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Let your fingers do the donating

A NEW service is making it easier for people in Slovakia to contribute to their cause of choice just by picking up their phone.
The Donors Forum, an association of organisations and companies active in charity and philanthropy, teamed with the country's two largest mobile providers to launch Donor Message Service (DMS) on October 1. Mobile phone owners can choose from a list of charities and make a donation of Sk30 (€0.90) by sending an SMS.

A NEW service is making it easier for people in Slovakia to contribute to their cause of choice just by picking up their phone.

The Donors Forum, an association of organisations and companies active in charity and philanthropy, teamed with the country's two largest mobile providers to launch Donor Message Service (DMS) on October 1. Mobile phone owners can choose from a list of charities and make a donation of Sk30 (€0.90) by sending an SMS.

Slovaks have already used SMS to donate. Money collected through mobile phone donations was first used in Slovakia in 2001 to support the League Against Cancer. One of the largest collections was in 2004, when text messages helped the High Tatras recover after a severe windstorm.

The Czech Republic gave birth to the idea of a unified system for managing mobile phone charity collections in April 2004. Its DMS project gave non-governmental organisations and foundations equal opportunities to get financial support from individuals through mobile phone messages.

Over the next three years, people in the Czech Republic contributed to 320 charity projects for various NGOs. They sent 6,254,564 text messages which collected more than 169 million Czech crowns (Sk206 million or €6 million) for charity activities.

Now DMS is hoping to do the same thing in Slovakia.

"The goal of the project in Slovakia is to create a trustworthy mechanism with clear and equal rules for all the participating organisations, and to contribute to the development of personal donations in Slovakia," Lenka Ilanovská of DMS told The Slovak Spectator.

"A donor sends a message with the text 'DMS NAME' to number 877, which is valid for both mobile networks," Orange and T-Mobile, Ilanovská said. The NAME stands for the name of the project a donor would like to support.

Donors can find a list of the projects and their names on the DMS website, www.darcovskasms.sk ("Darcovska SMS" means "Donor SMS").

With each SMS, donors contribute Sk30. Charities get 96 percent of that, while the remaining four percent covers the costs of the DMS operation.

However, donors also pay for actually sending an SMS, according to the mobile operators' pricelist. If a donor sends the DMS in the wrong format, he will receive a message informing him about the incorrect format and he will not have to pay the Sk30.

All the NGOs and foundations that want to join the DMS system must register with DMS and submit a project for which they are seeking donations. An NGO must give regular updates on the progress of the project and how the donations are used.

"The DMS council makes the final decision on what projects will be allowed to collect money through DMS," said Ilanovská.

"The council consists of two NGO representatives, one representative of the Donors Forum, one independent professional from the media and one from public relations."

"With the DMS system, we were inspired by the Czech Republic, so we welcomed the initiative of the Donors Forum to become a partner of the DMS project in Slovakia," Juraj Droba, corporate communications director for T-Mobile, told The Slovak Spectator. "We felt it was the right thing to do in order to simplify and improve fundraising conditions for NGOs."

Richard Fides, spokesman of Orange Slovensko, said the DMS should bring NGOs a unified and long-term mechanism for financial collections.

"We are convinced that Donor Message Service will become another popular way of helping," he said.

On the Czech DMS website, which has been running for more than three years, donors can choose from almost 90 projects to support. The recently-launched DMS project in Slovakia is starting out with five.

The Community Foundation of Liptov is focused on improving the quality of life in the Liptov region in central Slovakia. Their project, Active Young PhiLips (Philanthropists of Liptov), will help improve the environment in a medical centre for children with behavioural disorders.

The forest protection group VLK (Wolf) wants to create protected natural areas without any human impact with their project, Save the Forest.

A project by REVIA - a community foundation in the Small Carpathians Wine Route in western Slovakia - aims to improve the living conditions for people with disabilities in the region.

The Svetielko Foundation (Little Light) helps children suffering from cancer. The goal of the Switch on Your Light of Help project is to cover part of the cancer treatment costs for children from low-income families.

Úsmev ako dar (A Smile as a Gift), which supports children in orphanages, has a project called On the Way to a Family. The project would like to help the children be placed in a family and create a real home for them.

The idea of DMS is also spreading to more countries, Ilanovská said. In June, the DMS system was launched in Bulgaria.

The owner of the DMS license is also in talks with organisations similar to the Donors Forum in other European countries.

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