7 Text-to-Give Limitations You Need to Know

7 min
text-to-give
William Schmidt
Will Schmidt

Traditional text-to-give has generated a lot of buzz in the social sector after nonprofits like the Red Cross used it during their Haiti earthquake relief campaign. All told, their text-to-give campaign raised $43 million.

Despite the buzz, and this reported success, text-to-give isn’t always the right strategy for every nonprofit. While it can drive donations, there are some major disadvantages to using it in your fundraising strategy, especially when implemented the wrong way.

We met with Classy customer success managers Michelle Hansen and Colleen Ennis to walk you through why text-to-give might not be your best bet and how you can effectively leverage Classy in conjunction with text message appeals.

Understand Traditional Text-to-Give

Traditional text-to-give campaigns are promoted through advertisements, email, radio, or television with a word or number attached to it. From there, a supporter texts that number or word to the organization which triggers a donation and charges it to the supporter’s monthly phone bill.

It’s important to note that text-to-give is different than text-to-donate, and the two can be easily confused. Text-to-donate is also triggered by a text message, but it returns a link back to a mobile responsive landing page where someone can donate via credit or debit card.

Across a wide range of sources, the general consensus is that text-to-donate is a much more effective fundraising strategy. In fact, the average donation amount from text-to-donate is $107, according to NP Source’s 2018 Giving Statistics report.

This stands in stark opposition to the prefixed donation amounts on text-to-give, which are capped by cell phone carriers at $5, $10, or $25. Classy doesn’t support traditional text-to-give, but our product does support the use of text messages in your fundraising strategy that operates similarly to text-to-donate.

As we continue through the sections below, we’ll show you why text-to-give may not be all it’s hyped up to be. Then, we’ll show you how you can use fundraising platforms like Classy and text messages together.

The Downfalls of Text-to-Give

It’s true that text messages boast an open rate of 98 percent. That means nearly everyone you send a text message to is digesting your donation appeal. But you can’t let that be the determining factor in signing on for text-to-give.

Image of Colleen Ennis, Customer Success Manager

I think a lot of organizations are swayed by the open rates that come with text messages, but that’s the nature of text messaging. The real question is if people are actually converting, or if they’re just opening your texts.”

Colleen Ennis
Customer Success Manager

In the sections below, we run you through some of the things you lose with text-to-give campaigns, despite the high open rates. You’ll see that each one builds off another to construct a poor donor experience that doesn’t do much in the way of engaging and stewarding supporters.

1. Lack of Storytelling

Image of Michelle Hansen, Customer Success Manager

A main reason people donate to your campaigns is because you tell an enticing story. Text-to-give doesn’t facilitate storytelling and other narrative elements that compel someone to give.”

Michelle Hansen
Customer Success Manager

There’s very little room for you to tell your organization’s story, share the mission for the campaign, and show donors how they make a direct impact. A lack of storytelling can leave supporters with a host of questions, like:

  • What campaign am I donating to?
  • Who will directly benefit from my donation?
  • How is this connected to the nonprofit’s mission?
  • Am I actually making an impact with this donation?
  • Can I trust this text message?

These questions can easily be answered with the proper branding on your campaign page, but text-to-give doesn’t offer you a way to include that in your appeal either.

2. Lack of Branding

A text-to-give campaign will be devoid of your branding, logo, colors, and campaign designs. Like storytelling, these are important elements of your fundraising strategy that engage and build trust with donors.

Image of Michelle Hansen, Customer Success Manager

A lack of branding and personalization can cause your entire donation appeal to feel transactional. That can lead to even smaller donation amounts from your supporters, and potentially discourage donations entirely.”

Michelle Hansen
Customer Success Manager

If you want to create a donor experience that delights supporters and stewards them for future campaigns, you need to have a strong story that pairs well with your branding.

3. Lack of Donor Engagement and Stewardship

Without your branding and a story, you might have trouble drawing in supporters, building trust with them, and encouraging them to donate. The most you might get is a one-time donation.

Image of Colleen Ennis, Customer Support Manager

This one-time donation is likely the last you’ll hear of this donor. It’s a bad experience for the way you want your nonprofit to be remembered and the way you want donors to think about you in terms of satisfaction, interaction, and stewardship.”

