To text or not to text…

We all witnessed the power of mobile giving / text-to-give programs when the earthquake in Haiti took place in 2010.  Telethons and social media calls for support were pushed out immediately, showing photos and video footage of the horror that was occurring.  There wasn’t time for direct mailings; donations needed to come in ASAP.  Giving your credit card number on a website or over the phone was an option, but even more effective was the option to – from your couch, seat on the subway, or as you were walking down the street – text your gift.  The moment you are moved by the images and the stories is the same moment you can make a difference.

After this event took place, other organizations realized the power of text-to-give programs and have wanted to implement similar models.  Working at an educational institution, I realize that it is a completely different market for mobile giving.  With funds for relief, you are looking for money – immediate cash in your hands – to put to work; saving lives, re-building homes, and bringing life back to some state of normal.  It would be lovely to know who’s sending this money in, but it’s not necessary.  This money is crucial to deal with the disaster; everything else is gravy.

In my institution, however, we are always balancing fundraising and friend-raising.  The money is an important part of the relationship, of course, but the relationship itself is key.  Our donor base aren’t just donors; they’re our alumni.  Whether they make donations or not, we feel it’s important to engage them; through events, communications, and other media.

When they do make a donation though, we want to know it.  It’s not enough to receive $25 via Bell Mobility; we want to know what the person’s name is, perhaps even get their contact info (as it’s often outdated in our database), figure out their grad year, etc., etc.

So, my institution found a great mobile giving program that solves this problem.  The individual can text us with the amount and their name, we get an email with the amount, name, and their cell phone number, and then we follow up with them to process the gift.  So it’s really more of a text-to-pledge than text-to-give program, but it’s still great to have this in place.

BUT… does mobile giving even work in an educational institution???  I read an article that stated that mobile giving programs are successful when it generates passion & urgency.  With that in mind, can mobile giving work as an option for giving in addition to mailing in a cheque or donating with your credit card online?  My feeling is that it can’t.  My sense is that rather than aim to use mobile giving as another giving option, it’s better to use it in specific situations — at football games, during art auctions, etc.

The truth is that I’m not sure.  What do you think???
Can we text, or should we just not text?


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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