A tale of two text-to-donates

on July 20, 2018

Making a donation via text is a simple and effective way for your supporters to show their support for your cause. Text-to-donate (or sometimes called text-to-give) allows donors to give quickly on their mobile device, enabling them to show their support at any moment, anywhere.

However, not all text-to-donate functionalities are created equal. Let’s take a little tour of the two most common text-to-donate methods out there, and walk through some benefits and drawbacks so you can make the best choice for your nonprofit.blg_TextToGive_2018_v2_In-blog GraphicsText-to-give via SMS only

Scenario #1 looks a little something like this…


Your donor texts a specific word to a number, and that action automatically prompts a set donation amount to be contributed by that donor. This donation amount is run through the cell phone carrier and added to their cell phone bill. The cell phone carrier cuts a check to the nonprofit for the amount authorized via the text.

The benefits

This method allows supporters to give during a frictionless, quick, and easy transaction. Supporters are able to text-to-give fast and without the use of their credit card, which can be a bonus when you’re out in the field or at a live event where it’s a struggle to whip out your credit card.

The drawbacks

1. Brand experience

While donating is the ultimate goal of this functionality, this method of text-to-donate creates a series of missed opportunities on the part of the nonprofit. Your brand is nowhere to be seen. There is zero interaction between your cause, mission, and supporter. It’s a closed transaction that, while easy, doesn’t leave any sort of memorable experience between you and your donor.

At the end of this type of text-to-donate transaction, the donor usually gets an automated text that says something along the lines of ‘Thanks, your donation has been processed.’ It’s more of a ‘this worked, so you’re all set’ type of text.

What carrier-based text-to-donate methods miss out on is that every point of a transaction is an opportunity for interaction with supporters. You can ask your supporters to share that they just gave (which has been proven to lead to more donations), express your deep gratitude for their generous donation, explain to them how your donation will affect your mission, etc. That’s why when you finish off an act of giving with a simple ‘thanks,’ it kind of leaves a lot to be desired.

2. Capped donation amounts

This style of text-to-give functionality usually revolves around a predetermined donation amount. This amount is capped, and you aren’t able to give more or less than the set amount. For our example above, say your donor wanted to give, but the donation amount of $25 was a little out of their reach for that moment in time. That donor will pass on the opportunity.

Or, on the flip side, if your donor is willing to give $40, they aren’t able to do so using this type of text-to-give. Without even realizing it, your requested donation amount of $25 actually left $15 on the table.

3. The funds you get and when you get them

Additionally, the time it takes for you to get the money that was donated via carrier-based text-to-give can vary when you’re at the mercy of a cell phone carrier. Some cell phone companies can take up to 90+ days before the money reaches your nonprofit. And, that’s not without a percentage taken out by the cell phone company.

4. Missing pieces

The type of data you collect from these types of text-to-donate interactions can be very minimal. You might get just the donation amount, or maybe, if you’re lucky, an email, but rarely a full set of data that will help you make informed decisions on donor behavior for the future.

Additionally, your supporters most likely will not receive a donation receipt from their contribution. Overall, making it a very one-sided transaction with no opportunity to create an experience for your supporters.

Text-to-donate via SMS and mobile web

Scenario #2 looks a little something like this...4_t2g_fun_v2Your donor texts a word to a number, and that automatically sends the donor to a mobile-responsive donate page. Pre-determined donation amounts, along with the opportunity for a custom amount, are presented, along with pictures, a story, and some text about your mission. The donation amount is processed via your chosen donation processor (for example, PPGF or WePay) and the funds are delivered at the normal rate of these processors.

The benefits

1. Brand experience

With 2x more brand experiences happening on mobile than ever before, giving your supporters a text-to-give experience that’s not only seamless, but also is multifaceted in terms of engagement on mobile is super important. So, when supporters are automatically directed to a page that represents your brand in the best light, they’re not only more engaged, but they might even increase their contribution to your cause.

With this style of text-to-donate, you’re able to engage your supporters at pivotal moments during their experience. And with an experience that’s optimized for social sharing, you can instantly ask that they share the fact that they just supported your cause with their social networks.

Additionally, you can create a custom donation receipt that gets sent to them in a matter of seconds, as well as ask them to set up recurring donations.

Finding these moments to go further will lead to more supporter engagement and retention, while also creating an experience that encourages donors to stay a while and support your cause for the long haul.5_in_blog_graphics_SocialShare2. Sky’s the limit with donation amounts

With this type of text-to-give, your nonprofit is in the driver’s seat. You can create custom donation amounts that work best for your ask and your cause. Does $50 feed a family, or does $100 help keep a dog out of a shelter? By attaching donation amounts that have real value to your cause, you’re able to make your ask more personal and connected to your mission.

Additionally, you’re not capping someone who wants to give more or less. Quite the opposite. You’re empowering your supporters to give what they can, and by allowing for a custom field, they can even create their own donation amount that works best for them.7_in_blog_graphics_donorScroll-13. You can get your money fast

By eliminating the cell phone carrier in the donation process, you’re able to use your trusted donation processor, WePay or PPGF, and get your funds as soon as possible. Instead of waiting months to receive your funds, you can see the effect that the text-to-donate opportunity is having on your cause as soon as same day, depending on how often you elect to receive funds.

4. All the data

When you use a text-to-donate provider such as CrowdRise by GoFundMe, you’re able to own and retain all of your donor data. And when you have control of your data, you’re able to segment supporters (for instance, who gave via text-to-give last month), derive valuable insights ($25 was the most popular dollar amount given by text-to-donate), and even shed light on important decisions on the horizon (people responded more to Campaign A versus Campaign B).

5. Donor visibility

With scenario #1, text-to-donate is done in a vacuum. Donors aren’t part of a community and can’t see how their donation is adding value to the cause. But when you go with scenario #2 and use an engaging and mobile-responsive functionality, you’re able to direct your supporters to a page that can show how much money has been raised collectively — no matter if donors gave via text-to-donate or online.

You’re also able to see a updated scroll of recent donors to gain a sense community that, as a supporter, you’re all coming together to support a similar goal.

The drawbacks

The biggest drawback for this type of text-to-give functionality is that your donors have to go a couple extra steps to finalize their transaction. Instead of adding the amount automatically to their cell phone bill without having a lot of time to rethink their decision, they’re directed to a page where they have to choose their donation amount and then input their credit card information. This could become an issue at a live event when time is of the essence.


Text-to-donate, or text-to-give, is a great way to meet your supporters where they’re at, which is most likely on their phone. But, the type of text-to-give experience you offer can vary. We hope this post helps you make an informed decision on what type of experience you want to give your supporters to grow them from donors, to evangelists of your cause.

In a world where interactions are brief and attention spans are short, making sure your donors leave with a positive experience and connection with your cause is beyond important.text-to-donate

Gary Wohlfeill

Gary Wohlfeill is the Director of Marketing at CrowdRise. He works with partners to develop highly engaging fundraising campaigns, and leads the marketing team in developing the CrowdRise brand. Gary has been named as having the “3rd best haircut of people under 6 feet tall at CrowdRise" and hopes one day to slip to 4th.