If you have been following mobile giving, or even involved in fundraising, you have probably heard the stats from successful Text to Give campaigns.

After the disaster in Haiti in 2010 the Red Cross raised more than $22 Million just $10 at a time through Text to Give. “Send A Message & Save A Life; Donate $10 to Red Cross Haiti Relief; Text Haiti to 90999.” 

Alicia Keys asked American Idol fans to Text to Give and raised $450,000, $5 at a time. “Text ALIVE to make a donation to Keep a Child Alive” to benefit her foundation during an American Idol episode.

I have been in the meetings where a well meaning Executive Director comes in and says, “Red Cross raised millions using Text to Give; just imagine if we got even a fraction of that response. Why can’t we do that? Everyone has cellphone!” On the surface your immediate response is, “Of course we can do that, the numbers make sense, and good heavens, we are professionals!” I’ve been there and lost sleep over how we were going to come up with the next big Text to Give extravaganza.

We can show you how to raise money on mobile, but first let’s break down the request for a minute and get real.

It’s a Thursday in November and there is no disaster… now what? Thankfully there is no earthquake, tsunami, or landslide where millions of people need our help right now, but disasters bring out donors. Saying, “Text KIDS to 12345 to help send Johnny to a Florida amusement park,” is awesome, but it does not have the immediacy needed to get someone to pick up their cellphone and text to make a difference.

“Alicia Keys didn’t use a disaster, how do you explain that?”  Good thing you were paying attention, because that brings us to the second point. You need an engaged audience. If you haven’t already demonstrated your value proposition to your supporters (you know, that piece of what you do better than others and why you are worthy of their hard-earned money), you better be a well loved, Grammy-winning superstar or the equivalent in the pubic eye. You have one single chance before the text. The relationship needs to have already been built before you ask, either between you and your supporters or between your potential supporters and the person making the request on your behalf.

OK, just for the sake of argument let’s pretend you are Alicia Keys and you are working for the Red Cross. Beyond the distinct possibility you are reading this post in the rear of a private jet on the way to collect yet another award, you now raised millions through Text to Give!

Once all the excitement has subsided you want to start thanking these supporters who gave to you and get them into an on-boarding program. Just a little problem – when using Text to Give the donation flows through the mobile carrier and to a third party who has agreements in place to get the money to your organization. What doesn’t come with the money is the donor’s information. An anonymous gift.

Makes it hard to thank them, doesn’t it? It’s very much like the donor dropping their change in a Salvation Army red kettle outside a Walmart – minus the bell ringing. They feel like they are making a difference, but are they really? And how can you ever talk to them again without knowing who they are?

I know at this point you are kicking yourself for saying you can raise money over mobile and considering your plan B, but this is where it gets good. By using a text to donate strategy that returns a link to a mobile-optimized donation page you get the best of both worlds in terms of ease of use and mobile engagement. It sounds similar, but it’s different in so many wonderful ways.


Let’s take a look at this example, a purely fictitious charity named KidCure, to demonstrate the concept.

This first screen shows what your supporter would see if they sent the keyword “Give2Kids” to 51555. From social media to direct mail to a point of sale display, giving people an easy way to make a difference and a couple lines of information is all that’s needed to start that deeper relationship.

Text to Give is finite… you need to close the deal at that point in time. Once they hit send to give $10, it’s over.

No disaster, no problem. Using a strategy like this instead you are opening a two-way stream of communications where you can demonstrate your value proposition and get them invested before donating.

Now starts the two-way communications. The message that is immediately returned can reinforce the feeling, the story line, the impetus to give that caused them to send the first text. Remind them they are making a difference, and invite them to click on the link to help.


So far so good, right? Some key points to consider here. The donation page that you are sending them to needs to be mobile-optimized. We know they are on mobile; we just sent them a text, remember? You would be surprised at the amount of content we run into that just simply doesn’t work on mobile.

In fact, Google has announced it will begin penalizing sites that are not mobile ready on April 21.

Look at the example: large, concise text, easy buttons that work great on mobile, and a clean look and feel.

Make it easy to give here, folks; as much as we want mother’s maiden name and the last four of their social, this isn’t the time to ask. What isn’t shown here is that you can use the space to reinforce the reason they are giving, a tiny bit of text, maybe a photo of who they are helping – anything to keep them invested.

If for some reason you get them to send the keyword but they just didn’t donate at the time, don’t worry. You started to talk to them through mobile, and since they opted in to your communications when they sent you the keyword for more information, you can send gentle reminders and get them back to the point of wanting to give to you over time.

If you got them this far and they made the donation, nice work! This isn’t the old Text to Give where it’s one and done. You have all their information, you have their donation, but most importantly you have started to build their trust. Use this new channel to GIVE to your supporters, not just for them to GIVE to you.

– Mike Elliott is VP of Interactive Services in Innovairre Communications’s Baltimore office. For more information about mobile fundraising or Innovairre, contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com.