What is Text to Donate?

Text-to-donate is a type of donation engagement strategy that allows people to donate to an organization through their mobile phone using the text messaging service.

Text to Donate Diagram

Mobile phones have become a part of life for everyone. They are used in every social situation, every business process, in every part of our lives. Using mobile phones to seek donations should be among the top priorities for any non-profit organization that largely operates on donor support.

Text-to-donate is a fundraising strategy that aims to generate donations through text messages. It leverages the native text messaging system on mobile devics to engage donors effectively and efficiently, allowing them to make donations with just the push of a button.

The most effective text-to-donate campaign which showed the efficacy of this fundraising method was its use by relief organizations after the Haiti earthquake in 2010. It proved to be a simple and fast way to collect donations to support those who were impacted by the earthquake. The American Red Cross alone raised over $43 million in their campaign.

Text-to-donate helps all types of nonprofit organizations raise funds in a simple, effective, and quick way. However, it can be especially beneficial for:

Nonprofit organizations that provide emergency relief services as they need to raise a large amount of funds in a short duration of time

Churches to supplement their traditional fundraising/tithing methods

Political campaigns as they reach out to supporters seeking donations while also appealing to vote

To use a text-to-donate system, the organization first has to register with a software platform offering this solution. Once registered, the organizations can then send out bulk messages to their donor database seeking donations.

The donation process through this system is very easy. The donor will have to type back a short code like ‘GIVE’, ‘DONATE’, or something similar which will trigger a link to the donor’s message inbox. This link takes the donor to a mobile-friendly donate page of the organization where they can easily donate any amount. Once the donation is made, the donor automatically receives a donation receipt in their email inbox.

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Difference Between Text-to-Donate and Text-to-Give

Text-to-donate and text-to-give are used interchangeably. However, the two are slightly different.

In text-to-donate, the supporter messages a designated keyword like ‘DONATE’ to the text-to-donate number of the organization. This leads to an automatic response where the supporter is provided with a link to the donation page of the organization’s website. The donor can visit this page on their mobile browser, put in their payment details and other information, and donate a desired amount.

In text-to-give, the supporters have to text the keyword for a specific donation amount if they are willing to donate towards the advertised cause. Generally, the donation amount in such cases is between $5 to $25. Instead of taking the supporter to the donate page, this process adds the desired amount to the monthly phone bill of the donor which is then passed on to the nonprofit.

While there are many differences between the two, the four major differences are:

1. Donation Codes

In text-to-give the donors are asked to send out the ‘keyword’ as text to a short code number like ‘text DONATE’ to 54132. In text-to-donate, the donors have to send the text to a long code number which is similar to a regular phone number.

2. Payment Type

In text-to-give the donation amount is added to the donor’s phone bill. In text-to-donate, the donor is taken to the donate page of the organization’s website where they can donate any amount they wish. It allows donors to donate through their preferred method, be it bank transfer, debit or credit card, or their digital wallets.

3. Donation Limitations

In text-to-give, there are only certain options for the donation amount that has to be sent as a text message to the short code number. This can be $5, $10, $15 and so on, generally going up to a maximum of about $25. On the other hand, the text-to-donate option allows donors to donate any amount of funds once they go to the donation URL.

4. Interface

Text-to-give is solely dependent on text messages while text-to-donate takes donors to the URL which has the donation form that the users are accustomed to seeing.

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Factors to Consider Before Opting for Text-to-Donate

Like every fundraising method, the text-to-donate system has its pros and cons. Before deciding to choose this fundraising technique, the organizations must consider these challenges and benefits in order to make a well-informed decision.

The biggest benefit of this system is that it is simple. Everybody has their phones handy, and if they want to support a cause, there are less barriers to saying no. All they have to do is type in a keyword to receive the donation page link, from which they can then donate to the cause. The entire process takes only a few minutes, and they don’t even have to get up from their chair.

Another benefit is that this technique empowers and encourages small donors. Usually, nonprofits use large sum donations or grant funding to run their projects. However, grassroots donations are just as useful. The text-to-donate system allows anyone to support a cause they truly care about with as much as they can afford. This gives them the satisfaction of contributing to the cause and also encourages them to support it on a regular basis. The small donations coming in from multiple sources can add up to be a large amount, making a big impact.

On the other hand, the fact that the messages on text-to-donate campaigns cannot be personalized can be a major challenge. While the process of donating through this method is easier, the lack of a compelling personalized message may mean that the donor retention level is not as high, and supporters may not donate again. Donors usually respond better to appeals from organizations they already have a connection with, and personalization of messages emphasize this existing relationship.

Another challenge is that the level of effect is limited to the reach of the organization. The text-to-donate system works better with organizations that are already known to a broad range of people. The reason behind the Red Cross’s success during the Haiti earthquake was that the Red Cross is already a trusted household name and people knew that their donations were being used for the correct purpose. This campaign was also promoted during an NFL game, which helped the Red Cross gain more legitimacy and therefore donors.

However, many small nonprofits are not commonly known nor have those kinds of publicity opportunities to reach potential donors. As a result, they are limited only to the existing supporters and their networks, which can be small.

