How Does Text-to-Donate Work?By Eric Bryant,
You may have wondered about the benefits of donating through text. Here's how to set up a text to donate program for your nonprofit. First, let's talk more about how text to donate services work.
Mobile Carrier Billing vs. Mobile Checkout
Basically, there are two types of text-to-donate services. One type of text-to-donate is where a donor texts a keyword to your short code, and later the donor's mobile carrier adds $5 or $10 extra onto her bill. Once the donor pays his bill, the mobile carrier sends you the extra $5 or $10 as your donation.
The second type is sometimes called a “text to pledge” service. (Text to give, text to donate, and text to pledge are often used interchangeably.) In this example, the donor makes a pledge by text message. It works the same as the other, except that the donor's phone bill is not billed; i.e., the mobile carrier is not acting as an underwriter for donated funds. Instead, the donor is sent a payment link (like Paypal or some other 3rd-party payment processor) to complete her donation.
Which Text to Donate Service Is Better?
One is not necessarily better than the other. They both have their pros and cons. But remember: the mobile carrier billed text-to-donate services use the mobile carrier as a guarantor/underwriter of funds. This means that the mobile carrier incurs greater liability. The mobile carrier has to bill its customers more to account for your donations. What if the customer is delinquent on his bill? Now the mobile carrier is out those funds, but it still has to pay your nonprofit.
This greater liability brings with it stricter rules, restrictions and regulations that may not be so agreeable to your nonprofit, for example:
There is a minimum revenue requirement to qualify for the mobile carrier billing type of text-to-donate. Your nonprofit must have generated at least $500,000 in revenue in the previous tax reporting year.
You have to have an IRS Form 990, which requires that you be a certified 501(c)3 organization.
With mobile-carrier billing, you sometimes have to wait 3 months or more to receive your funds from the mobile carrier.
You don't get always get detailed information on your donors.
Donors are sometimes limited to only giving $5 or $10. You generally cannot give them the option to fill in what they want, nor can you always provide recurring donations.
These mobile-carrier billed short codes usually cost a few hundred bucks in set up fees and exorbitant monthly fees, just to keep the code active - whether or not you raise and funds at all. For many nonprofits, the cost of the service far outweighs the revenue they will generate from it.
Along with that, there usually is no money-back guarantee, which we offer.
You generally cannot customize the reply text messages very much. You’re stuck saying what the provider requires you to say.
You generally cannot send follow up text blasts to all your subscribers later on.
How Our Text to Give Service Works
A text-to-donate service like ours gives you certain options that the mobile carrier billed services don’t. Here are some of the benefits of our service:
There is no minimum revenue requirement to use our service.
We don't require any IRS forms or even a 501(c)3. You only need to have a not-for-profit or charitable purpose to use our service.
If you use our PayPal integration, you get your funds immediately. If you use us as a payment processor, you get your funds within 15-30 days.
You get the phone numbers of everyone who texts your keyword to your short code. We can also collect additional information from donors, which helps you with future marketing and outreach.
Donors may give any amount they choose. We can also offer them multiple options, like $5, $10, $25, $50 or $100 options.
You can also set up recurring donations with us; you cannot do this with a mobile-carrier billed option.
We don't charge a set up fee, and our monthly fees are very affordable.
You can customize the text message replies.
You can have multiple keywords; you can only have one keyword with mobile-carrier billing.
You can send future text messages to your donors, which you cannot do with mobile-carrier billing.
Why Use A Text to Donate Service?
Why would a nonprofit use a text to donate service? In short, because it works.
Texting is probably the most common use for mobile devices around the world. And if you're planning to acquire the next generation of millenial donors, you're much more likely to reach them via text than through any other medium. As mobile adoption continues to increase, it just makes sense that you'll reach a larger audience by making use of a specifically-mobile medium like text messaging.
Is A Text to Donate Service Effective?
Absolutely. Think about it. People carry their cell phones everywhere nowadays. On the beach. In the delivery room. In the movie theater. There is nowhere people go where they do not take their phones. Texting is one of the most ubiquitous, effective forms of communication ever invented.
Texting is fast, simple and easy. And it's built in by default into every phone manufactured. No app to download, you don't even need a data plan or WiFi in many cases. Texting is one of the most underrated business technologies around.
According to TextRequest, 97% of all U.S. smartphone users have texted at least once within the last week. In general, people text more than they use the Internet.
As expected, the younger the audience, the more often they text. So, if you want to reach the next generation of donors, it benefits your nonprofit to have a text to donate platform in your fundraising arsenal.
Is Donating by Text Safe?
While old-school SMS apps were not as secure, most people use the newer messaging apps like WhatsApp, iMessage and Signal. These apps offer full, end-to-end encryption of all messages sent to and from their servers. This means that the messages are encoded (scrambled) at the moment the sender hits “send” to the moment the message arrives in the receiver’s app. This is highly secure.
Other popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Skype, offer in-transit encryption. This means that the messages are not encrypted at the send and receive stages, but they are scrambled/encoded throughout their journey from the sender to the recipient. Although not as secure as end-to-end, this still offers a very high level of security.
Also remember that basic, native SMS does not require a username or a password. Some might say this makes the service less secure, but in a sense it makes it more secure. Requiring no password means there is no password or username to hack. Generally, a hacker has to be in possession of your mobile device and hack your phone’s PIN lock in order to get to your native text messages. Whereas expert hackers can crack email usernames and passwords without needing any access to your actual device.
Texting Isn’t Slowing Down
Today, with the introduction of Rich Communications Services and a plethora of messaging apps from WhatsApp to iMessage to Snapchat, it’s harder to know exactly how many text messages are being sent each day. But rest assured, texting isn’t slowing down; it’s increasing. TextRequest estimates that, Americans send and receive about 94 text messages per day on average.
So the moral is: If you're not taking advantage of texting for fundraising, you're missing out on an essential component of your fundraising marketing mix. Try our text to donate service and start collecting more donations today.