We explore the lasting value that text to donate continues to offer in a crowded marketplace of digital fundraising tools
They may not be glamourous or new, but text to donate campaigns can be hugely effective for digital fundraising. And contrary to popular perception, text to donate campaigns are not on the way out. Far from it.
In fact, text donations are likely to become increasingly important for charities in the coming months and years for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the market for phone paid services as a whole – which includes text to donate – is growing strongly as people increasingly use their phones to make micropayments. Overall it grew by over £90m last year, according to research firm Analysys Mason, and 58% of adults used a phone-paid service at least once in the year. 6.2 million of those people used a text to donate service.
Secondly, the cap on text to donate donations was increased in late 2018 from £20 to £30. At the time the average donation was £5.76, but with the higher limit, this average is likely to rise significantly. That means that while a total of £49.6m was given in text donations in 2019, the total this year could be much higher.
And finally, text donations are a very quick and convenient giving method, and - crucially during the current Coronavirus pandemic – they are also safe and do not require breaking social distancing rules.
In general terms, these service providers allow you to sign up and then set up a text to donate campaign from an online portal.
The key parts of a campaign are one or more keywords, which donors text, and shortcodes, which are the numbers which donors text the keywords to. You also need to decide the amounts that are donated when a keyword is sent to a shortcode. Other details you need to provide include the wording for a "thank you" message.
For example, if your platform provider offers the shortcodes 67891, 67892, 67893 and 67894, you could set up a campaign like this:
Text HOTFOOD1 to 67891 to donate £1
Text HOTFOOD5 to 67892 to donate £5
Text HotFOOD20 to 67893 to donate £20
Text HOTFOOD30 to 67894 to donate £30
Once you have completed setting up the fundraising campaign it should be ready to run and start receiving text donations, which are passed on to you, less service provider charges which usually amount to about 5% of the funds raised.
After receiving a text donation, most platforms will send the donator a thank you text with your chosen wording, as well as a message asking if the donor wishes to apply Gift Aid to their donation.
Text to donate platforms capture information about your campaign which you can examine using an online portal. You can see the donation amounts and other information about donors, and this provides an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them.
For example, most platforms automatically provide supporters with the option of making their text to donate gift into a regular monthly donation, turning them into regular donors immediately.
Platforms like Donr also set up parallel keywords like HOTFOOD and HOTFOODnoinfo, so by advertising them together, you can give donors the choice of donating while either providing or withholding their consent for follow up marketing messages from you.
For a text to donate campaign to work effectively, it’s vital to use your keyword and shortcode in your marketing and communications where potential donors can see it.
When Tottenham Foodbank launched an appeal for supporters to make donations from home during the Coronavirus crisis, it shared its campaign details on Instagram on its main feed and in its stories, and it reposted them every time someone else mentioned it too.
The charity also shared posts containing the campaign details in its Facebook posts, as well as sharing these posts on local Facebook groups where it calculated people may be interested in donating. It also posted the text donation information on local mutual aid WhatsApp groups.
This cost-free advertising alone was enough to get its message out effectively, and in just four weeks the charity raised over £2500 through text to donate.
Keywords provide a very effective way for you to measure the effectiveness of different ways of promoting your text donation campaign. For example, you could use the keyword HOTFOOD in all your free online messages, and the keyword HOTMEALS in all your paid advertising. Then by looking at your online portal you could easily determine their relative effectiveness.
You can use different keywords to track donations from different sources in other ways too. For example, The Normandy Memorial Trust used a keyword to promote its text to donate campaign with its existing supporter community, through its website, social media and other communication channels. But it gave a different keyword to its corporate partner Nationwide Building Society, who promoted it in-store, via marketing channels and through adverts on television and in the cinema. Over a four week period, the charity raised £25,000 through text to donate, and it was easy to identify which donations had come via its own marketing and communications, and which had come via its corporate partner.
It turns out that text to donate works effectively with almost any kind of digital fundraising campaign, from the largest events to small initiatives from local charities. Here are a few examples:
The Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) estimates that about a quarter of all donations made to charity telethons are made by text to donate.
The British Red Cross has found text to donate particularly successful in emergency fundraising as it is simple to set up and immediate for both supporters and the charity.
Small ad-hoc fundraising efforts:
The Environment Trust held a lecture evening for around 70 guests at a local church hall to hear environmentalists discuss the natural beauty of the environment.
At the end of the talk, the mainly middle-aged or elderly audience was asked to make a text donation to support the charity by texting the keyword BEAUTY to a shortcode to make a £5 donation. A PowerPoint screen provided a written prompt of the keyword and text number.
By the end of the meeting about one-third of the audience made a donation, and a total of £114 was raised for the charity.