Getting Started: Text to Give & Text to Donate Campaigns
Getting Started: Text to Give & Text to Donate Campaigns

Text-to-Give and Text-to-Donate Strategies for Turning Texts Into Donations

Charitable organizations built around a cause are nothing without supporters. But having supporters just isn’t enough for many nonprofits, churches, religious organizations, and political campaigns.

All charitable organizations need money.

But fundraising events aren’t exactly easy to coordinate (not just because of COVID). Event planning takes time and requires resources. You need marketing plans, execution strategies, and any number of volunteers.

However, you’ve got some easier ways to accomplish your organization’s fundraising and donation goals.

Text-to-donate and text-to-give campaigns can play a key part in your fundraising strategy.

We walk you through how to set up and run a successful text to give or text to donate campaign.

We cover the problems with traditional fundraising strategies and answer important questions like:

  • What’s the difference between text to donate vs text to give?
  • How does text to give work?
  • How does text to donate work?
  • Are there advantages to using text-to-donate services?
  • Are there restrictions around text to donate platforms?
  • What are some expert strategies for setting up a text-to-campaign?
  • What’s the best way to run a text-to-campaign?
  • How to choose a text to donate app or another fundraising tool?

Read on for answers to all of these questions and more.

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The Problem with Traditional Fundraising

Events require time and resources. We’re all familiar with traditional fundraising events and the promotional strategies associated with them. We’re talking email blasts, printed mailers, and phone calls.


Here’s the problem with email, voice, and other promotion methods for charitable fundraising campaigns:

  • Time is valuable. Every minute you or someone else spends on the phone is time away from other important tasks.
  • Emails and mailers get limited to no engagement. Good email sends typically get around a 20% open rate.
  • You typically have to spend money to make money. Even if you’re charging big money at a fundraising event, the return on investment may not always be worth it. This is especially true if your operating margins are slim.

Why Texting Works for Communicating with Donors and Gathering Donations

There will always be a place for phone calls, email, and print media. There’s debate about calling vs email vs text and which is better, but all are great tools for reaching donors.

However, many nonprofits and charitable organizations are now adding text messages to their promotion and outreach strategies. Why? Because texts make it easier for organizations to facilitate conversational experiences at scale.

Texting works because:

The bottom line is that text messages are a popular and preferred method of communication. People read texts but they delete emails and don’t answer the phone.

Text messaging also scales. With the right text messaging tools, any organization can reach hundreds or thousands of people. Texting is also cheaper and more personal.

Suggested Article: Text Messaging Facts, Stats, and Insights

Text to Donate vs Text to Give - What’s the Difference?

Ok, text messaging is clearly a viable donor communication and outreach tool. But what’s the difference between text to give vs text to donate?

People often refer to text-to-give and text-to-donate in the same way. These terms also get mixed up with:

  • Text Giving
  • Mobile Giving
  • Text-to-Tithe (for churches)

Bottom line: text-to-donate and text-to-give campaigns etc. are all text-based donation campaigns.

Here’s the difference:

With text-to-give campaigns, cell phone providers help facilitate the donation collection process. These campaigns also use a five or six-digit phone number.

But text-to-donate campaigns allow anyone to collect money. This is typically done through a PCI-compliant third-party payment processor and a ten-digit normal phone number.

Now, let’s get into the specifics.

What is Text-to-Give?

Text-to-give campaigns work well for larger organizations. Especially those who want to register a “text-to” keyword and shortcode with Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile.

When a donor texts the keyword, it triggers an automatic response that starts the donation collection process. Text to give campaigns typically collect donations in fixed amounts such as $5, $10, and $20. The carrier network then adds the donation payment to a donor’s phone bill. This gets charged at the end of the month, year, or billing cycle.

What is Text-to-Donate?

Text-to-donate campaigns are for any sized nonprofit or organization. These campaigns don’t require you to register a keyword at the carrier level. Any organization can use a text to donate platform (like MessageDesk) to trigger the donation and payment collection process.

Which One’s Best for Your Organization?

The choice between text-to-give or text-to-donate campaigns depends largely on:

  1. The size of your organization
  2. The size of your contact list is
  3. How much you want to personalize your campaign and messaging

Is your organization larger with more resources and money?

A large-scale text to give campaign might work best for reaching tens of thousands of people.

But keep in mind, these campaigns offer limited personalization. There’s also no way to directly manage donation payments or personalize follow-up messaging.

Organizations like the Mobile Giving Foundation already have a vast catalog of current shortcode-based mobile giving programs. These work great for larger organizations like the Red Cross. But this method of fundraising over text isn’t normally accessible to smaller organizations.

Is your organization smaller with more limited resources and a contact list in the thousands or hundreds?

Then you’ll want to go with a text to donate campaign. These are normally run through a text messaging and payments collection platform like MessageDesk.

