More than 200 million people got their first mobile device in 2017, and two-thirds of the world’s 7.6 billion inhabitants now have a mobile phone. Smartphones are the world’s preferred choice for going online too, accounting for a greater share of web traffic than all other devices combined.
In the past year alone, mobile giving donations have increased by 205%. It comes as no surprise that more and more nonprofits are exploring text-to-give as a way to empower people to donate.
One of the most widely publicized text-to-give campaigns was The Red Cross’s relief efforts after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. The campaign raised millions of dollars, including $32 million for the American Red Cross, from a mass of $10 texts to the word “Haiti.”
It was a strong introduction to a phenomenon that would soon become more and more common.
Text giving is a fast and convenient way for people to make a donation that can help save the day for people in need.
In this article, we’ll take you through all things text-to-give fundraising, including:
- What is text-to-give fundraising?
- What kind of organizations use text-to-give fundraising?
- How does text-to-give fundraising work?
- Text-to-give fundraising statistics
- Advantages of text-to-give fundraising
- Disadvantages of text-to-give fundraising
- Text-to-give fundraising tips and best practices
- Best text-to-give fundraising platforms
- Text-to-give fundraising FAQ
What is Text-to-Give Fundraising?
Text-to-give lets donors make donations right from their cell phones, using their phones’ native texting application and/or web browser.
Some make a distinction between ‘text-to-give’ and ‘text-to-donate’, believing that in a text-to-give process after supporters text a keyword to a shortcode, the donation amount is added to the supporters’ phone bill. With text-to-donate, after texting a keyword to a shortcode, supporters are led to a mobile donation page where they give.
However, most don’t differentiate between the two terms and use them interchangeably, regardless of if the donation is made by donors giving on a mobile donation page or via their cell phone bill.
Ultimately, text-to-give is a mobile fundraising method that enables donors to give through a few text messages, requiring little effort.
What Kind of Organizations Use Text-to-Give Fundraising?
All nonprofit organizations can benefit from this straightforward and effective fundraising method, but it’s particularly effective for:
- Emergency relief nonprofit organizations, who usually need to raise large amounts of money in a short amount of time.
- Churches also use text-to-give (sometimes called “text-to-tithe”) as a way to supplement or replace their traditional collection-plate fundraising methods.
- Educational institutions like schools, nonprofits, and colleges often benefit from text-to-give fundraising.
- Political campaigns use text-to-give to supporters at a time to take out their phones to donate and get the word out about the vote.
How Does Text-to-Give Fundraising Work?
The text-to-give process is simple and straightforward:
- Usually, through word-of-mouth, through digital marketing means, or at an event/service, a donor is asked to give via text.
- Donors typically send a text message (unique keyword) to a shortened number (e.g. 12345) provided by your vendor.
- The “keyword” or the “short code” triggers the next step. Furthermore, the keyword will typically indicate which campaign the donor wishes to allocate their contribution to.
- From there, usually one of two things will happen:
A. The donor will have a defined amount added on their mobile cell phone bill.
B. The donor will instantly receive a text message that includes the link to a mobile-friendly donation page associated with the campaign they selected.
- If their mobile device is equipped to use the Internet and when they are online, the donor is guided to a donation landing page where they give.
Donors can use the online donation form to indicate their donation amount and fill in their payment information.
- After they’ve given, donors should automatically receive a confirmation email in their inbox that includes a donation receipt.
- Nonprofits receive the donations either directly from online donation forms or through mobile phone service providers.
The entire process only takes minutes to complete.
Text-to-Give Fundraising Statistics
According to Nonprofits Source, these are essential text-to-give statistics:
– 1 in 4 donors use mobile devices to discover nonprofits they were previously unaware of.
– 25% of donors complete their donations on mobile devices.
– In the past year, mobile giving donations have increased by 205%.
– 90% of text message reminders are read in 3 minutes
– The average donation size for text-to-donate fundraisers is $107.
– It takes 90 seconds to respond to a text, versus 90 minutes by e-mail.
– Text donors are most likely to be between 49 and 59 years old, female, married, and college graduates.
Advantages of Text-to-Give Fundraising
Text-to-give technology allows donors to give to nonprofits of their choice directly through the text messaging app on their mobile devices. This way of fundraising allows organizations to raise money anytime, anywhere. It also meets donors where they’re at, which is often on their phones.
2. Simplicity and Speed
Text-to-give is one of the simplest ways to donate. With the right text-to-give software, a transaction can be completed in just a few clicks.
3. Intuitive Use
Most people use mobile phones on the daily, so donating via texting is quite an intuitive process. The learning curve is low, so donors can give without much hassle.
4. Impulse Giving
Donors who give via text usually make a quick decision in response to images they saw on television and involved minimal background research.
