SMS text-to-give marketing represents the leading edge of nonprofit fundraising. According to an article by the NonProfit Times, “Launching an SMS program is among the best ways to generate new and diversified revenue.” Nonprofit giving was up 4% in 2021, and SMS marketing was up 12.1%, outpacing nonprofit giving by more than 300%.
SMS is the hot ticket for nonprofits. In this article, see three examples of nonprofit text message fundraising and what these organizations are doing right.
Benefits of SMS Text-to-Give Campaigns
Nonprofits started using SMS text-to-give messaging and quickly learned it was a highly effective fundraising vehicle.
The NonProfit Times reported: “Nonprofit marketers for years have seen the balance of donations shift from desktops to mobile, with more than 50% of online gifts now coming via mobile forms. With that being the case, it’s a short hop to SMS emerging as a true compliment to email in a nonprofit’s toolbox. It’s obvious: Supporters who donate over mobile have demonstrated a high propensity for responding to SMS appeals.”
During the 2020 presidential campaign, a survey revealed that 78% of all adults indicated text messaging was the best way to reach them. A stunning 99% of all text messages are viewed; 90% of those are viewed within about three minutes of being received. In comparison, email open rates are about 20%. Another interesting and relevant fact is that the average donation to an SMS text-to-give campaign takes about 90 seconds to complete.
Nonprofit SMS Marketing Examples
With that, here are three examples of successful nonprofit SMS text-to-give campaigns:
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross assembled a successful SMS campaign focusing on relief after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. More than 3 million people were injured or displaced. The U.S. State Department and mainstream media also promoted the campaign. The Red Cross collected $32 million using the keyword HAITI and asking for a $10 contribution.
The lessons included:
Provide a way for supporters to get involved. Individuals often feel there’s little they can do when an event as catastrophic as a major earthquake occurs. By letting supporters know how they could get involved, the American Red Cross was met with a torrent of people willing to donate money.
A sense of urgency increases donations. If the American Red Cross had launched an SMS text-to-give campaign requesting donations to the Red Cross, they might not have achieved that level of donations. They realized the public considers the Red Cross well funded. They conveyed a sense of urgency by focusing on the earthquake and using the keyword HAITI. It wasn’t about the Red Cross; it was about victims’ suffering.
Ten dollars isn’t that much—but it adds up. Most people can afford a $10 donation, and all those $10 donations significantly contributed to the $32 million total received. A study completed two years after the earthquake, conducted by Pew and the American Life Project and reported by CNN, revealed that for three-quarters of donors, this was the first time they’d ever donated via text message. A third of those donors donated to Haitian relief a second time. More than half of them also donated to relief efforts for other disasters two years later.
Santa Rosa County Schools
Santa Rosa County Schools worked with the United Way of West Florida to create a Stuff the Bus campaign in 2019. The goal was to help purchase school supplies for students who couldn’t afford them. A significant component of the campaign was urging donors to text SCHOOL850 to 41444. The Pensacola News Journal and three local TV and radio stations promoted the SMS text-to-give campaign. They told donors, “$10 represents one pencil box, 100 #2 pencils, scissors, and two wide-ruled notebooks.” Santa Rosa County School District handed out more than 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies in their inaugural year. Stuff the Bus is now an annual event.
The lessons included:
Show donors the direct impact of their gift. Letting donors know what their money supports and how your organization will use it helps increase motivation to donate and yields more donations. Donors feel a sense of comfort knowing you’ll put their money to good use.
Involve community. The organizers ensured everyone would learn about the campaign by getting local television, radio, and the newspaper involved. They did an excellent job of helping the community feel like they were part of the effort.
Oregon Humane Society
The Oregon Humane Society added peer-to-peer SMS for Doggie Dash, a walk/run pet festival that is their annual fundraising campaign. They spiced it up with SMS messages from animal characters. Recipients received text messages from a cat who shared information about the organization’s mission and impact. An enthusiastic dog sent out messages as a fundraising coach. Another dog, a “hipster” character, sent messages about all the fun gifts people could earn through participation. With the addition of SMS text-to-give, Doggie Dash yielded a 92% increase in registrations, a 121% increase in donations, and a 180% increase in participants.
The lessons included:
Have fun. The team creating this campaign must have had a great time developing the animal characters and crafting the messages. Participants and donors were sure to enjoy something different than the standard SMS messages they usually received.
Don’t make it all about money. Considering that so much of a nonprofit revolves around fundraising, not focusing on the money is often difficult. The main goal of Doggie Dash was to get people involved in the walk/run event, and the 180% increase in participants shows they accomplished that goal.
Partner with Nonprofit SMS Marketing Experts
Tatango has been in the SMS text marketing business since 2006, as soon as we realized the potential for this vehicle. We offer our clients the best technology, backed by a deep pool of experience. We’ve helped our clients send more than 10 billion SMS text messages.
Our clients routinely report that for every $1 spent on SMS text-to-give campaigns working with Tatango, they see a return of $5.
If you’re interested in launching an SMS text-to-give fundraising campaign for your nonprofit, we invite you to learn more on our website—check out the resources page, featuring blog posts, videos, ebooks, and other information to help you get started.