While text-to-donate can be very useful for some nonprofits, for others it might prove to be a struggle. Thankfully, even if the system is not suited for some nonprofits, they can always use other fundraising platforms such as emails.

Benefits of Text-to-Give Fundraising

When used wisely, the text-to-donate system can prove to be very beneficial for organizations. It is a simple and easy-to-start process enabling users to donate via mobile phones.


The text-to-donate technology gives donors the ease of donating directly through their phone using the text messaging service. This allows organizations to raise funds, anywhere, at any time.

Simplicity and Speed

This is one of the simplest ways to give donations. With the right software, a donor can make a donation within minutes via just a few clicks.

Intuitive Use

As people use mobile phones every day, donating through text messages is an intuitive process. People are compelled to read their messages to avoid an out-of-control inbox, making it more likely for the reader to respond to them.

Impulse Giving

Usually, the supporters who donate through text make quick and impulsive decisions, based on an image they saw on TV or a message they read. Also, because the opportunity to donate is immediate and the process is fast, it is more likely that the donor will complete the request.

Word of Mouth

The donors who give through text-to-donate are likely to talk about it to their friends and family and encourage them to donate as well.

Implementing a Text-to-Donate System

When it comes to launching a text-to-donate campaign for the first time, organizations should consider various factors. Listed below are some points that should be considered before getting started.

Choosing Right Software

As the text-to-donate campaigns require organizations to tie up with a third-party service provider, it is always important to explore multiple options before making the final choice. The various features available in the software should be considered, be it donation limitations or redirection to third-party donation portals like PayPal.

Spreading the Word

Even the noblest of causes will get very few donations if people are not aware of them. The goal of launching a text-to-donate campaign is to gain new donors and for that, it is necessary that people know about the campaign and the cause. Platforms like email, social media, or media advertisements can be used to reach out to more people and inform them about upcoming campaign efforts. Remember that text-to-donate is not a stand-alone strategy.

Capturing Donor Information

Organizations can miss out on the opportunity to gather donor support and loyalty because they are unable to capture donor details during the campaign. These contact details can be used to create consistent communication and elicit further donations. This happens because the donor is directed to a third-party payment gateway, but can be avoided by making it mandatory for donors to provide the basic minimum communication details like name, email address, and phone number.

Making Donor-Friendly Mobile Forms

As the text-to-donate technology works entirely on mobile phones, it is important that the donation form is optimized to function on mobile devices. The URL for the donation should be kept short in the text message.

Also, pass-through parameters should be used to pre-fill certain sections of the donation form, like donation amount and frequency, to save the donors time. The donation form should be kept as short as possible while at the same time collecting the basic information required to process the donations. Follow-ups can be made later to get additional information from the donor if not required for the initial donation.

Keeping Keywords Simple

The keyword that the donor will text to the opt-in number should be kept simple, not difficult to spell or forgettable. However, the keyword should also be unique to the campaign and not used by any other organization’s fundraising campaign in order to maintain brand value.

Having Proactive Campaigns

Often, organizations launch text-to-donate campaigns in cases of disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes when there is a requirement of huge funds in a very short time. This is called a reactive campaign. While these campaigns are helpful, it is always good to have a proactive campaign running at regular intervals as they keep reminding the donors of the cause and help build a stronger relationship.

Making Time-Sensitive Requests

The text-to-donate fundraiser is a good way to get time-sensitive donations and create community urgency. It can be used to encourage donations for a specific fundraising event, a special project, or any other initiative of the organization. When the organization asks supporters to donate to a specific cause it is more likely to generate funds.

Easing Donor Fears

In today’s digital world, there are clever hackers ready to scam people for their money. Potential donors are worried about whether the donation request that has come to them is genuine or not, and whether the money they are donating is actually going toward the cause.

To ease donor fears, organizations should ensure that the software they choose for running the campaign allows them to make personalized campaigns. Also, the phone number used for the campaign should be updated on the website, so the donors know that it is a genuine number. Any payment gateways should be legitimate and well-known.

Using a Coordination Team

To get the best results, text-to-donate should be treated as a separate donation channel. The channel requires its own setup process, implementation strategy, marketing and promotion plan, and monitoring strategy. To do this, it is important to have a designated coordinator who can update the donor information collected through the campaign into the existing donor database for better outreach efforts in the future.

Following Up

Once a supporter donates, organizations should thank them for their generosity and commitment to the cause. Many software providers allow organizations to send out customized thank you communications to donors informing them about the impact their donations will make.

Measuring and Evaluating

The results of a text-to-donate campaign should be tracked like any other fundraising campaign. This will help organizations understand what worked and what did not. Accordingly, they can adjust the strategies in the future for better results.

Text to Donate Can Be a Valuable Part of a Donation Elicitation Strategy

For nonprofits wishing to raise funds for a specific cause, text to donate can be a valuable part of the overall strategy. It’s a simple and easy way for people to donate with very few barriers to donation. However, it works best for well-known organizations, and it shouldn’t be viewed as a stand-alone way to gain funds.

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