Colleen Ennis
Customer Support Manager

Further, it can be difficult to push supporters to other parts of your organization, like volunteer or recurring giving programs, if your initial appeal doesn’t draw them into your full story.

4. Lack of Recurring Options

A one-time donation isn’t inherently bad; you’re still getting support for your mission. However, our recent The State of Modern Philanthropy report shows that a recurring donor is 440 percent more valuable to your organization than a one-time donor.

If you can’t steward your donors beyond a one-time gift, you leave a lot of money on the table. Thus, while text-to-give drives one-time donations, it hampers long-term sustainability by failing to provide options for supporters to sign up as recurring givers.

5. Lack of Donation Amounts

While text-to-give does bring in one-time donations, cell phone carriers have placed limitations on how much people can donate. When they respond to a text-to-give appeal, supporters can only send $5, $10, or $25 to your campaign.

These amounts fall well beneath the average donation amount on Classy, which is $120. In this case, even if a supporter texts the top $25 amount, you could be leaving up to $95 per donation on the table.

6. Lack of Timely Funds

Text-to-give donations are processed entirely through a supporter’s monthly phone bill. As a result, your organization might not actually receive the funds from the campaign for a full month after they’ve been donated.

This can be difficult, especially if there’s an urgent need your organization is fundraising to help with. For example, if there’s a natural disaster you could have trouble immediately using the funds you’ve raised to provide relief to those in need.

Not to mention, some carriers will take a fee off the top of the donation. This lack of stability has the potential to disrupt your cash flow and budgeting.

7. Lack of Donor Data

When someone donates on a text-to-give appeal, that’s it. You aren’t able to capture data outside of the amount they’ve donated—this is the ultimate miss for text-to-give.

  • Who is this donor?
  • Where do they live?
  • Are they a first-time or returning donor?
  • What have they supported in the past?
  • Is there an opportunity to tap them for future campaigns?
  • Are they interested in receiving emails from you?

A strong fundraising strategy needs donor data to steward supporters to increase future gifts, sign on as recurring donors, or soft launch a new campaign. Without access to this data, you’re stuck in the realm of “I think” versus standing in the concrete world of “I know.” That, in turn, can potentially diminish your future fundraising efforts and lower your overall revenue.

How to Use Classy and Text Messaging

According to NP Source, “responsive design doubles giving on mobile devices.” While Classy doesn’t support traditional text-to-give, there’s still a way to use text messages to promote your mobile-responsive, fully built out campaign pages.

Image of Michelle Hansen, Customer Success Manager

Classy users have the ability to text campaign pages from their mobile devices through the ‘share’ functionality. This sends a mobile responsive campaign page where people can easily donate, sign up to fundraise, or buy an event ticket.”

Michelle Hansen
Customer Success Manager

In the back-end of Classy, under ‘details and sharing’, you can pre-populate a message that will accompany your campaign link via text message when it’s sent:

text-to-give
The text message field you can pre-populate in Classy.

This way, your organization is able to capitalize on the incendiary open rates for text messages and tap into the increased giving associated with mobile responsive pages. At the same time, you avoid the drawbacks associated with traditional text-to-give by sending people to a landing page that tells a compelling story, shows the impact a gift makes, stewards donors, and captures data.

Find Out How Text Messaging Can Help Your Strategy Today

How Team Rubicon Uses It

One of our clients, Team Rubicon, recently used Classy’s text message function when tornadoes struck Iowa. Check out what their message looked like:

text-to-give
Team Rubicon’s appeal they sent out.

The link takes you directly to their mobile responsive Classy fundraising page, complete with branding, story, and impact levels.

text-to-give
The campaign page that Team Rubicon’s text points to.

When it comes to texting your campaign link out, Michelle and Colleen recommend using the Twilio or mGive apps to help.

There are ways to incorporate text messaging into your fundraising strategy, but the evidence suggests traditional text-to-give isn’t the best way to go about it. Instead, it’s better to text your supporters with a link to your campaign page directly.

Colleen and Michelle leave us with one final piece of advice when incorporating text messages into your strategy. Always remember to pair your message with a detailed, specific ask. If you’d like to get more tips on how to use Classy for a text messaging campaign, reach out to talk to our experts today.


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