Text messaging is becoming an increasingly important fundraising tool. Why? One of the reasons is U.S. adults now spend 10.5 hours/day consuming media. With all the competition for your donors’ attention, there’s a need to cut through the clutter.
Texting can do that! In fact, it offers a wonderful way to strengthen and build authentic relationships with your donors because it’s so intimate and immediate. Done well, it can create a potent way for people to connect with your cause.
The key is to choose the texting tools that will work best for you, given your resources and constituency, and to wield those tools with wisdom and responsibility. While I’m not recommending any particular products, much of what I’m reporting in this article I’ve learned from experts at Rally Corp and Qgiv. You can find additional platforms here; there are others as well.
Why text messaging is so powerful for fundraising
- Over 90% of Americans own a smartphone. And they look at it at least 80 times/day, on average.
- 98% of texts are read within the first five minutes – which is way better than the 20 – 30% open rates for emails.
- 39% of people have more than 100 unread emails in their inbox, with 20% saying they have over 1,000
- 10 – 15 minutes is the average adult attention span; short term it can be as short as 8 seconds.
- 90% of texts get opened and read.
- 45% of people reply to branded text message blasts; 5%x the average reply rate of emails. The most immediate information – where folks go if they really want to reach us – is found on smart phones.
- Almost 40% of Americans use cell phones to pay at least one bill. So your constituents are already accustomed to processing financial transactions via mobile.
- Studies suggest text messages generate average gifts of $112 per Rally Corp. Even major gifts are given this way today.
- Adding a text to donate as a giving option resulted in a 32% increase in giving over a 12-month period per a study by PushPay.
- A study by Qgiv learned 10% of donors, overall, prefer to give by phone. And it’s a higher percentage for certain demographics. While not as attractive to Boomers (who still represent the majority of giving), it’s true for more than 30% of GenX and Millennials.
Different styles of text fundraising
Text to give (bill-to-carrier)
The donor sends a text message to a short code; this is tied to a telephone carrier billing platform.
The donation is added to the donor’s phone bill and processed along with their other monthly charges. The money goes to the Mobile Giving Foundation; they provide the donation to your charity at the end of the billing period.
Advantages for donors:
- Easy (donor just texts the key word and then confirms their zip code)
Disadvantages for charity:
- More complex for nonprofits because you must apply to have an account with the Mobile Giving Foundation
- You pay annual fee
- You pay additional fee per key word
- Takes longer to get donations paid
Text to donate (form based)
The donor sends a text message to your keyword; this is tied to a form on your website.
The donor gets a link taking them to a simplified donation page where they can make their gift.
Advantages for donors:
- More steps for donors, but still user-friendly; conversion rates are very high
Advantages for charity:
- Less expensive
- Donations are processed immediately through your fundraising platform
- You can send automated follow-up messages to donors to remind folks to follow through if they got distracted midway through the process. “This is a friendly reminder to complete your pledge. Please visit ______ to feed a family today.”
Always ask yourself: “Is this the best way to communicate this with this donor?” If it is, proceed. If it’s not, use a different medium. Whatever you do, make sure you’re using accepted best practices. Outbound texting is powerful and personal, but it can backfire if it comes across as intrusive.
A key best practice is to have donors opt in to receive texts from you, just as this is important with email. That way they won’t unsubscribe, and you won’t get in trouble with spam filters. For this to happen, you must make a persuasive case to opt in. One of the best ways to persuade folks is to trigger FOMO – fear of missing out – otherwise known as loss aversion theory. It turns out fear of loss weighs heavier than hope of gain, and you can use this to your advantage.
Here are strategic techniques for building a vibrant opt-in list:
- Before an event, ask folks to opt in to receive texts with timely updates (e.g., you’ll alert them via text to new auction items added for bidding; you’ll alert folks via text when new speakers or entertainers are added to an event line-up).
- At an event, on-site or online, ask folks to opt in to receive texts when certain things are happening (e.g., they’ve been outbid on a silent auction item; the program is about to begin; dessert is being served in the reception area). You can use a chat box or, better still, a QR code to accomplish this.
- At a volunteer activity, ask folks to opt in to be the first to learn about popular upcoming activities that fill up quickly.
- During an advocacy campaign, ask folks to opt in to receive breaking news about outcomes or next steps so they can be on the cutting edge.
- After a survey, ask folks to opt in to get the results.
