Mobile Loaves & Fishes uses text donations to fight homelessness

Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF), an Austin, TX-based nonprofit, launched a mobile campaign on April 27 to raise money to fight homelessness. MLF, marketing firm T3 and Reagan Outdoor Advertising collaborated on the “I Am Here” program. T3, which created the campaign’s major concepts, is also managing MLF’s text donations through the Mobile Giving Foundation. Reagan donated the billboard space.

The group’s goal is to raise money for food, housing and clothing for the dispossessed in the Austin, TX metropolitan area.

The creative elements star a local homeless couple, Danny and Maggie, and encourage consumers to give enough money to find them a home. The campaign, which directs consumers to text a donation, will run on billboards, social media, print, radio, TV and banner ads in addition to mobile. It also includes a dedicated campaign site with photos and video.

“The strategy is to raise awareness of this critical issue, particularly for the community here in Austin,” said Alan Graham, president of MLF. “And we really want to figure out how powerful mobile text-to-give is going to be.”

The billboard’s call to action asks consumers to text “Danny” to 20222 to donate $10 to get him and his wife into a home through MLF’s Habitat on Wheels program. The billboard encourages consumers to visit a Web site that features Danny and Maggie’s personal story at

“Mobile can’t live on its own,” said Ben Gaddis, director of mobile and emerging technology at T3. “That is why we are using online video, social media, out-of-home, print and TV.”

To house the couple, the campaign will need to raise $12,000. The organization will house more families if it raises additional money.

MLF plans to invite mobile donors to opt in for mobile or e-mail updates about Danny and Maggie.

The campaign is MLF’s first text-todonate initiative. However, the group could conduct similar campaigns in the future if this push is successful. Although it is based in Austin, MLF has offices that conduct local outreach in cities around the country, including San Antonio, New Orleans, Minneapolis and Providence, RI.

Gaddis said that the ability to donate to a charity via text takes the worry out of giving money to an individual, who many consumers believe would spend it on drugs or alcohol.

“I might be worried that if I walk by a homeless guy and give him $5 that maybe I am not helping him, but just enabling him,” he said. “The phone lets you give with immediacy, but know that it is going to a cause that is going to do the best work with those dollars.”

The American Red Cross used a mobile text-to-donate campaign to raise money for the victims of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. Within the first week of its effort, the Red Cross raised more than $24 million.

“Being able to push out and message people to respond financially has been powerful,” said Graham. “The Red Cross was very inspiring in their Haiti efforts.”

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