These campaigns are better suited for smaller-scale donation efforts that reach people in the thousands or hundreds. They also allow you to manage more of the donation collection process and send additional follow-up text messages.

So, the real differences come down to scale, personalization, and collection method.

Text to Give Campaigns vs Text to Donate Campaigns

MessageDesk pros: MessageDesk cons:
Text-to-Give Text-to-Donate
Personalization Limited Unlimited
Type of Phone Number 5 or 6-Digit Short Code 800 or 10-Digit Local Phone Number
Reach Tens of Thousands Thousands to Hundreds
Donation Amount Fixed ($5, $10, $20 etc.) Open (any amount)

Short code vs. long code phone numbers for charitable donation campaigns

UPDATE: Starting in 2021, mobile carriers will begin phasing out support for shortcode-based text-to charitable campaigns.

It’s important you know the difference between short and long code phone numbers. This is important before you choose a texting platform and begin setting up charitable giving campaigns.

Text to give campaigns use five or six-digit short code phone numbers that look like 34444 or 555666. Whereas text to donate campaigns often use normal, local, 10-digit phone numbers (just like the one your cell phone has).

Short code vs Long code (10DLC) Text Messaging

Shortcode (57660) Longcode (775) 313-9465
Number Length 5 or 6 digits 10 digits
Personalized Area Code No Yes
Keywords Yes Yes
Two-Way Conversations No Yes
Cost $$$ $

You can’t personalize a shortcode text message in the same way that you can a long code text message. With shortcodes, there’s no way to add an area code. This can have an adverse effect on donations because the number and messaging ultimately feel less personal.

Shortcodes also don’t allow for two-way conversations. They’re only used for one-way text message blasts. Whereas, a local, 10-digit phone number supports normal conversational text messaging.

This conversational approach works better for starting conversations with potential donors and building relationships.

If you’re already running a text-to-give campaign you might also be using a shared shortcode. This means you’re sharing your number with other organizations.

Are There Any Restrictions Around Text to Donate and Text to Give Platforms?

There are several restrictions on who your organization can text or call with promotional giving material.

Regulations stem from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991. For nonprofits and other organizations, the most important parts of this legislation relate to the consent needed to send promotional messages.

Before your organization starts asking for donations over text, you need to:

1. Understand TCPA Compliance

Text-to-give and text-to-donate campaigns both require donor consent. In these scenarios, donors give your organization their consent by texting a keyword or starting a conversation.

When a donor texts a keyword or starts a conversation, they “opt-in” to your donation campaign. This means that they’re consenting to receive messages from your organization.

There are several exemptions when it comes to TCPA compliance for nonprofit, charitable, and political organizations.

  1. Nonprofits, charitable and political organizations are exempt from restrictions around auto-dialers (but this doesn’t apply to text messaging).
  2. Nonprofits and political organizations are exempt from restrictions around the national do-not-call list (DNC).

2. Establish Consent

You’ll want to understand the three levels of consent before you start texting donors. For all organizations, you’ll need a minimum of express consent to start texting. Donors may give their express consent orally or in writing.

The three levels of consent for promotional messages

  1. Express Consent: If someone provides you with their phone number, you can contact them. Keep in mind that all messages must relate to “normal organization communications”.
  2. Implied Consent: If the donor has an “existing relationship” with your organization, then you’ve got their implied consent.
  3. Express Written Consent: This is the highest form of consent required for explicitly promotional messages. This type of consent directly authorizes in writing all types of calls or texts with the contact. This consent is usually established through a legal disclaimer with terms of service.

3. Manage Opt-in and Opt-out

The best texting platforms help you maintain TCPA opt-in and opt-out compliance. They help you automatically manage who has and hasn’t opted in to receive messages from your organization.

An opt-in is a simple automatic message that confirms the donor’s consent to receive communications from your organization. This message often looks like “Text STOP to opt-out of future messages.”

Regardless, the texting service you use needs to make it easy for donors to opt-out of your texts. If it doesn’t, then you risk TCPA violations that carry hefty fines.

This is why platforms like MessageDesk send opt-in and opt-out messages automatically.

5 Strategies for Setting Up Text-to-Give and Text-to-Donate Campaign

1. Keep Donor Information Up-to-Date in a CRM or Contact Manager

Every text-to campaign starts with a contact list. It’s essential that you keep your organization’s contact list up-to-date. As a minimum, make sure to input donors’ names, phone numbers, and email into your CRM or database.

You will also want to consider including custom fields for storing specialty information. This might include:

  • First giving date
  • Giving frequency
  • Average text donation size
  • Referral channel (how the donor found your organization)
Bonus: some text messaging platforms will even integrate directly with your CRM or donor database. Be sure to check out integrations before you choose a texting tool or start setting up a text-to campaign.

2. Segment Your Donor Contact Lists

You’ll want to start segmenting and creating groups once you’ve got your donor information uploaded and up-to-date.