Make sure you have an easy way for people to opt out. Do this in the first text you send; periodically remind people how to do this within the body of your text. If you’re sensitive to donor needs this way, you’re likely to keep them. Even if they decide to drop off your texting list, they won’t get so frustrated they leave you entirely.
If you send folks unnecessary (from their perspective) texts, they’ll get irritated. Sending too many texts is a recipe for folks to begin to ignore them. Send them when you have information you’re positive donors will appreciate (e.g., getting to be the first to sign up for an event or bid on an auction item). Or when you have an emergency need, where you need responses to be timely. If you text an appeal, make sure the impact of your donor responding will be significant. For example, don’t simply text folks to join your FB page. Do text folks if you have an urgent need for them to contact their congressperson or sign a petition.
How to get started
1.Choose a key word.
- Choose a simple keyword. This is not like choosing a password. You don’t want multiple cases + numbers + symbols. Less is more.
- A word + abbreviation. EatSFFB
- A word + numbers. Feed30
- Choose a long keyword. If it’s hard to type, or difficult to remember, you risk typos.
- Tip: Don’t use two dictionary words together. Phones will autocorrect. This frustrates your donor.
2. Test your key word.
Type it on different phones (e.g. Android and iPhone). See if you get auto-corrected. If so, change your key word. Ask other folks to give it a try too, If they struggle to remember the word, make typos or encounter any difficulty, change the key word.
3. Finalize your key word.
To do this you must claim the keyword through your provider.
4.Spread your key word.
- Write it down so people see it: put a texting call to action — “Text EatSFFB to 50551” — everywhere you can think of.
- Say it out loud so people hear it: include in a short video on your website, on screen at your event, in media ads or PSAs, or livestreaming on FB or other social media outlets.
- Display in print ads so people can’t help but encounter it: include in newspapers, other publications, or on billboards, banners or bus shelters.
- Add to your direct mail campaign to offer alternative ways to give: include as an option on your remit piece, in addition to sending a check, giving stock, making a gift from a donor advised fund, or going to your website.
- Remind donors multiple times to maximize your chances: make your texting campaign multi-channel, so that each channel reinforces the other.
- Commit to continuing learning. Determine how you’ll monitor response so you learn what causes people to open, click, complete an action or opt out.
How to craft the perfect text message
1. Be clear on your vision, mission and values, and tie your message to your “why.”
The more your brand is in alignment with your constituents felt needs and wants, the stronger they will bond with you and rally around your cause.
2. Know who you’re messaging to.
Think carefully about what these people value before you craft the message.
3. Consider what success will look like.
What do you want people to think, feel and do when they read your message?
4. Be human.
People can’t relate to a robot. Think about how you can be conversational and authentically relate. For example, make sure people can reply to your text if they wish; don’t make them go to another medium to connect with you in real time.
NOTE: You don’t have to mass text everyone in one fell swoop. Text to a manageable number of people so you have the capacity to interact. You can stagger emails to different cohorts.
A word on donor preferences
After donors give through whatever medium, send a follow-up asking them their preferences for future communications. Offer text as an option. If they choose text, you’re free to send more messages via this medium. Send occasional updates about how their gift has been put to use, thank you notes or videos, and other touchpoints essential to effective donor retention.
Closing thoughts: texting is super effective!
Think about how much time you spend crafting donor messages.
- Now consider how many people open those messages.
- Now consider how many people engage with those messages in any way.
- Now consider how many people act on those messages (i.e., convert to donors; sign a petition; share with their networks, etc.).
If you’re not getting enough return on your investment of time and energy, consider text messaging as a more effective way to get needs met – both yours and your constituents. Texting as a way to generate donations is not only convenient for your supporters, it’s also recently become a relatively painless process for organizations. So, don’t get left in the dust; make texting a part of your smart digital-first, post-pandemic fundraising strategy.
Not yet enrolled in Clairification School?
Join here NOW to get access to all my articles, monthly tips (July’s will be coming in two days!), webinars, bonuses and discounts. My motto is: “If I know it, I want you to know it.” I do need to keep the lights on though, so if you appreciate what you read here I hope you’ll become an “official student.” You can read why others have joined here.
IDEA: If you have any funding left over for books or employee development that will evaporate at the end of your fiscal year, here’s a good use for a little bit of those unused resources. Just a thought!
To your success!
Photo by Shingi Rice on Unsplash.