Text-to-donate vs. Text-to-pledge

Published on Feb 28, 2011 by Tahirih Klass Metzger | Category: mobile

Over the last few years many non-profit organizations have changed the way that they campaign for fundraising. New strategies leverage technology trends and take advantage of the popularity and increased dependence we have on cell phones, blackberries, smart phones and computers.  Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found that 82% of adults have cell phones. Of those cell owners, 71% use their phone for texting and 39% use the phone for accessing the internet. [December 28, 2010]

As a result, non-profit organizations are reaching massive numbers of donors via social networking and text-to-pledge campaigns.  Many donors are young, first time contributors unlikely to give via traditional channels.

Two relatively new ways to reach this group of donors are text-to-donate and text-to-pledge. Here is a brief description of each.

A non-profit organization establishes relationships with a trusted third party (TTP) and an application service provide (ASP). See our blog post about text-to-donate logistics. Once positioned to accept text donations text-to-donate may be incorporated with a non-profit’s fundraising efforts. Social media channels (such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube videos, etc) are common calls to action.  Text-to-donate might also be highlighted via traditional television, radio, and print ads.

Text-to-donate campaigns are currently limited to $5 or $10 per donation.  Since the donation amount appears as a charge on the donor’s wireless bill, no credit card is required (an advantage when attempting to reach young audiences).

Donations are made by texting a keyword, such as "HELP", to an abbreviated phone number (short code).  The donor receives a confirmation text message, confirms the donation by replying “YES”, and receives a final thank you text message. The donor’s mobile account is not charged until the donation is confirmed.

The ASP collects the donations and redistributes them to the non-profit.  The donor’s personal information (such as mobile phone number) is kept private.

Unlike text-to-donate, where donations are accepted in real-time, text-to-pledge campaigns are used to solicit donations and collect money later via traditional channels (e.g. a charge to a credit card, personal check, etc).

Text-to-pledge campaigns differ from text-to-donate as follows:

  • Fundraisers are not subject to TTP requirements
  • Text-to-pledge campaigns can be setup in a matter of days (vs several weeks for text-to-donate)
  • Pledges can be for any amount and are not limited to $5 or $10
  • Donations are collected later by the fundraiser or ASP
  • Fees and per pledge costs are typically higher than for text-to-donate
  • The phone number of those making a pledge is given to the fundraiser

Text-to-pledge lends itself to themed campaigns and can be used to create a competitive giving environment during live events.  Some ASPs offer the ability to display real-time donation activity on a web page which can be projected and made highly visible during fundraising events.  Donors pledge by sending a text message specifying a donation amount accompanied by a short message (e.g. “Save the dolphins”) to an abbreviated phone number (short code).  Almost instantly, donor pledges and messages appear on the web page and progress toward the fundraising goal is updated.  Donors receive immediate recognition for their generosity and others observing feel compelled to donate.

Donors receive a customized thank you text message from the ASP on behalf of the fundraiser.  The ASP collects phone numbers and amounts pledged and reports bothto the fundraiser.  Later, the donor receives a phone call to fulfill their pledge and arrange for payment (typically via credit card).  Not all donors honor their pledge. The fundraising organization may choose to contact donors to follow-up their pledge or contract with the ASP to do so on their behalf.

Text-to-pledge and mobile giving resources:

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