Furthermore, since the opportunity to give is so immediate and the process so fast, donors are more likely to follow the initial urge and less likely to get distracted. Online donations, for example, tend to involve more deliberation.
5. Word of Mouth
Text-to-give donors are likely to encourage their family and friends to give online and usually do so in person.
For example, Overall, 76% of Haiti text donors say that their friends or family members did indeed make a contribution to earthquake relief using their phones. Of those who encouraged a friend or family member to contribute, 75% did so by talking with others in person, and 38% did so via voice call.
Disadvantages of Text-to-Give Fundraising
1. The time it Takes to Access Funds
If your nonprofits work with cellular companies to run the text-to-give campaigns, the cellular companies will transfer the funds to the nonprofit once donors pay their phone bills, which means the money might take 30 to 60 days to reach them. This has, however, been solved by modern-day text-to-give providers.
Purchasing any sort of fundraising software can be a significant investment for your nonprofit. The costs associated with text-to-give software include costs for the software itself, the payment processing fees, maintenance and set up fees, vendor fees, shortcodes, and additional keywords and messages. Of course, some text-to-give vendors will be more affordable than others, so your nonprofit may not have to worry about all of these costs.
3. Donation Cap
In case you’ve opted for a more traditional text-to-give vendor, there’s usually a $5-$10 cap on all donations. However, next-generation text-to-give services have made the process of text giving less cumbersome by removing the donation cap.
4. No Clear-Cut Engagement Path
Text-to-give doesn’t naturally facilitate building deeper relationships with donors, making it more difficult to retain supporters through this channel than others.
This happens because donors are required to either just text a code to a number (where there’s no immersion with your brand whatsoever) or are led to a simplistic donation page where they enter minimum information. Requiring more steps would help solve this, but it would then go against the speed and the simplicity of a text-to-give process.
5. Low Retention Rates
According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the median donor retention rate for first-time donors is only 19%. That means that 81% of first-time donors will never give again.
One of the biggest advantages of text-to-give campaigns is that they can bring in a lot of new donors. This is great if you can keep your cost-per-acquisition low.
However, if you can’t keep those acquisition costs down, you may find that you’re spending more than you’re bringing in.
Text-to-Give Fundraising Tips and Best Practices
1. Hold your horses.
While it might be tempting to use text-to-give for every campaign and throughout the year, it might be wise to reserve this fundraising method for specific fundraising campaigns. Otherwise, you might be overwhelming your donors.
Nearly half–41%–of its Haiti mobile donors were 34 years old or younger, far below the age of a typical Red Cross supporter. Maintaining the support of this “new generation of philanthropists”–and immediate access to them via their phones–requires restraint. Post-Katrina, the Red Cross has reserved text campaigns for “extreme circumstances”, according to McAndrew.
2. Simplicity is key.
With text-to-give, simplicity is everything. The customized shortcode that your donors will use to donate and the numbers they text it to should be short and easy to remember. The longer or more complex the code, the more likely your donors will forget it or abandon the process.
Also, be as specific as possible (i.e. “OCEAN25” instead of just “DONATE”) and ensure your code is relevant to your mission.
3. Spruce up your website.
Revamp your website and online donation forms so they will load faster and be more easily navigable on mobile devices. Minimize required fields, use large text, and don’t cram your page with design elements to maximize your conversion rates.
4. Customize your donation forms.
Customize your mobile-responsive donation pages with logos, fields, and gift amounts. Display a thermometer showing donors how close you are to meeting your fundraising goals to encourage even more giving!
5. Combine text-to-give with your other fundraising methods.
For example, you can pair text-to-give with fundraising events to capitalize on the excitement created by in-person interactions (e.g. galas, marathons, walk-a-thons, and more). Also, share your text-to-give information in your direct mail outreach or your e-newsletters. This way, readers can give as soon as they read your letter or e-newsletter.
6. Promote your campaign.
Promoting your text-to-give campaign is critical to your fundraising success. Put together a social media and marketing plan to promote your campaign.
Create momentum and get the word out. Include both the keyword and shortcode on all promotional materials, website content, and advertising that runs for the campaign. Including it in board members’ email signatures and display it prominently on your website. Ask your supporters to share your text-to-give keyword and designated number via their social media channels and send out a press release to relevant publications.
7. Designate a coordinator or a coordinating team.
For best results, treat text-to-give as a completely separate donation channel (which it is). Text-to-give requires its own strategy, set up, marketing and promotion, and monitoring. If you’re able to, designate a text-to-give coordinator or a coordinating team (depending on the size of your nonprofit and the program).
