People use their phones to order groceries, pay their bills, check their bank accounts, and handle almost any other financial transactions once thought to be exclusive to desktop. Nonprofits can leverage the increase in mobile usage, too. Your supporters can donate to your organization with their phones, and not just by navigating to the mobile version of your website.
Text-to-give allows anyone with a smartphone to donate from anywhere. The mobility inherent in mobile giving has made text-to-give a natural partner for event fundraising, giving your supporters the option to pull out their phones to make a quick donation between event activities.
Some nonprofits shy away from text-to-give fundraising due to a misconception that it’s too complicated or requires a deep knowledge of the technical aspects behind it. The reality is that text-to-give is fast, easy, and doesn’t require any more work than your nonprofit’s online donation form to manage.
To help your nonprofit make the most of its text-to-give platform, we’ve put together this guide to explain the ins-and-outs of giving through text messages and how to use text-to-give to capitalize on fundraising at your events. Let’s get started.
Text-to-Give: The Basics
Your nonprofit likely has questions about text-to-give, and it’s important to ensure all lingering questions are answered before investing in new software. Ask your text-to-give platform provider about the specifics of their service since different platforms have different approaches. To help you understand the basics, we’ll address a few common questions here.
What is text-to-give?
Text-to-give is a form of donating that allows supporters to give to their favorite nonprofits by texting a keyword and a donation amount to a specific text-to-give number. Nonprofits set up this phone number by using a text-to-give platform and choosing a keyword they can share with their supporters.
For example, a nonprofit that finds homes for animals at a local shelter might choose Dollars4Dogs as their keyword because it’s relevant to their cause, memorable for their supporters, and hard to misspell. Speaking of misspellings, some text-to-give platforms are able to catch typos and direct donations to the correct nonprofit despite the mistake, but you should still stick to keywords that most of your supporters are likely to get on the first try.
Is text-to-give safe?
As with any online transaction, text-to-give is safe when using a secure platform. Make sure your text-to-give platform is PCI-certified or PCI-compliant. “PCI” stands for “Payment Card Industry,” and in compliance with their industry-wide security standards requires installing a firewall between your donors’ data and wireless networks. Ultimately, this will protect private information like credit card details and personal addresses.
If you have questions about a text-to-give platform’s security measures, be sure to ask them before unintentionally buying software that won’t protect your nonprofit’s and donors’ financial information.
How do text donations work?
Text giving works like many other online giving methods. Your nonprofit will select a mobile giving provider, set up its keyword, and encourage donors to text in their contributions. After texting the nonprofit’s keyword and their donation amount to your assigned phone number, first-time donors will be prompted to fill out your mobile-responsive donation form with their financial information.
Most platforms will charge your donors directly. Alternatively, some text-to-give platforms bill the donation to the donor’s cell phone carrier, who then charges the donor.
Similar to all other types of online giving forms, donors can choose to donate from suggested amounts, donate a custom amount, and opt-in to become a recurring donor.
Best Practices for Text Giving
Text-to-give platforms don’t just start working on their own. Once you find a platform that fits your nonprofit’s needs, you’ll need to take the time to market and support it in order to make the most out of your investment.
Remember, if text-to-give is new to your nonprofit, it’s also new to many of your donors. In order for your text-to-give platform to succeed, you’ll need to let donors know it exists, teach them how to use it, and tailor the experience to make donating as easy as possible. Let’s walk through a few best practices that will help you make the most of mobile donations.
Tie it into your other marketing campaigns.
Just like your marketing team does with all other donation methods, you should promote your text-to-give number as a viable donation option in your fundraising campaigns. Include your text-to-give number and keyword alongside your donation page’s URL to catch the attention of supporters ready to make a donation.
Text-to-give numbers tend to be short, which means it’s easy to add them to your other marketing and communication messages. Feature it on your website, your fundraising emails, and even your direct mail appeals.
For physical letters, your text-to-give number is especially useful. Most people carry their phones everywhere with them, meaning they’re likely to have it on their person while retrieving and sorting through their mail. Once they open your fundraising letter, they can donate immediately after finding your text-to-give number instead of navigating to your website.
For live or real-time online events, text-to-give can also add a spark of excitement. Fundraising campaigns that run on creating momentum such as crowdfunding campaigns especially benefit from having your text-to-give number pushed as one of the primary ways to donate.
Collect donor data as much as possible.
Understanding how your supporters are using your text-to-give platform is key to improving your marketing efforts. Your text-to-give platform will come with data collection tools that you can leverage to make data-driven decisions about your next text-to-give campaign.
As you research text-to-give platforms, look for and ask questions about what kind of information they collect and what reporting features they offer. Look for a text-to-give platform that can:
- Integrate with your CRM. You’ll need to store the data collected from your text-to-give campaign somewhere, and your CRM is the central hub of your donors’ data. Check to make sure information flows smoothly from your text-to-give platform to your CRM before launching your campaign to make sure nothing gets lost.
