Creative Fundraising: Text to Give

On December 3, 1992, engineer Neil Papworth sent the message “Merry Christmas” from a computer to the mobile phone of his colleague Richard Jarvis. It was one small message for man, one giant leap for phone-kind. This very first text message would go on to launch a cultural shift so seismic it has not only changed the way we communicate, it has also given rise to a whole new language of text speak. So what does texting have to do with art or art business?

The text message has come a long way from those humble beginnings. These days texts are used for all sorts of things from petition signing to mass calls to action–and even fundraising. Text to give (also known as text to fund or text to tithe) is a method of fundraising that allows donors to give directly from their phones. There are lots of benefits to text to give–it is incredibly easy to use once it is set up and it also allows for spontaneous giving. That is, the moment a backer decides to donate, the means to do so are literally at their fingertips.

Text to give is typically used by organizations and often in the wake of a major event like a natural disaster in order to mobilize funds quickly. Text to give is well suited to this sort of scenario in that it requires a rather broad public awareness to succeed. Additionally, unlike some of the other fundraising ideas we have discussed in this blog, text to giving is better suited to organizations and not individuals. Think your artist collective or your nonprofit studio space. These are the perfect jumping off points for a text to give campaign.

Before you begin, you’ll want to research some of the available providers because text to give requires a third party to facilitate donations. When choosing a provider, ask around at other nonprofit organizations who may have run similar campaigns and see who worked for them.

There are a few things to know when going into a text to give campaign. One of the most important is the use of the shortcode. A shortcode is the number donations will be texted to. Something usually around five digits long. Do not be fooled into thinking that you need to purchase your own, unique shortcode. Far from it. Shortcodes are expensive–they range in the thousands of dollars. Instead, by all means, be willing to share a shortcode or simply obtain your own unique phone number just for the organization and fundraise through that. It will cost you far less and you’ll be able to come away with more donations earned and less sunk into getting your campaign up and running.

Because text to give campaigns are reactive by nature, it’s a good idea to publicize your efforts as widely as possible. Begin an advertising campaign well in advance of your actual fundraising. Take to social media and even local print options in order to get the word out about your intentions. Be sure to include all the instructions so that donors can text. Try launching a separate page just for your fundraising campaign. Create a countdown to get people excited. Make it memorable. Maybe a for each countdown day, offer a new and exciting post whether it’s a short and silly performance or a new piece of art. Whatever you do, make sure it’s engaging. You want people marking their calendars for the start of this thing.

The initial setup for a text to fundraise campaign does involve some work. You’ll need to dedicate time to getting things running smoothly so that when your campaign launches all your donors have to do is text and give. There are lots of options out there when it comes to what third party to use for your campaign, but here are a few trusted names in the world of nonprofit text to fundraising.

MobileCause is great for nonprofits of all sizes, from large multi-national organizations to a very small art collective. MobileCause offers more than just a campaign service, they also allow organizations to send invitations and reminders to potential backers.

@Pay is another strong platform that is not only great for nonprofits of all sorts, it also doesn’t place a cap on donation amount so your backers can decide for themselves how much to give.

There are countless others out there, all offering their own unique benefits. Do your research, ask around, find the provider that is just right for your campaign.

As with any fundraising campaign, the bottom line is that you get out of it what you put in. The more work you’re willing to do up front, the more return you’ll see in the end. Get the word out, make it exciting, and the sky’s the limit.

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