Back to articles

PLEASE NOTE: Companies providing this service in New Zealand are very limited and it appears only the government can initiate this type of campaign. For alternative options, have a read of https://www.exult.co.nz/articles/text-to-donate-is-out-online-donations-are-in/  

On February 22nd when John Key launched the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, my 12 and 14 year old daughters both text CHCH to 933 from their mobile phones. They both made the decision unaided by me and within minutes of the text appeal being announced, the donation had been made. In a heartbeat, the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal had received $6 from two teenagers in Tauranga and no doubt a similar thing was happening in lounge rooms all around the country. That’s the power of mobile marketing.

Whether you like it or not, text messaging is here to stay and it’s a growing trend. 72% of people who own a mobile phone send at least one text message everyday, and the younger they are the more text messages they send. According to Neilson, teenagers send an average of 10 texts per hour per day – that’s an average of 3000 text messages every month.

With text messaging so embedded in our culture, it’s not surprising that ‘Text to Donate’ campaigns are also becoming more popular. Not only is it easy for people to respond, they can do it immediately – before they’ve had a chance to get distracted or change their mind. What’s even more attractive is that they don’t have to scramble for some cash, their donation is simply charged to their phone account and they can deal with it later.

With all those positives, you’d think that every ‘Text to Donate’ campaign would be super-successful, however it’s not always the case. While the donation method is easy and immediate, organisations still need to build an effective marketing campaign around their request. Sending out a few emails or including your donation code in your monthly newsletter is not going to cut it.

Top Tips for Building Your ‘Text to Donate’ Campaign

1. Tell Your Story
People give to causes not organisations, so as with any form of fundraising you need to tell your story. It’s not enough to simply promote your donation code and ask people to donate, you need to let people know what their donation will help you achieve – even if you’ve only got one line to do it in.

When asking people to make a text donation, follow it up with an example of how their donation will contribute to the work your organisation does in the community. It doesn’t have to be long-winded and complicated, in fact the most effective stories paint a simple picture that people can instantly relate to.

Text FOOD to 1234 and we can feed a child for a day
Text TALK to 1234 and we’ll make sure that kids have always got a safe place to call
Text FAMILY to 1234 and we’ll make sure every kiwi kid has one

Of course you need to include the name of your organisation as well, but it is the storyline that will attract new donors to your campaign.

2. Use Powerful Images
A picture really does tell 1000 words, so make sure you use images to tell your story effectively. While the examples above tell somewhat of a story, coupling them with an image is even more effective. Images can be absorbed in an instant, where as words take time to digest and consider. Think about where people will be seeing your message and acknowledge that you may only have seconds to get that message across.

3. Identify Your Market
Statistics tell us that teenagers text more than any other demographic, but that does not necessarily translate to ‘Text to Donate’ campaigns. While teenagers are definitely a part of the mix, text donors are likely to be aged anywhere from 15 to 40 years old. That means you’re working with a diverse demographic with varied values and habits – they’re not all text-happy teens.

While text messaging is the method they are using to make the donation, it is not the reason that they have chosen to give. Concentrate on what connects potential donors to your cause and tell that story.

4. Use Several Promotional Avenues
‘Text to Donate’ campaigns can only be run for up to 3 months in a 12 month period, so you need to make sure that you spread the word far and wide. Build a marketing campaign that involves several promotional avenues such as radio, newspaper, television, social media, posters, billboards, static displays and public speaking engagements. Remember people can text to donate at anytime anywhere, so don’t limit yourself to traditional opportunities – look for places where people can see your message on the run.

5. Be Consistent
The more people are exposed to your message, the more they will be encouraged to give, but you need to keep the message consistent so that it ‘builds up’ not ‘breaks down’ your story. Think of your story as a library book and each promotional avenue as the same book in a different format – e-books, chapter books, picture books, audio books and so on.

What You Need to Know

  • To run a ‘Text to Donate’ campaign in New Zealand, you need to go through a specialised service provider. They all work slightly differently with some charging a flat rate to set it up, and others charging a smaller set-up fee but taking a percentage of every text message received.
  • When running a ‘Text to Donate’ campaign you are given a 3 or 4 digit donation code. Each time someone texts a message to this number, they automatically donate $3 to your cause, regardless of the message they send or the service provider you are using.
  • People can make text donations from any mobile phone. At the time of writing this article, Vodafone and 2 Degrees transfer 100% of donations made on their accounts on to the charity, whereas Telecom deducts a 15% administration fee.
  • ‘Text to Donate’ campaigns can only run for a maximum of 3 consecutive months in any 12 month period and you may only run one charity campaign at a time. There is no minimum length for a ‘Text to Donate’ campaign.
  • Only registered charities are authorised to run ‘Text to Donate’ campaigns and proof of registration is required. On all your promotional material you must state the name of your charity, the cost of the message and where terms and conditions can be found.

Extract from Issue 11 of Tonic Magazine

If you think this article would be useful for your members, you are welcome to use it on your website or in your newsletter. We just ask that you let us know where it is being used, and that you acknowledge our website at the bottom of the article. If you are using the article online, please include a link to our homepage.