Political Campaign Text Message Donations – What You Need To Know

In 2012, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced that political campaigns could make use of SMS marketing to raise campaign funds. This significantly changed the political campaign environment and is still in effect today. To help campaign managers navigate these rules, we’ve written and revamped our brief guide about this decision.

Political SMS Messaging Software

We’ve outlined all of the rules for political campaign text message donations below. If you have a question about running your own text-to-donate campaign for a political candidate or committee, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Political Campaign Text Message Donations       Political Campaign SMS Donations

Types of Donation Methods

There are two types of political text message donation methods:

The first method is SMS keyword registration. An interested party must send a keyword to a premium SMS short code, registered to the political campaign. For example, “Text DONATE to 68398.” That person would receive an automated response asking them to confirm the transaction and certify that they’re eligible to contribute under the Act and Commission regulations.

The second method requires that a person submit their mobile phone number on a political campaign’s website. Before submitting the mobile phone number, they’re required to certify their eligibility to contribute under the Act and Commission regulations. Once that’s done and the person submits their mobile phone number, they’ll receive a PIN code on their phone which they would then enter on the political campaign’s website to confirm the transaction.

The Rules

Let’s break down the rules of political campaign SMS fundraising:

  1. Political campaigns can only provision SMS short codes for use here in the United States, which means there can be no foreign contributions. 
  2. A contract between an SMS provider and a political candidate or committee must include special provisions that require compliance with the requirements set by the FEC.
  3. Each political candidate or committee must be registered and be in good standing with the FEC and relevant State authorities to collect donations via text message.
  4. Each political candidate or committee must receive donations through a single SMS short code per election. This means candidates can’t switch short codes mid-election or operate multiple SMS short codes.
  5. No mobile phone number may donate more than $50 per month to any one political candidate or committee. This will be as simple as imposing spending limits on each single short code.
  6. Each text message confirmation must include a hyperlink to a mobile webpage that includes the unabbreviated attestation. The mobile web page should also explain terms such as “foreign national” and “Federal contractor.”
  7. Text message donations must be sent to the campaign’s treasurer within ten days of receipt. Wireless carriers take up to 60 days to remit text message donations, so a process called “factoring” must be used. Typical factors will range between 50 percent and 90 percent of the total “out payment,” which represents the total donation amount after all fees have been deducted by the wireless service providers and SMS providers. A typical out payment will range between 50 percent and 70 percent of the donation.
  8. If a political candidate or committee receives factored payments that exceed the amount of out payments due, they may not terminate the service or transfer services, programs, or short codes from the SMS provider until it has repaid. The SMS provider may require that the political candidate or committee refund to the SMS provider any overpayment that results from a higher than expected number of subscribers refusing to pay text message charges on their bills. Similarly, if an SMS provider is charged an adjustment by a Network Operator exceeding the total amount owed by the SMS provider to its customer, the SMS provider may require the customer to repay the factored payment.
  9. The SMS provider must remit factored payments to political candidates or committees on a weekly basis.
  10. The SMS provider will be prohibited from sending the political candidate or committee any identifiable information associated with that mobile phone number.
  11. The SMS provider will provide the following information to the political candidate or committee regarding each individual mobile phone number:
    1. The donation amount.
    2. The date of the donation.
    3. Confirmation that the donor agreed to have the contribution charged to their wireless bill.
    4. Confirmation that the donor agreed to questions indicating their eligibility to contribute.
  1. The SMS provider must be able to keep a running, real-time tally of the dollar amount of donations made via text message from a particular telephone number.
  2. The SMS provider must allow real-time, secure access to the SMS platform where the tally of donations will be maintained.
  3. The SMS provider must allow political candidates’ and committees’ customers to block text message donations from phone numbers associated with pre-paid carriers and any other phone number at any time and for any reason.

As you can see, there are a lot of rules and regulations that a campaign manager has to think about before starting a text-to-donate campaign. We hope this article helped you get a grasp of these rules and regulations. If you’re interested in running one of these political SMS marketing campaigns, don’t attempt it on your own. Contact Tatango and let us help you navigate these issues and make your political campaign a success. We’re the experts—we can help.

If you have other questions or concerns about SMS marketing in general, browse our extensive SMS marketing support library. We’ve built a comprehensive database on text message marketing for your convenience.


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