can Save has a focus on eradicating poverty, but we’re also aware of significant interest in Peter Singer’s opinions on charities working in other areas. If your priority is fighting climate change, we suggest you consider donating to Cool Earth. based on Giving What We Can’s analysis on the topic. For donors seeking to improve animal welfare, we suggest reviewing research from Animal Charity Evaluators. whose top charity recommendations are The Humane League and Vegan Outreach (each of which run programs designed to yield significant environmental benefits in addition to reducing animal suffering).
#How We Assess Charities
“The research behind Giving What We Can is outstanding…it is changing the way we think about aid effectiveness, and providing the basis for well-grounded advice on donating to fight global poverty.”
– Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University
What we compare
At Giving What We Can, we try to find the charities which do the most good with your donations .
The research that we conduct is secondary in nature. We don’t conduct primary research ourselves for two reasons. Firstly, we are not currently in a good position to do so. But more importantly, we firmly believe there is already plenty of information and evidence out there. What we urgently need to do is to tap into it, evaluate it and communicate the results.
When it comes to comparing charities, some people focus on the percentage of donation money charities spend on their overhead costs. But this is only a minor part of what makes charities more or less effective. Some types of intervention tend to be much more effective than others, even though they might lead to higher overheads (such as research into more effective action).
Instead, Giving What We Can compares the good done by giving to one organisation as opposed to another. We believe that ultimately, that’s what really counts: Helping people to the greatest extent possible. When considered like this, the difference between charities is often astonishing.
A top-down approach
Evidence suggests that the biggest variations in effectiveness between charities are due to the big picture – the type of interventions they undertake.
Therefore we believe that charity evaluation should start with the big picture, comparing different areas such as health, education and emergency aid to determine which of these are the most promising. After that, you can compare more promising sub-areas (such as malaria or HIV/AIDS treatment, within health) and then the programmes available in those sub-areas (such as bednets and antimalarials, for malaria). Finally, we compare particular charities which carry out the best programmes (such as Against Malaria Foundation).
Comparing different types of charity
The question is how to measure and compare the good done by different charities, especially when they work in such diverse areas.
Different types of intervention do very different things. Charities which promote economic growth can be assessed by the increase in household income per dollar donated. Charities which work to prevent climate change can be assessed by carbon emissions averted per dollar. Part of our research is into ways to compare these different types of improvements. To do so, we look at the impact on people’s happiness and their ability to take control of their lives.
We currently believe that health interventions to be the most effective at improving the lives of people in developing countries. As a result, although we still investigate other areas, health interventions are our primary focus.
Comparing health charities
The most useful measure of health interventions is the concept of “Quality-Adjusted Life Years” or QALYs, which is standard in health economics and used by organisations such as the UK’s National Health Service and the Panel on Cost-Effectiveness in Health and Medicine in the USA.
In brief, if an intervention gives one person one extra year of life at full health, it gives them one QALY. A year of less than full health will be some fraction of a QALY, depending on the severity of the impairment (measured by things like the person’s ability to move about freely, to care for themselves, and to carry out their usual activities without pain or anxiety).
Therefore a primary goal of our research into health charities is to identify which charities will do the most good, measured in QALYs per dollar (or pound, or yen…) donated.
The impact of further donations
Although assessing the cost-effectiveness of existing programs of intervention should be the starting point for charity research, that is not the end of the matter. After all, we are not concerned with effectiveness in the abstract, but with the difference that additional donations would make.
That means we also need to consider the issues like these:
- If a program is already close to its capacity in terms of the good it can do, then further funding will just lead to diminishing returns.
- There can be a danger that increased charitable aid will encourage other sources of funding to withdraw from the cause, reducing the good done.
- Some charities have multiple programs of varying effectiveness. Even if a donation is stated to be for the more effective program, the charity may respond by shifting “non-earmarked” money from that program to a less effective one.
These are all things which we consider in our research before making our recommendations.
Finally, once we have found particularly effective charities, we frequently re-assess them, to be sure that we continue to point you towards the places where your donations can make the most difference.
Our biggest source of information, particularly for determining our charity recommendations, is the US charity evaluator GiveWell. Their rigorous research methodology focused on determining the overall good done by programs, combined with a strong commitment to transparency and the resources to investigate charities extremely thoroughly, make them an invaluable resource for determining the best charities to donate to.