- Track key donor data. Along with gathering basic information about your donors (such as their name and contact information), your text-to-give platform should let you monitor how frequently you receive donations, the size of your donations, and who is giving the most. Keeping an eye on these trends can let your campaign team know which supporters they should focus on, when they should market the opportunity to them, and what mediums they should use to promote your text-to-give number.
Text-to-give often comes as an add-on to other software such as event management and auction software. If you’ve had success with a provider’s software in the past, consider looking into their text-to-give tool as it will likely easily integrate with your other software solutions.
Educate your donors ahead of time.
Your donors need to understand how the process works in order to contribute through your text-to-give platform. Text-to-give is straightforward, but it requires an explanation ahead of time to get ahead of data entry errors or invalid texts being sent to your text-to-give number.
Whenever you include your text-to-give on an outreach message, include short, step-by-step instructions to help new supporters. Your directions should look something like this:
- Text [keyword] to [your text-to-give number]
- Text your donation amount
- Enter payment information
- Receive confirmation message
Pay particular attention to your keyword as all of your supporters (both those familiar with mobile giving and those who are new to it) will need to clearly see what your keyword is and how it’s spelled. Consider putting your keyword in bold, all capitals, or large font to draw attention to it.
Encourage recurring donations.
Text-to-give enables donors to send gifts quickly, but they don’t need to send a new text every time they want to give if they can set up recurring donations. Some nonprofits—such as churches that make calls for donations at regular gatherings—especially benefit from giving their supporters the choice to cut down on data entry and opt-in to a recurring giving program.
Establishing a base of recurring donors also benefits your nonprofit by creating reliable streams of revenue every month. It’s ultimately more cost-effective to convert your current donors into recurring donors than spending your marketing budget on attracting new ones. Your nonprofit can optimize its donation form to encourage recurring gifts, and you can apply many of those same principles to your text-to-give platform.
Here are a couple of easy ways to encourage recurring gifts alongside your text-to-give efforts:
- Provide a recurring gift option on the donation form. Place a checkmark, button, or other obvious marker on your initial donation form that allows supporters to become recurring donors. Set this up before announcing your text-to-give details as many supporters will likely only see the initial donation information form once.
- Feature your recurring donations options more than once. Some supporters will fly through their donation form and might miss your recurring donation option. You can additionally prompt supporters to become recurring donors after their initial donation to provide a second chance for any supporters who missed it the first time.
- Offer suggested recurring gift amounts. Suggested recurring donation tiers can provide guidance for first-time donors and donors who are new to text-to-give. Donors should still be allowed to enter custom amounts, but seeing recurring donation tiers that are lower than one-time payment options can persuade some donors into choosing the recurring option, which adds up over time.
You can also encourage donors to continue giving by regularly engaging with them to build a sense of community around your nonprofit. Because text-to-give is mobile, supporters can gather at events and turn donating into a social activity. In a group setting where everyone is taking out their phones to give, it’s likely others will be inspired to join in.
Text-to-Give and Fundraising Events
Whether online, in-person, or hybrid, your fundraising events make use of activities, socialization, and other methods of engagement to get supporters excited about giving. However, pausing the event to pull up your nonprofit’s donation page creates a speed bump in the momentum your event is trying to build.
This is why text-to-give pairs so well with event fundraising. The efficient, streamlined donation process of text-to-give encourages donors to make their contributions fast without having to take a step back from your event’s activities.
Your nonprofit can optimize both its text-to-give and fundraising event practices to capitalize on the benefits that the combination of the two can provide.
Why text-to-give and fundraising events are perfect for each other
Text giving pairs well with almost any fundraising event type. Long-term crowdfunding campaigns, highly personal peer-to-peer fundraisers, upscale galas, and activity-driven marathons all benefit from a mobile giving option.
This is because text-to-give doesn’t just prevent distractions from your event. Instead, it actively drives further excitement by being integrated into the event. Here are a few ways you can turn your text-to-give platform into a fundamental component of your event:
- Gamification. Your nonprofit can gamify its fundraising events by adding cosmetic awards, virtual incentives, and other prizes to reward donors for giving. For example, you can create a sense of competitiveness amongst supporters by implementing donation leaderboards or a live feed of incoming donations.
- Fundraising Thermometers. One of text-to-give’s greatest strengths is its ability to accept donations in real-time. Fundraising thermometers help donors visualize their giving, and featuring a thermometer that reacts to your text-to-give donations allows supporters to see your campaign near its goal. At live events, the thermometer increasing through the night can add a sense of urgency, encouraging donors to make a contribution.
- Interactivity. Events bring your supporters together even if they’re only meeting online. A successful fundraiser doesn’t treat the gathering as incidental but actively makes use of the potential for social interactions. By giving out your text-to-give number and keyword during an event and calling for donations at that moment, you can encourage supporters to pull out their phones and donate. Social influence can then tip supporters who were on the fence about giving into making a contribution.
