Text-to-Give

By | June 20, 2017

“Text-to-give” is a fairly new type of fundraising that tries to take advantage of the enormous legions of people who have a smart phone sitting in their pocket. Once you have set up the service, all they have to do is send a specific text message to a specific phone number, and they will donate a specified amount to your charity which will show up on their phone bill.

Many fundraisers hear about the fact that the Red Cross raised tens of millions of dollars after the last hurricane, and they started to drool. But the reality is that the Red Cross had something that your local parish does not – a national brand and a national media platform constantly broadcasting images and stories of the disaster.

Most likely, your parish or ministry doesn’t have that level of public awareness. If you’re getting five or six media mentions a month, you’re doing great! But it takes a lot more than that to get a successful text to give campaign off the ground.

At this point, except in the case of large national organizations that have a powerful reason to give RIGHT NOW, text-to-give is mostly a gimmick. It costs a significant amount to set up (last I check in the range of several thousand dollars) and the normal donation is pretty low ($5-10).

Here’s a little math for you to help you think about the exposure that you would need for a successful text to give campaign. Let’s say a $5 average gift and $1,000 upfront cost. You need to get 200 donations before you’re at the breakeven point. If you figure on a 1% response rate, that means that at least 20,000 people need to know about your campaign. But people don’t usually give the first time they see a message (even with a hurricane), so figure that they have to see your message 5-7 times before they take action. So to cover your costs, you’d have to generate 100,000-140,000 media impressions before you even get to $0 net revenue (media impressions = the number of people who saw your message multiplied by the number of times they saw it).

Until costs for the service goes way down and the average gift goes way up, text to give will really only be a viable funding channel for the big guys. If you’re a local parish or a food pantry, you’re better off doing a bake sale.