- The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab – An excellent source of randomized control trial data on interventions designed to alleviate poverty.
- The Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries Report (DCP2) – This provides cost effectiveness data on a wide range of health interventions in the developing world.
- The World Health Organisation WHO-CHOICE guide – A cost-effectiveness report similar in scope to DCP2.
We have further information about some of key concepts for assessing charities .
#Where and How to Recycle Old TV sets, Computers, Printers, Cell Phones and Other Household Consumer Products and Electronics
Where and How to Recycle Old TV sets, Computers, Printers, Cell Phones and Other Household Consumer Products and Electronics
If you have an old television, computer, printer, cell phone or other household electronics that no longer work and you’re about to throw them out, stop! Send it for recycling instead! It’s become easy to do, by using the locators below to find a drop-off point near your home or office!
There are several ways to do this:
1. Retail Store programs. Many large electronics retail chain stores, like Best Buy, Circuit City, OfficeMax and Office Depot to sponsor free, in-store collection events. In some cases, these occur sporadically, but in most cases, you can simply drop off an old tv set (inside the store!). A few retailers may charge a fee or accept only certain types or brands of equipment. Click here to see the master list of stores and click on the one that is best for you!
2. Local community recycling centers and Private recycling firms – Many municipalities now offer recycling programs that can accept electronic waste, like tv sets. You can also take your TV set and other electronic waste directly to a private recycling company. To locate the closest center of either type near you, just use the forms below. The map on the left is specialized to find electronics consumer product recycling centers only, the form on the right find centers to recycle all products. They connect to different external databases, so they may provide different results, and you might want to try both.
Electronics Products Only
Click on your state below to find reuse, recycling, and donation programs across the country for your electronic products. And see these pages if you want to recycle your batteries or mercury containing lamps?
#Just Text Giving by Vodafone – How You Can Donate to Charity by Text
All you need to do is:
- Look out for Vodafone Individual Codes (or VICs) on charity and fundraising posters
- Text your chosen charity’s VIC plus an amount to 70070 for example: ‘SWIM36 5 ‘
- Reply to our Gift Aid text adding Gift Aid means your charity can claim an extra 25%
How do Vodafone Individual Codes (VICs) work?
Let’s say your local swimming club needs to raise money for an additional pool. It decides to hold a swim-a-thon, and joins JustTextGiving by Vodafone to aid its fundraising efforts.
You see a poster about the new pool fundraising campaign and notice there’s a Vodafone Individual Code (VIC) which might look like this: ‘SWIM36 ‘. You text this code along with an amount ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10) and the money goes straight to the club. Your text would look like this: ‘SWIM36 5 ‘ and the number you text it to is the JustTextGiving by Vodafone number: 70070 .
How much will it cost me to donate?
All text donations are free, and won’t come out of any inclusive texts you have as part of your price plan even if you’re not with Vodafone. You just pay the cost of your donation.
How is my donation collected?
When you make a text donation, it’ll either be deducted from your mobile phone credit or added to your mobile phone bill and you won’t pay any VAT on your donation.
Can I add Gift Aid to my donation?
Yes. Just follow the instructions we send you by text every time you make a donation using JustTextGiving by Vodafone. By adding Gift Aid, you’ll help charities reclaim the tax on your donation from HMRC .
How much of my donation goes to charity?
#JustTextGiving dissected: How does text donation work?
Doing Good JustTextgiving
Vodafone’s JustTextGiving service is bringing fundraising into the 21 st century in a big way. In fact, we’ve already helped to raise more than £10m for good causes in the last two years due to its sheer simplicity you can donate to great causes using your phone wherever you are in the UK, and all it takes is a simple text message.
But have you ever thought about what’s going on behind the scenes? The moment you press ‘send’ on your phone, your message flies off on a complex journey one involving several companies working together, millions of pounds worth of equipment and a surprising number of messages flying to and fro.
We wanted to unravel the mystery, so we’ve been for a look behind the scenes of your text donation
The beginning of something special
A JustTextGiving message starts out like any other SMS message, as Vodafone s Chris Clifford, explains: “The nearest base station communicates with your mobile phone using wireless signals, and turns your text message into data that can be passed along the network.”
Once the network’s gobbled up your text, the message is forwarded to one of Vodafone’s Mobile Switching Centres (MSC), where a building crammed full of racks of computer servers, cooling equipment, batteries, generators and cables helps to make sense of your JustTextGiving message. Then what?
