[UPDATED] Do SMS Donations Work?

[UPDATED] Do SMS Donations Work?

Gnosis Media Group

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

  1. Text the keyword to the shortcode (e.g., REDCROSS to 90999)

  2. Get the reply message from the charity

  3. Reply with her 5-digit postal code to confirm donating $5 or $10

An example text message reply from a customer of ours.

An example text message reply from a customer of ours.

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:

  1. Most nonprofits do not qualify for carrier-billed text to donate (You need $500K+ in revenue)

  2. You are limited in the amount you can accept, usually $5 or $10

  3. You cannot offer multiple amounts or recurring donations

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. You cannot customize the reply to messages at all

  7. You cannot send a future text blast to any of your subscribers or donors

  8. 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.

  9. Set up time for a service like this is usually weeks to months

  10. 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

  1. All nonprofits, regardless of annual revenue, qualify for our service

  2. You don't even need a 501(c)3 to use our service. All you need to have is a not-for-profit mission.

  3. You can accept any amount from a donor; you're not limited to accepting on $5 or $10.

  4. 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.

  5. You can collect additional contact info such as name, email and phone number. You could even request address info.

  6. You can send text blasts to donors and subscribers

  7. You can import your donors info into your own CRM system

  8. You get after-hours and weekend technical and customer support.

  9. Set up time is really fast, often under 24 hours.

  10. 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.

Bay Area Fire Relief Fund

One of our recent success stories was client Cumulus Radio. They used our technology last year on behalf of the Bay Area Fire Relief Fund during San Francisco’s terrible wild firesi. Through our innovative, peer-to-peer text to donate platform, the fire relief rund raised approximately $300,000 in donations in about a month!

The Musical Autist

Another successful client was The Musical Autist, an arts organization that brings entertainment to those on the spectrum. They hosted a fundraising event for their organization and raised about $60,000 over a weekend. The executive director, CJ Shiloh, said: "It went great! I'm very grateful we made that option available."

Text to give is just good marketing. Learn more about how our SMS donations service can work for you.

Eric Bryant, June 16, 2019

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