You can still make the most of these strategies even when hosting a virtual event. Live-stream your event to interact with your supporters, get your text-to-give number out there, and make calls for donations throughout the event.
Expand your virtual fundraising event scope with text giving
Your supporters use your text-to-give platform when they’re on their phones, which makes text-to-give inherently mobile. Events that might have previously been limited by location, communication channels, and deadlines can expand their reach with text-to-give options. Here’s an in-depth look at these three common restrictions and how text giving can help push past them:
- Location. Virtual events don’t limit supporters to a physical space, but they can require people to stay glued to their home computers if they want to participate throughout the full event. Text-to-give and other mobile options can free supporters to continue engaging with your event even as they run errands, travel, or are otherwise out and about.
- Communication Channels. You should take a multi-channel approach toward marketing your events. For example, for your virtual event, you might first send a direct mail appeal announcing when it will begin, follow-up emails a few days in advance to remind supporters, and then social media posts during the event to draw more attention. You can share your text-to-give number on all of these platforms and by directly texting your supporters, expanding your outreach potential.
- Deadlines. Deadlines are both a limitation and an asset for fundraising events. For example, giving days take advantage of the sense of urgency created by deadlines to quickly amass donations within a 24 hour period. Offering text-to-give as a donation option doesn’t detract from the urgency of deadlines, but rather can draw more donations as supporters who might not feel they have the time to give before the deadline can donate instantly through their phones. Don’t retire your text-to-give number after your event draws to a close. Continue accepting donations after the event so anyone who wasn’t able to attend or donate can still contribute.
Top Providers of Text-to-Donate Software
As with any nonprofit software solution, you should take the time to research your options thoroughly. Different text-to-give platforms have different features and benefits, so investigate each platform, ask questions, and try any available demos before making a decision. To help you kick off your research, here are a few of our favorite text-to-give platforms:
Handbid - Top Text-to-Give Provider for Fundraising Events
Handbid’s text-to-give tools are optimized for events. Created with engagement principles in mind, events can earn even more donations through this user-friendly platform. Luckily at Handbid, it is not extra for the service and is included in any every software package!
When paired with Handbid’s auction software, text-to-give can take your events to the next level. Promote your text-to-give information during your live-stream and across marketing materials. In addition to text donations, take advantage of the mobile bidding app to enable supporters to stay updated on their bids, search for items, and set maximum bids. Providing a text-to-give option when your supporters are already on their phones bidding on items maximizes the potential of both your donations and event revenue by driving engagement toward both options.
Handbid also enhances your fundraising events by including fundraising and event management tools such as:
- Registration features
- Free live-streaming capabilities
- Simplified reporting
- Ticketing options
- Crowdfunding and peer-to-peer tools
These features set your auctions up for success right out of the box, and Handbid offers additional support and training if your nonprofit needs any extra help getting started.
Tithe.ly - Text-to-Give for Churches
Churches benefit from text-to-give (more commonly referred to by churches as text-to-tithe) but have unique needs. Thankfully, Tithe.ly is uniquely designed to meet these needs. Tithe.ly provides church members with multiple ways to give, including the option to become recurring donors, so members can donate after every service.
Tithe.ly’s platform also provides churches with text-to-tithe features such as:
- Weekly/monthly report summaries
- Automatic tax receipting
- Check scanning
These features allow your church to digitize its physical giving plate, streamlining weekly donation collections.
VorText - Text-to-Give in Canada
Does your nonprofit operate in Canada? VorText supports text-to-give contributions from both Canada and the U.S., allowing your nonprofit to reach both its supporters at home and across the border.
In addition to its international reach, VorText also offers organizations:
- Branding features
- Multilingual support
- Automated follow-up messages
VorText offers demos and is also contract-free, allowing your nonprofit to test it out before making a commitment, and you can cancel at any time with no strings attached.
Nonprofits have faced new hurdles in fundraising this past year, but your virtual events can still bring in donations, especially when paired with a text-to-give platform. Software like Handbid’s mobile giving tools allow your nonprofit to maximize the impact of your fundraisers by offering a convenient and engaging way to donate.
After finding a text-to-give platform, you’ll need to get started planning your event. We’ve put together additional resources for your team to begin researching how to throw a successful event online:
- Silent Auctions: The Complete Guide for Smarter Fundraising. In-person, online, or hybrid silent auctions draw guests to your nonprofit, while also providing an opportunity for your team to build connections with local businesses. Get started with this guide to smarter silent auction fundraising practices.
- Virtual Fundraising Events: Top Tips and Ideas for Success. Need inspiration for your next virtual event? Or are you curious if you can optimize your current event practices? Check out these tips to improve your event planning.
- Hybrid and Virtual Galas: Everything You Need to Know. While galas are known for social gathering, food, and live speeches, you can still celebrate your donors and fundraise remotely with a hybrid or virtual gala. Learn how to get started with this complete guide to virtual gala organization.