[UPDATED] Do SMS Donations Work?By Eric Bryant,
How do text donations work? Well, there are two types of text to donate service. One requires registration with a donations processor and cell phone provider and charges a set donation amount to the donor's phone bill. The other does not require carrier registration and sends the donor to a mobile-friendly checkout where he pays with credit, debit or bank account. We offer the second type; we don't bill the donor's phone bill. Instead, we build a seamless mobile checkout experience for your donors.
In the illustration above, the prospective donor texted the word AUTISM to the short code, 77948. The short code (77948) responds with a welcome message, followed by a link to complete the donation. When the prospect clicks the link, she is taken to the nonprofit's mobile-friendly checkout page (in this case, the nonprofit is using PayPal).
The donor then enters the amount and decides whether the donation will be one-time or recurring. Next, the donor has the option of either logging in to PayPal and paying with her PayPal balance or her bank account.
If the donor does not have PayPal, she can still donate by selecting "Donate with a debit or credit card." In this case, the donor won't need to log into PayPal. She will only need to enter her card details and donate that way.
Pros and Cons of Each Type
Obviously, the type of text to give where the charity takes the donation from the donor's mobile phone bill has the fewest steps. Usually the donor only has to
Text the keyword to the shortcode (e.g., REDCROSS to 90999)
Get the reply message from the charity
Reply with her 5-digit postal code to confirm donating $5 or $10
Such a fast checkout that doesn't require logging into a PayPal account or entering credit card details means higher conversion rates. That's the big draw of the carrier-billed text to give services.
On the other hand, there are some serious cons to this approach:
Most nonprofits do not qualify for carrier-billed text to donate (You need $500K+ in revenue)
You are limited in the amount you can accept, usually $5 or $10
You cannot offer multiple amounts or recurring donations
You don't get any details on your donors like name, phone number or email. This rules out any possibility of marketing to these donors at a later date or adding their contact info to a CRM.
You are at the mercy of the mobile carrier to disburse your funds to you. Often the carriers take 90 days or more to disburse funds.
You cannot customize the reply to messages at all
You cannot send a future text blast to any of your subscribers or donors
Because the mobile carrier is underwriting your donations, they can impose many restrictions like proof of your 501(c)3 status, IRS Form 990s, by-laws or charters -- pretty much any requirements they wish.
Set up time for a service like this is usually weeks to months
Costs for carrier-billed text to donate are exorbitant. Often a few hundred bucks for a set up fee, plus a few hundred bucks in monthly fees.
With a mobile checkout service like ours, really the only drawback is the number of steps it takes to complete a donation. However, we mitigate that factor by building for your donors a seamless, user-friendly mobile checkout experience. And aside from the additional steps and lower conversion rates, you get all the following benefits
All nonprofits, regardless of annual revenue, qualify for our service
You don't even need a 501(c)3 to use our service. All you need to have is a not-for-profit mission.
Additionally, you can offer multiple amounts and recurring donations. You can even leave the amount blank and allow the donor to donate whatever she chooses.
You can collect additional contact info such as name, email and phone number. You could even request address info.
You can send text blasts to donors and subscribers
You can import your donors info into your own CRM system
You get after-hours and weekend technical and customer support.
Set up time is really fast, often under 24 hours.
There are no set up fees or exorbitant monthly maintenance fees like with carrier-billed services
But Does Donating by SMS Work?
One question we often get is: Do SMS donations work, and how well do they work? Check out the infographic below for some compelling data.
The infographic above says it all. A good deal of research indicates that your nonprofit will raise more money with an SMS donation service in the mix than it will without one. Offering SMS donations to your donors increases the number of opportunities your organization will have to collect donations from your prospects.
SMS donations also increase your overall reach, giving you new audiences that you wouldn't otherwise be able to connect with. As people move away from traditional giving and towards mobile giving, you'll be best positioned to meet prospective donors where they are.
SMS for Donations: Case Studies
Many nonprofits are using text to donate services with good results. While there are always exceptions, the majority of our customers bring in substantially more in donations than they pay in fees for the service. Below are a few case studies showing the effectiveness of our text to give service.
