Iain Williams explains how charities can maximise their success with text giving
So much of our lives are now run through our mobile phones, and texting is so easy and fast, it’s hardly a bother as we go about our day. Last year was the biggest yet for SMS/text donations from mobile phones, with more than £115m donated by text message.
Creatively grabbing attention and making a real connection via innocuous touch points – watching TV, on the train, in a queue, in the cinema, back of a toilet door, across social media, etc – can stimulate text donations on the spot, as an immediate payment action, thus creating a hugely valuable revenue stream for any charity.
When setting about using text within your fundraising strategy, there are a number of things to consider:
Putting your supporters in control
By offering text as an unobtrusive option for donating, you are placing control firmly with the supporter over the relationship they want to have with you. If they decide to engage with you by texting a donation, it’s simple and takes little effort – the payment is just added to their mobile phone bill.
And in compliance with the UK regulator PhonePayPlus rules EVERY text message you send back, such as your thank you message, MUST carry an opt-out or skip response mechanism; therefore providing your supporter with the immediate option of terminating or pausing their contact with you and remaining a one-off gift donor should they choose.
Can you keep the data collected?
Text is a powerful cold acquisition tool, not least because it has the benefits of data capture. This enables you to grow your donor base quickly with those supporters that choose not to opt out. So if you are not in a position to store and work with data, then frankly it’s like receiving cash in a bucket.
So, you must ensure firstly that your provider gives you access to the data your campaign is collecting, and secondly that you have the ability to download that data to your own database or CRM system, so that you can identify new supporters and those that may already support you via other channels.
NB - nowadays you can collect supporter names and addresses as well as the mobile phone number, donation value, date and time.
Rapid response and spell check
Text fundraising lends itself to reacting to and seizing opportunities. Be sure you retain control of your own text campaigns so when those opportunities arise you can act fast and efficiently; you must have the ability to set up your own key word rapidly, as soon as it’s needed for a natural disaster emergency appeal, or for a pop-up event at the weekend when your provider’s offices are closed.
Importantly, make your key word relevant, easy to remember and easy to spell – check it on both an iPhone and Android phone spell check to see if it is easily recognised or if it autocorrects to something else. Incorrect key word = no donation.
It’s a two-way conversation
In return for any donation via any channel there should always be a continued dialogue – at the very least a thank you. It’s absolutely imperative that you make sure your provider enables you to respond to your supporters – i.e. can you send a follow up message to say thank you, and engage in future dialogue?
Single giving becomes regular giving
Over and above a single one-off donation appeal, look to partner with a provider that can enable you to collect and track your supporters’ giving information, and to engage with them on an ongoing basis with regular communications via text.
Text messaging can become a supporter’s channel preference just the same as direct mail, email or telephone call. It’s especially popular with busy people who like the control it gives them over their relationship with you (they can choose when to open and read a text message at their convenience and opt out easily), and with younger audiences who commonly prefer the immediacy of comms in their pocket over traditional routes.
In maintaining the right messaging and with engaging content (updates, emergencies, petitions, stories) you can build relationships and convert donors touched by your initial appeal into long-term, regular giving supporters connected to your cause.
The interplay of social media
Unless you have been living under a rock you will be aware of the enormous success viral social media campaigns can bring to a charity. Last year the #IceBucketChallenge #NoMakeUpSelfie and the poignant #StephensStory led great swathes of people to make their first text donations.
Annoyingly viral campaigns are virtually impossible to predict, but however you are generating your text fundraising – through DRTV, press ad or tube card – be sure your appeal and your key word can be carried across social media platforms for peer-to-peer sharing.
And for those charities that don’t have budgets for TV ads or big-bucks billboards, consider the power of social media alone in spreading your appeal far and wide into new audiences you may never reach in other ways.
Know your fees
Last but not least the tedious bit – when setting up your text giving account, do your research into fee options, because there are all sorts on the market. Know what you’re paying for, so that your fee represents your needs – for each key word (if you want to support occasional/emergency appeals) or for the whole text platform (if you intend to maximise your text fundraising and explore regular giving revenue). Check whether the fee is per donation or monthly, and whether there is a minimum term or fixed contract length.
Iain Williams, is a director of mobile fundraising provider instaGiv