First off, Vodafone needs to establish whether you’re actually in a position to make a donation. “Do you have enough credit on your phone?” asks Chris, “or are there any restrictions against your name and number?” These are the kind of questions that the MSC has to figure out.
How do you improve network signal around the UK, lessen the number of masts and pave the way for the best 4G network all at the same time?
A huge database called the Home Location Register (HLR) keeps track of this information: “It highlights what consumers are allowed to do in terms of their subscriptions,” Chris explains. “Our mobile switching centre will communicate with the HLR to confirm that.
“The MSC also needs to know where to send your message,” adds Chris. “That’s from information included in a configuration parameter on your phone we read that information to find out which SMSC (Short Message Service Centre) the message needs to be forwarded to.”
The Short Message Service Centre temporarily stores your text, preparing it for the next leg of its journey. If there’s an issue with the recipient, the SMSC can store the message for up to three days, and attempt to resend in the future. Unlike a regular text, though, JustTextGiving messages need to be directed to a specific Vodafone SMSC in order to work. Only that Vodafone database knows exactly what to do with your JustTextGiving message, which is to send it on to a third-party company called Velti.
Then the magic happens
Velti acts as an intermediary, connecting Vodafone and JustGiving. The company uses a complex machine to handle text donations, with all messages processed by software aptly titled ‘The JustTextGiving application’. Marcus Kern, Strategic Technology Advisor at Velti, explains: “The JustTextGiving application helps us route the message to JustGiving. It acts like a small post office.”
“The application’s main job is to do a bit of searching,” adds Marcus, “to see if there’s a valid keyword in the message.
“The keyword – your JustTextGiving code – addresses two things: which charity the donation is for, and how much money you want to give. A JustTextGiving code always contains four letters and two numbers £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10.” So, for example, somebody wanting to donate can text MARY92 £5 to 70070.
“So the JustTextGiving Application checks that the keyword contains the correct amount of letters and numbers, and if that looks plausible it passes it over to JustGiving. If it doesn’t, it responds to the sender informing them a mistake has been made.”
Providing the short code is all above board, Velti’s mini post office sends a couple of questions to JustGiving, asking ‘does this keyword exist?’, and ‘is this a valid charity or not?’
“The JustTextGiving application helps us route the message to JustGiving. It acts like a small post office.”
JustGiving responds automatically. And this is where Richard Atkinson, Chief Information Officer at JustGiving, and his team comes in: “We’ll also tell Velti what the cause is, or who the fundraiser is, so they can send a personal SMS message back to the customer, thanking them for their donation to the charity. The receipt of that text message triggers the payment as, in effect, it’s a premium SMS they’re receiving.
JustTextGiving is free to use on any UK network, and you’ll only be charged for the donation you make. The donation works like a premium rate SMS, with the cost of the donation charged to your bill.
The operator also recognises the 70070 JustTextGiving phone number ,” adds Richard. “It knows where to send the money when that number’s used. Meanwhile, we’ve created a record in our systems, and we know there’s a promise of a donation coming through.
“We can then let the charity know, and we can add the donation to their page. In the interim, we pay the donation out with other donations that have been made from other channels, so the charity receives one payment from us that’s made up of lots of donations from lots of different sources.”
Making sure your donations are safe
We know that the security of your JustTextGiving donation is really important, so it’s an issue that Vodafone, Velti and JustGiving all take very seriously. “We rely on the authentication of the handset when processing the text message,” says Chris, “checking that the SIM card being used is valid and ensuring the phone isn’t on a stolen list.
“There’s a firewall at the connection to Velti, and there are regulations around data privacy which controls what information we’re allowed to store for any period of time.
“We have a very, very high standard of security,” adds Marcus. “The underlying risk of theft is very small anyway though, because it’s not possible to make payments to anything other than a charity. That means that the only risk, however unlikely, would be that somebody would rob other people in order to pay a charity – it’s not actually possible to get money to out of the system.”
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So there you have it. In addition to being completely free on any UK network, JustTextGiving is safe, easy to use and surprisingly quick despite the complex nature of what’s going on backstage.
Thanks to the pioneering technology involved, all of the steps above happen in real time and near-instantly, with your donation appearing on a JustGiving page within moments of pressing ‘send’. What could be better?
Speaking of speed Now you know how JustTextGiving works, check out what F1 star Jenson Button has to say about it .