Case Study #1: Bay Area Fire Relief Fund
One of our most successful customers was the Bay Area Fire Relief Fund. They came to us last Fall to raise funds for the wild fires that broke out last year in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through a partnership with local radio stations KNBR, KSFO, The Bone, KGO810, and KFOG, they launched an ambitious campaign to raise $250,000 to help Bay area residents who had lost their homes due to the fires.
Results and Key Takeaways
From November 2017 to January 2018 -- just three months -- the Bay Area Fire Relief Fund raised close to $300,000, surpassing their goal.
Think about your broader marketing: Using a radio advertisement in conjunction with text to donate enabled BAFRF to exceed its fundraising goals substantially.
Think about your timing: Text to donate campaigns often work optimally during crisis situations where the impulse to give is strongest. They also work well during the holiday giving season.
Multiple keywords can yield exponential results. BAFRF purchased a separate keyword for each radio station to use. This effectively segmented their audiences, as those who tend to listen to The Bone may not be the same demographic as those who tend to listen to KGO810. Having multiple keywords also enabled BAFRF to understand which marketing messages and channels performed the best.
Think about your audiences before launch. BAFRF had a plan, knew who their target audiences were, and created tactics to reach each market segment with its own unique messaging. This is key. No text to donate service is going to market itself. You are the driver and must know what types of messages best motivate your audience.
Case Study #2: Ripple Effect Artists
Ripple Effect Artists is a theater company that uses drama to raise awareness for human trafficking. They have been customers of ours since May 2017. Their success lies in their strategic and effective use of our text blast features. Each month, they not only solicit donations in an ongoing digital campaign, but they send out reminders, news, alerts and upcoming events to their subscriber base.
Results and Key Takeaways
Purchase our Smart or Pro Plans to make use of our text blast functionality.
Sending out text blasts keeps your donors engaged, keeps your nonprofit top of mind for them, and helps you raise more funds over the long term.
Send out follow up donation requests at appropriate times. This will help your organization generate more repeat donors. Read more on why retaining past donors is in many ways more important than gaining new donors.
Case Study #3: The Musical Autist
The Musical Autist, run by CJ Shiloh, a neurologist and music therapist, raises funds to create "sensory friendly performances" for those unable to sit still or be quiet to enjoy public performances. They utilized our text to donate service for one of their annual fundraisers.
Results and Key Takeaways
Using our service, the Musical Autist raised almost $60,000.
Combining text to donate at a fundraising event is typically more effective than using a text to donate number only in an online setting.
While most of the Musical Autist's funds did not come from their text to give option, they were glad that they made the option available, according to Shiloh. This underscores a point we make very often and which is borne out by research: most nonprofits will raise more overall by having text to donate in their marketing mix than they will without it.
Case Study #4: DCHS Football Boosters
The DCHS Football Boosters raises funds to support high school football programs in Douglasville, GA. They came to us in 2016 to help support their football teams.
Results Key Takeaways
A town of only about 35,000, the Douglasville Boosters acquired over 3,100 prospective donors in just 40 days, utilizing our award-winning text to donate service.
Don't be afraid to gamify your text to donate campaign. What made the DCHS boosters so successful is they were raffling off a Jeep as part of their text to donate campaign.
DCHS parked a Jeep outside a local public square with a sign on it reading "Want to win this Jeep? Text JEEP to 77948 and donate $100 to be entered into a raffle." This created an element of eager anticipation in the community, along with a lot buzz. The result: As buzz swelled, more and more people began texting to donate, and the tactic created a viral effect.
This also highlights the importance of having a strong call to action.
We estimated that DCHS raise somewhere between of $7,800 - $25,000. But perhaps more importantly, they now have 3,100 prospects to market to going forward. Remember, it's not just about the raw amount of donations, it's also about building a subscriber base that will support and publicize your organization going forward.
Even in a relatively small community like Douglasville, without about 35,000 residents, you can still create a big splash using text to donate. Think of ways to create buzz, intrigue and excitement around your campaign like DCHS did and you're sure to be a success.
Text to give is just good marketing. Learn more about how our SMS donations service can work for you.