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United Way's launch of text message fund-raising encounters technical difficulties

Last Thursday, the United Way of Central Carolinas launched a social media fund-raising campaign. It started with a plea for people to use their cell phone and text $5 donations. But many people who tried to donate encountered technical difficulties. WFAE's Greg Collard reports. Charities across the country are having a tough time. Donations have decreased while the need for services has increased. Last year, the United Way of Central Carolinas fund-raising campaign fell $14 million short. Things haven't improved. "So we really started to think outside the box," says the United Way's Shannon Young. The United Way is using applications on Facebook and Twitter for help. And the cell phone. Last week's NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins included a plea from the stadium's giant scoreboard: Text your donation, and that money will be added to your phone bill. But Young says most people encountered error messages. She says only a few hundred dollars in donations went through. The United Way is still trying to figure out what went wrong, but Young says the agency isn't giving up on social media fundraising. Last year in Minnesota the United Way of Twin Cities held a similar 3-week campaign and raised and $20,000. Andy Goldman-Gray of the Twin Cities United Way says the agency expects social media giving to account for 25 percent of all donations in five years. Many charities are in search of news ways to get money, says Todd Cohen, the editor and publisher of 0Philanthropy Journal, an online publication base in Raleigh. He says it makes sense for groups to fund-raise through new social media technology. "If that's how people are communicating, then non-profits need to understand that you got to reach people in the way that they communicate," Cohen says. But he doesn't expect social media to replace traditional fund-raising. He says most people donate to charities only after they've established trust. And that trust is usually earned face-to-face.