In 2004 on Boxing Day, the Asian Tsunami hit Indonesia. I was in Spain with my family. We desperately wanted to help. But how?
I was working for Wireless Information Network at the time, an SMS text messaging provider in the UK. We carried 100 million messages a month. Back then, people bought ringtones, games and sports alerts using premium rate text messages. If a download cost you £1, the mobile operator kept at least half. Clearly, this was not a recipe for the Disaster Emergency Committee to advertise on TV for donations.
I called the various stakeholders in the UK and for the first time in the UK, we managed to get executive agreement that 100% of all revenue from the text donations would be giving to the DEC fund. This was incredible for huge companies to agree something so significant without 6 months of committee meetings. I was very proud to be in the mobile industry and in a position to influence the decisions to help in a small way with one of the biggest disasters.
We raised £1m from consumers texting the 5 digit shortcode advertised by the DEC on TV. This thankfully set a precedent which later made this possible for many other good causes.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Of course, the mobile operators were able to look good by being generous, but that’s ok as they needed a little charm offensive given how much revenue they made from ringtones and games!