Wireless consumers with a charitable conscience now have a wireless service built just for them.
The new prepaid service GIV Mobile launches Wednesday. The service, which basically resells T-Mobile network service, is unique in that it allows customers to designate up to three charities as recipients of monthly charitable contributions. The company says it will donate 8 percent of the monthly service fee or up to $50 a year directly to these designated charities.
This means that 8 percent of the $40 or $50 you pay each month for unlimited voice, text messaging and data service will automatically be contributed monthly to a favorite charity, such as the American Cancer Society or the Nature Conservancy.
Right now, GIV Mobile users can choose from 37 different charities that include a wide range of interests from animal welfare charities, such as the American Veterinary Medical Foundation to health-based charities, like the Alzheimer's Association to disaster relief services, such as the American Red Cross, or International organizations, like United States Fund for UNICEF.
Here's a list of the charities currently supported through the program:
- Animal Welfare: American Veterinary Medical Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, PetSmart Charities, WCS Wildlife Conservation Society
- Arts, Culture & Humanity: The Academy of Natural Sciences, Archaeological Conservancy, Fractured Atlas, Little Kids Rock, StoryCorps
- Education: Children's Scholarship Fund, Donors Choose, Kids in Need Foundation, Scholarship America
- Environment: American Rivers, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society
- Health: Alzheimer's Association, American Cancer Society, Commonweal, Patient Services Incorporated, St Jude Children's Research Hospital
- International: Camfed USA, Doctors Without Borders, Direct Relief International, United States Fund for UNICEF
- Human Services: American Red Cross, The Children's Aid Society, Dress for Success, Feeding America, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Ronald McDonald House Charities
- Public Benefit: American Endowment Foundation, Carnegie Institution for Science, Mercy Housing, Taproot Foundation, United Way Worldwide
The company says it will be adding more charities once it has vetted those organizations. It expects to update its list at least twice a year. And customers will be able to nominate and vote on the charities it most wants to contribute.
While the service is not much different from other MVNOs or mobile virtual network operator services, which resell services from a major carrier under a different brand, it is going after a specific demographic and is trying to jump on the bandwagon of a growing trend in which companies create products or make it easier for people to contribute to charities. A customer that might be interested in this service could be someone who wears a wristband to financially support and bring awareness to certain charities, or it might appeal to someone who contributes $1 when checking out at retailers, like Walgreens.
"Those dollars really add up," said Omar Abhari, senior vice president of operations for Platinum Cell Communications, the parent-company of GIV Mobile.
The company is hoping that its focus on contributing to consumers' favorite charities will be an effective differentiator in an increasingly crowded market of prepaid wireless services. The idea is that people who are interested in this service will recommend it to their friends. Not only will they get a great deal and good service, Abhari said, they also get the chance to help someone.
"Everybody likes to give and everybody has a cell phone," he said. "So it makes sense to marry the two together."
The one thing it's not, Abhari said, is gimmicky.
"If we wanted to do something gimmicky, we would be contributing only 1 percent," Abhari added. "We are taking money from the topline. And it's not an insignificant amount. If you believe in helping fight cancer why not have cell phone service that donates to charity that is fighting that?"