Fundraising With Your Phone

May 24, 2018 - by Rachel Kottler with Jordan Mason

Do you know the amount of time the average American spends on their phone each day? 4 hours a day! That’s 240 minutes we, as fundraisers, have to get their attention.

The quickest way to do that? Send them a text message!

Mobile is a growing channel for nonprofit fundraising because it is so effective at getting your donor’s immediate attention. In fact, 99% of all texts are opened and texts on average have four times the click-through rate as email! And with shrinking attention spans, and decreasing email open rates, we need to reach people in new ways. Text messaging is increasingly the answer.

Even better? Your donors are probably very comfortable with text messaging! 72% of people between the ages of 50-64 send texts. And believe it or not, 34% of people 65+ text.

For the last three years, mobile giving has increased by 40% per year — and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Nonprofits need to start adding mobile into their fundraising and advocacy work. Here are some ways to do it:

  • Text people to take an advocacy action, like calling Congress or signing a petition.

  • Use text for other engagements, like voting for a member card or calendar cover design.

  • Send an email and post on social media urging people to take action by texting a keyword to your shortcode (the that will opt them into receiving your texts).

  • Send a text reminder before a direct mail piece drops.

  • Send a text in support of an email campaign – works especially well with deadlines and last chance offers.

That sounds good — but how do I get started?

1. Start by collecting mobile numbers and asking for opt-ins

Unlike telemarketing, you cannot do a phone append to add mobile numbers to your list. You need explicit consent from your donor before texting them. So, start by getting people to “opt in” with lightboxes, donation forms, email sign-ups, and advocacy forms. Essentially, include the option to “Sign up to receive SMS text alerts by providing your mobile phone number” as an optional field on any of your online (or mail) forms.

In emails and on social media — give people a reason to text a keyword to your shortcode. We find that donors love to use their phones to send in messages of support, pictures, or tell their stories. They also may be more likely to sign up if you relate it to breaking news alerts, or some kind of offer, like 15% off your store.

2. Contract with a broadcast mobile provider

There are different mobile platforms out there for you to choose from for mobile broadcast messaging (this is when you can send out a text “blast” to your subscriber list, which is different than peer-to-peer, where you to send each text individually, but don’t need opt-ins). We recommend using broadcast for fundraising and advocacy, since it enables you to do blast sends, thus taking up less precious staff time.

Pricing generally varies based on the size of your mobile list, and the quantity of text messages (SMS), multi-media messages (MMS aka sending images with your texts), and click to calls (this feature will automatically connect the user to an elected official based on their zip code) you plan to use per month. Talk to agency partners about the ability to scale up as you begin to grow your program and need more messages each month from the get-go.

Be sure to ask about integration into your CRM database when you are talking to different providers as it is best to send a welcome text as soon as possible once someone signs up.

A few popular agency partners are Upland Mobile Messaging (which includes Mobile Commons), Phone2Action, and Revere Mobile. (Please note, there are also peer-to-peer text messaging platforms, which may be more useful for volunteer recruitment, events, and major donor programs.)

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