Fundraising via SMS does work

SMS is a viable fundraising channel – but it’s not a big revenue driver in terms of volume.

Like all channels, SMS as a revenue driver will depend on a number of variables.

  1.         How current your list of supporters is (current in terms of valid phone numbers and have been communicated with via SMS recently). Does your supporter remember their last interaction with you?
  2.         The urgency of the message
  3.         The structure and language of your message – use emotional, action words
  4.         How easy it is for them to take the action you’re asking for.

I’ve seen a bunch of charities use SMS in their supporter communications and fundraising and some knock it out of the park, and some get literally zero response.

Fundraising via SMS for the Red Cross Australia

SMS Fundraising Case Study

Red Cross Australia sent an SMS donation ask at the end of financial year 2015.

  •         It went to donors who were considered long time lapsed (no donation for 3 years)
  •         The ask was for $30 (high for a text)

SMS Fundraising successThe results were phenomenal.

  • 9% conversion from send to donation. This means they reactivated a lot of lapsed donors.
  • The average gift was $130 – from a $30 ask.

At $0.08 per SMS that’s a pretty strong return on investment.

The message was simple, but clear and it worked.

Whereas other charities have not had the same success.

When SMS doesn’t work

One homeless charity that also sent a message for end of financial year got a zero response.

When I reviewed their message it was not clear, not emotional and thus didn’t have any urgency.

Low brand awareness affects SMS results

I don’t have any evidence to support this hunch, but I believe that brand awareness plays a big part in the effectiveness of SMS.

If a user recognises your brand by name immediately upon opening the text, your response rate will be higher. But because there is no visual aid to prompt awareness with a logo, this stands against organisations who have less brand recognition.

Engaging supporters via text

While SMS can be a bit hit or miss for donations, it provides lots of opportunity for engagement.

Amnesty do a good job of using Text messages for advocacy. I think they’re missing an opportunity to convert this engagement into donations but after years of supporting via text I haven’t got a donation upgrade call. Petitions via SMS - Amnesty Advocacy

I believe they’re different departments communicating with me from within Amnesty.

Peer to peer fundraising events use SMS well to prompt their participants and fundraisers to check their email or log in and do something required, usually a timely reminder.

Environmental charities like the Wilderness Society use text to elicit a YES response from their supporters. “Will you do X?”

When campaigning for a boycott of products or brands, or to mobilise a movement of people into action to attend rallies or protests, text can cut through the email clutter and reach people at a higher rate.

Have a Mobile communications plan

SMS can work for every charity as a fundraising channel, but you have to value your supporters and communicate with them via this channel in a meaningful way. When you first acquire a supporters mobile number, you need to contact them immediately to establish this channel. If you wait until you need something (money) and send a message months later you will definitely get an unsubscribe rate of over 10%. Undoubtedly higher than your response rate.

So if you want to use SMS, make sure you have a communications plan.