ICM Youth Make Fundraising Mobile-Friendly

Community News

On days when we constantly hear why people have stopped coming to the masjid and how  various masajid are getting it all wrong, it is refreshing to hear how some masajid are doing things right.

Zubair Khan was a 9th grader in Richard Montgomery High School's IB Magnet Program when  he heard National Public Radio (NPR) announce SMS donations during its fundraising drive. " I asked myself, why does not Islamic Center of Maryland (ICM) have it?" ICM is his local Islamic Center where Zubair, from Rockville, MD, volunteers.

He searched online and told Br. Abu Wahid Khan and another ICM trustee about his idea. He followed this up with a written proposal with relevant information regarding the setup process, vendors, etc. and they listened. "The process is not difficult; anyone can go online and find out how, and there are a few requirements. However, it took some time for the idea to gain traction. But once there was an active interest, progress quickened. I originally pitched this idea in conjunction with a few others in April 2011, so... it did take some time," says Zubair Khan. The board eventually listened to a youth in their community who had a brilliant idea, whereas many may have turned him away.

In 2012, 50% of the top non-profits in the U.S. used some form of mobile giving. According to the Dallas Morning News, "the trend toward high-tech giving is unmistakable. ... It's not only inevitable but right that churches adapt to how people are handling money."

In 2012, 50% of the top non-profits in the U.S. used some form of mobile giving. According to the Dallas Morning News, "the trend toward high-tech giving is unmistakable. ... It's not only inevitable but right that churches adapt to how people are handling money." According to the American Express Charitable Gift Survey, "64% of people who donate today prefer the convenience of using technology-enabled processes."

Zuhair says that it is his personal belief that any organization that is fundraising should open every possible donation mechanism for its donors and make it easier to give. This leads to more people donating. "When a potential donor receives an emotional impulse to support a cause and make a contribution, the less thinking and time necessary to donate, the more likely it is the potential donor becomes an actual donor. It is crucial to remove any hesitance because it is difficult enough to fashion a convincing appeal. This situation plays out in every fundraising pitch. An example would be the Salvation Army; their bell-ringing volunteers send a simple appeal to donate in conveniently placed stations, when you walk near you feel a small impulse to which you respond by giving spare change. If you don't donate then, it is unlikely that you will purposefully walk back to the station just to donate later," says Zubair.

He finds another example in KONY 2012. This was a short video and online campaign that ran to promote the charity's "Stop Kony" movement to make Ugandan cult and militia leader, and indicted war criminal Joseph Kony globally known in order to have him arrested by the end of 2012. "Their effective appeal sent everyone in a frenzy to immediately donate after seeing the video and its conveniently placed messages to donate. A few months later, no one pays attention. The human psyche allows for intense fervor, but it does not last long. When we see or hear something, we generally think about how we can do something immediately," suggests Zubair," as time goes on, sometimes after a few minutes, it wears off, and that enthusiasm is gone. We forget or no longer care and the likelihood of a donation evaporates. The convenience to donate is key."

With that in mind, Zubair realized that many organizations allow one to text in a donation. Text a keyword to a five digit short code and it will donate $5 or $10 dollars by adding that to the donor's monthly carrier bill. "Initially, I saw this mostly with emergency relief agencies, but when I saw ISNA advertising the same feature, I decided that ICM should have it and went to work finding out how. Apart from ISNA, I do not know of any other Muslim non-profits that accept SMS donations. In any case, I thought it would be perfect if during an excellent moving speech, people could immediately donate on their phone," says Zubair.

According to Zubair, the platform is a mobile-friendly page on which a donor can make a one-time or a recurring donation. It does require one to use a credit card. The service also does allows a certain amount of outgoing SMS messages.

This is not an application, so donors do not have to install anything. Donors go to a link (http://icm.myw2m.com/) and contribute. Donors also have the option of remaining anonymous. All one has to do is, simply press/click on a box. This link can be accessed from  any Internet-connected device and standard carrier data rates apply.

ICM is hoping to launch the full mobile donation through SMS that only requires texting a short code with a keyword to donate in 2013, in sha Allah. Right now, the team is working with the application service provider and  is in the initial stages of setting up a cell phone user base to support that feature.   

"It is a new channel of donating, so it is starting slowly to be embraced. I currently do not have any metrics pertaining to this new donation feature yet," says Zuhair.

Zubair had Br. Abu Wahid Khan, a member of ICM's Executive Team and a software engineer at the Securities Exchange Commission, and ICM's webmaster, Br. Nadeem Amin (webmaster@icomd.org),  helped integrate it to ICM's current infrastructure as team mates.  This is the inspiring part of the story that the masjid administration valued their youth enough to use and implement his proposal for the benefit of the center and the community.

ICM is planning to build a large new community center, with sports capabilities, is expected to help the Muslim youth become more connected to their masjid community. ICM has emphasized many times that this project is for the youth.

To donate the link is : http://icm.myw2m.com/donate/.