The Complete Guide & Best Practices for Text-to-Give Campaigns

Sep 11, 2018

From reading email to checking social media, people are spending more time than ever on their phones. Armed with this knowledge, nonprofits are poised to benefit by providing donors with a simple way to give through text-to-give campaigns.

Text-to-give campaigns have become a crucial component of fundraising strategies for countless nonprofit organizations.

This way of mobile fundraising gives organizations the opportunity to raise money anytime, anywhere.

If you’re a frontline fundraiser, it’s only a matter of time before your organization’s leadership and board approach you about investigating this source of revenue (if they haven’t already).

This post will cover the basics of how text-to-give campaigns work. You’ll also come away with several tips to help you ensure the success of your next text-to-give fundraising efforts.

History of SMS

To understand how text-to-give works, lets review a brief history of text messaging. Formally known as “short message service” (SMS), text messaging uses standardized communication protocols to enable mobile devices to exchange short text messages.

The technology behind SMS was in development through the 1980’s, with the first text message sent on December 3, 1992, by engineer Neil Papworth. The message, which read simply as “Merry Christmas,” was originally typed on a computer and sent to the then-director of Vodafone, Richard Jarvis.

Only a few commercially available phones were capable of handling text message until the early 2000’s, where the technology experienced a noticeable boom. In conjunction with a billion-dollar ringtone market at the time, premium text messaging services were the genesis of text-to-give campaigns for nonprofits.

Despite being a popular donation tactic for over a decade, text message donations are becoming a popular choice for nonprofits to leverage the increase in mobile device usage.

How Does Text-to-Give Work?

The basics of a text message donation look like this:

  • Through word-of-mouth or traditional/digital marketing means, a donor is asked to give via text
  • They send a text message to a shortened number (e.g. 88888) instead of a usual phone number
  • The message needs a specific “keyword,” “shortcode,” or trigger phrase to start the next step

From there, a nonprofit will have one of two things happen:

  • The donor will have a defined dollar amount added on their mobile cell phone bill


  • The donor is given a reply text with a link to click on; if their mobile device is equipped to use the Internet, the user will be guided to a donation landing page where they choose how to give (PayPal, credit card, etc.) and how much

Nonprofits receive donations either directly from online donation forms or through mobile phone service providers. Both are interchangeable in the realm of text-to-give, but the latter is typically the most commonly used for nonprofits simply because of the ease of use.

Noteworthy Text-to-Give Campaign Statistics

If you’re still feeling cautious about the value text-to-give campaigns can have for your nonprofit, consider:

  • $107 — the average text-to-give donation amount (Qgiv)
  • 19.8% of nonprofit event registrations occur on mobile devices (npENGAGE)
  • In 2016, mobile giving donations increased 205% (Nonprofits Source)
  • 99% of text messages are opened and read within the first five minutes (Snowball Fundraising)

The truth is that the value of engaging mobile phone users is increasing every day; the potential is near limitless. The difference with text messaging is that when done correctly, nonprofits can create a simple and frictionless giving experience for donors.

Making things easy for mobile users will make them more likely to give and keep giving years later.

5 Tips for Text-to-Give Campaigns

There’s no denying the potential value of text-to-give campaigns, but execution is an entirely different story. Here are five tips you can use to ensure that your next text-to-give campaign is successful.

1. Make keywords easy to remember

Selecting your keywords is crucial for success because they are required for donors to trigger the next step in the giving process. It does not matter if a donation amount is added to a donor’s cell phone bill or if they’re guided to an online donation form. Text-to-give software needs that keyword in the message from a donor to determine what next step to take.

To avoid confusion and make it easy for a donor to give, nonprofits need to be careful in their keyword selection. Here’s a short list of things to think about to pick the right keywords for your text-to-give campaigns:

  • Keep it short! — Single words work, but there isn’t a magic character count. You can also try to add numbers to the end, but try to keep it simple.
  • Make it unique! — Try to select words that are memorable in some way rather than relying on vague descriptors (e.g. ‘nonprofit’, ‘donate’, ‘pledge’)
  • Keep it relevant! — A next-level way to approach keywords is to select a highly relevant keyword. This can be challenging since you still want to keep your keyword short, but relevancy can add another way to make it memorable.

2. Consistent promotion across all channels

The one thing which limits text-to-give campaigns is that they require upfront promotional efforts. As effective as these campaigns are, there will need to be a concerted effort to notify all current and new donors about how to give via text message.

Consider all channels your organization leverages for outreach — email, social media, traditional, etc. — and make sure there is consistent promotion of your text-to-give campaign across all of these channels.

The more visibility your campaign gets among your target audience, the better chance of success you’ll have with text-to-give efforts.

3. Walk donors through the process

Now that you’ve broadcast your message through all outreach channels, take the time to walk your donors through the process of how to make their text-to-give donations. Even if they know about it, they can’t donate if they don’t know how your text-to-give campaign works.

Because text-to-give is relatively easy, teaching your donors how to use it won’t be difficult. The idea is to keep things as simple as possible for donors; don’t assume everyone is tech-savvy. Considering that you’ll consistently acquire new donors and you’ll be approaching donors through different communication channels, you’ll likely have to explain text-to-give more than once.

4. Make it easy to set up recurring giving

Despite the number of nonprofits utilizing text-to-give campaigns, there is one consideration that can be easy to miss. After a donor has made their donation via text message, it is important to figure out how to get that donor to keep giving well after a text-to-give campaign has concluded.

Recurring donors have tremendous value for nonprofits, which is why engaging text message donors to give again can be so valuable. Text donations are simple, but it can be tough work to get them to come back year after year.

There are a handful of ways to approach this, but here’s an ideal way of increasing the likelihood a text donor will become a recurring one:

  • The donor fulfills the text-to-give instructions.
  • The donor is sent a confirmation text message/email.
  • As part of a follow-up thank you, the donor is provided with simple instructions on how to become a recurring donor.

5. Expressing gratitude and thanks

While saying thanks is nothing unique to text-to-give, it’s a critical part of any nonprofit’s stewardship and fundraising strategy.

Displaying your gratitude lets your donors know that you appreciate their contributions. They’ll feel valued, and they’ll be able to relate more personally to your organization, both of which lead to higher donor retention rates.

Luckily, following up with your donors through text-to-give is relatively easy. Many services will allow you to automate donation receipts and thank you letters.


Text giving is quick and easy for both donors and nonprofits. Plus, since it utilizes a channel that donors use daily, it’s one of the most accessible fundraising methods around.

Now that you have these five tips to prepare your next text-to-give campaign, keep in mind that while these campaigns are powerful for collecting gifts from new donors, there’s always an opportunity to keep those individuals coming back in the future.

To learn how data integration is a critical piece of creating lasting relationships with donors, talk to our team today and get a free demo.

Omatic Software
Omatic Software is dedicated to integrating disparate systems and democratizing data access for today’s nonprofits. Founded in 2002, Omatic has worked with thousands of nonprofits globally to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and enabling nonprofit teams to leverage their donor data rather than be burdened by it. The Omatic team has one goal – unleashing the power of data to show a complete view of your donor, enabling data-driven decision making and opportunity creation for your organization.