Czechs are the first to make charitable gifts by text message

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Like most small nations, Czechs are proud of their inventions. Pilsner beer, the word "robot" and even the soft contact lens are some of the contributions made to world culture and science by Czechs. A more recent technological innovation, the DMS, or Donors Message Service, is a big success inside the Czech Republic, and the inventors think it will soon catch on elsewhere too.

Last year, Czechs gave 38 million crowns, or about 1.7 million dollars to a variety of non-profit and charitable groups, just by hitting SEND on their mobile phones. No licking envelopes, no reading credit card numbers over the phone.

Veronika Bruhova is project coordinator of the donor's message service at the Czech Donors Forum. She says the DMS, really just a variant on the SMS or text message, is the most technologically-advanced way to make a charitable gift.

"It's really easy -all you do is write your sms according to the instructions given by that particular charity, and then send it to 8777, which is the same number for all of the non-profits. The amount you give with a DMS is always the same, 27 crowns. It costs the sender a total of 30 crowns, and then 3 crowns is then a sort of service fee, so the non-profit group gets 27. It's a unique project and exists only in the Czech Republic."

All three major mobile phone carriers in the Czech Republic support the program. They simply deduct 30 crowns from the donors' credit or add it their bills when they have sent a DMS.

The 27 crowns that the charitable group then gets equals about one US dollar and 25 cents. No great sum of money, not even enough to buy a sandwich at your local supermarket. But with more than one million four hundred thousand DMSes sent last year, Czechs made a significant difference to the 93 groups participating, among them the Salvation Army, UNICEF, and dozens of Czech non-profits, including the Ostrava Zoo.

Bruhova says DMS giving minimizes the member groups' operating costs, and helps them reach new donors.

"We are very satisfied because the non-profits believe that most DMSes come from people who weren't already making donations. Although 27 crowns doesn't sound like much, taken all together, it really does help. For one thing, it's a really convenient and modern way to make a donation. We also think a lot of young people who otherwise hadn't done anything for charity, are now making donations because of it."

DMS giving has existed in the Czech Republic since 2004. It was the brainchild of Ivo Jupa, an official at the Czech Ministry of Education, who teamed up with The Czech Donors Forum, a group supporting philanthropy, to make the project happen In the near future, DMS giving will be launched in Slovakia. The Donors Forum is also talking with groups in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Bulgaria, about introducing DMS technology there.