Have the coordinator plug the information that you collected during the text-to-give process (i.e., donors’ names, phone numbers, email addresses, and billing addresses) into your existing donor database or CRM and use it to better your segmentation and outreach efforts.
8. Don’t forget to follow up.
Thanking donors is always important; so it is with text-to-give fundraising. Make your donors feel valued by thanking them for their gift and celebrating their contribution.
Most software providers will allow you to customize a thank-you email. Show your donors the impact their donation will have.
9. Measure, track, and evaluate.
Just like with any other fundraising method, you must keep track of the results of your text-to-give campaign.
As you go along, make note of what works and what doesn’t, and then adjust to keep honing your strategies and making more out of your text-to-give campaigns.
Best Text-to-Give Fundraising Platforms
When choosing the right text-to-give platform for you, make sure your provider’s software offers:
– Intuitive interface: The platform should be easy-to-navigate with robust functionality (uploading your logo, letting donors easily select the amount they wish to donate, seamlessly collect donor data, and more).
– Easy processing and reconciliation: Accounting should be secure and simple. All major cards should be accepted, and ideally, you should be able to ask donors to cover processing fees.
– Secure processing: With the right text-to-give provider, your team should be able to securely process all payments made via text with PCI-compliant back-end solutions and software. Communicate this information to donors too to give them peace of mind.
– Availability of funds: While tacking donations onto donors’ phone bills used to be standard practice (and still is with some vendors), most new-generation vendors let you receive donations instantly in your bank account, without any lag time.
– Support: While text-to-give fundraising is relatively straightforward, technical or other difficulties may occur. Look for a vendor who provides IT and other support, and that is easy to get a hold of and has an easily accessible library of resources online.
– Pricing: Be sure to confirm the price featured on the vendor’s website. Check for any additional charges, including payment processing fees, support, and set up charges.
To guide your purchasing decision, also consider if text-to-give will be a one-off method or an integral part of your fundraising strategy.
Text-to-Give Fundraising FAQ
1. What are keywords?
Keywords are the words donors text to donate. Keywords like “YEMEN 19” or “MARINE” help differentiate campaigns for both donors and nonprofits.
2. What are shortcodes?
Shortcodes are phone numbers shortened to 5-6 digits. Instead of texting a full phone number, donors text the keyword to a shortcode to donate. Shortcodes are ideal for text-to-give campaigns because of the nature of high-volume messaging.
3. What is tokenization?
Tokenization is a security process in which sensitive personal data like credit card information is replaced by a ‘token’ between a text platform and a payment processor. This increases security by reducing the chances of breaches.
4. Does text-to-give work only with younger donors?
Almost everyone owns and uses a smartphone. And surprisingly, the typical text-to-give user is actually a woman between 49-59 years old who has a college degree. Text-to-give will likely be convenient for many of your donors, no matter their age.
5. Is text-to-give secure?
If your text-to-give provider is PCI-compliant, the software should be secure. It’s essential that you work with a PCI-compliant service provider.
Note: PCI-compliance speaks to a set of security standards set out by the Payment Card Industry.
6. What types of payments does text-to-give accept?
This will vary from one service provider to another. Most text-to-give providers will accept payment methods including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Work with a vendor who offers plenty of options, so you can provide your donors with the most flexible and convenient donation experience.
7. Is there a cap on text-to-give donation amounts?
Most text-to-give providers these days don’t have a limit on the amount a donor can give via text message.
8. Is there a way to keep track of mobile donor data?
Yes. Nonprofit organizations will generally collect donors’ names, phone numbers, email addresses, and billing addresses.
With some of the next-generation platforms, you also get payment information, the number of times each donor has donated, and how much they’ve donated each time. This information is then easily exported into your donor database.
9. Can text-to-give donors set up recurring donations?
Usually, with most text-to-give platforms that lead donors to a mobile donation page, yes. However, this may depend on what text-to-give software you choose.
Letting donors set up recurring weekly, monthly, or annual donations, in addition to increasing revenue, bring in the much-needed stability to a nonprofit’s finances.
Text-to-give fundraising can bring in a high volume of donors, and it can be integrated with other fundraising methods. However, due to the limited amount of segmenting and personalization this method offers, there’s a potential for alienating donors. Furthermore, if you’re not an emergency relief organization, a text-to-give solicitation may not be as compelling to the donor as an “impulse” donation in the wake of a tragedy is.
In spite of these limitations, text-to-give is a powerful, yet often untapped, fundraising tool. It’s probably the fastest way for donors to give. They don’t have to write and mail a check. They don’t even have to turn on their computers. This lowers the barrier to giving and opens the door to a whole new pool of donors.
We hope our ideas and insights will help you decide if text-to-give fundraising is the right method for you, and if so, that you’ll be able to get the most out of it.