Having separate lists for new and existing donors makes it easier to tailor messages to each. In all cases, donors will respond better to more personalized messaging. You could also create a list of people you talk to regularly such as volunteers.

The good news is, many business text messaging tools like MessageDesk make creating groups and segmenting donors easy.

Keywords are yet another way to segment your contacts. Based on the keyword a donor texted, you can infer their interests and intentions.

This can come in handy when reminding donors how and why their money is being spent.

By segmenting your contacts by more specific attributes, the more personal the conversation gets. Personalized, transparent messaging addressed separately to new vs existing donors makes each audience more inclined to donate.

3. Couple Your Text-to-Donate Campaign with a Live Event

Yes, live events take time and require resources. But coupling a text-to-donate campaign with your live event can improve donation rates. Text-to-donate campaigns can actually reduce friction throughout the donation process.

Everyone has a mobile phone. So displaying your text-to-donate number and keyword on printed material or digitally at your event makes donating more accessible. No one has to worry about remembering their wallets.

Just be sure to make your donation instructions clear. You don’t want donors wondering how to donate money by text.

4. Encourage Fundraising with a Peer-to-Peer or Pledge Campaign.

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns empower individuals to raise money for your organization. With these campaigns, people leverage their own social networks and simply spread the word using their own outreach channels.

Consider encouraging volunteers to advertise your text-to-donate/give number and keyword. You can also suggest that they incorporate your giving number into an existing donation form.

5. Incorporate Your Text-to-Give Campaign Into Urgent Giving Efforts

Giving Tuesday (and other time-based giving initiatives) can encourage donors to expand their giving based on urgency. Limited time frames can create urgency and, motivate donors to act fast and texting makes this possible.

8 Rules for Running an Effective Text to Give/Donate Campaign

1. Set S.M.A.R.T. Campaign Goals

Every successful giving campaign starts with goal setting. We suggest you follow S.M.A.R.T. goal setting in that your goals are:

  • Specific (What’s the specific point at which you’ll achieve your goal?)
  • Measurable (What metrics can you use to measure progress toward your goal?)
  • Attainable (Is your goal attainable given natural limitations)
  • Relevant (Is your goal relevant to your organization’s overall mission?)
  • Timely (What’s the time frame in which you’ll accomplish your goal?)

You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or your donors with unrealistic giving expectations. You’ll also need to keep donors updated on progress throughout your campaign.

Fundraising thermometers are great visual aids. They can help demonstrate to donors and stakeholders, how the campaign and donations are progressing. They can also reaffirm how individual contributions play a part in the bigger picture, further increasing participation.

2. Implement a Campaign Management Strategy

You’ll need to select a text-to-donate or text-to-give platform before you can start texting. We’ve got more on that below. But once you have a text to give software place, you’ll want to answer the following questions:

  • Who will run your text-to campaign?
  • When will you launch and close your campaign?
  • When do you plan on reaching your donation goals?
  • Where will you promote your campaign and post updates?
  • What will your text-to keyword be?

3. Advertise and Promote Your Text-to Number Using Website Landing Pages, Email, Social Media, and Print Media

Landing Pages

Landing pages are the foundation for digital marketing campaigns. The same rules in marketing campaigns apply to charitable giving campaigns. Set up a donation page on your website with a donation form and/or your text-to-donate number and keyword.

You’ll also want to provide other additional information. This helps potential donors understand your organization, your cause, and where their money is going.

Keep in mind that a true landing page focus on one call to action. This limits distraction and pushes more donors toward the desired action. Landing page builders like Unbounce are a great option. You can also use MessageDesk to embed a custom form directly on your website.


Including your text-to-donate number in your organization’s monthly newsletters can help drive donations. Email is also an effective tool when paired with a dedicated landing page. The email can pique curiosity and drive traffic, while the landing page answers more in-depth questions and seals the deal.

Bonus: Add your text-to-campaign phone number to your organization’s email signatures.

Social Media

There are many creative ways to leverage social media to grow your contact list and get more donations. Depending on your existing audience size, consider pairing your social media outreach with a press release and email campaign.

Giving is a social activity. So there aren’t many reasons why your charitable organization shouldn’t leverage social media posts and social sharing amongst supporters.

Bonus: Seek out influencers to help boost the visibility of your text-to-campaign. Recruiting influential advocates and driving awareness establishes credibility and builds trust with new and existing donors.

Print Media

Many organizations still rely on direct mail and print advertising. This can be a great way to advertise and promote your text to donate/give campaign and keyword. Eye-catching inserts with clear instructions for direct mail can lead to increased donations.

4. Select a Short, Memorable, Easy-to-Spell Text-to Keyword

Text-to keywords are the easiest way for donors to opt-in to messaging and start donating to your charitable campaign. Keywords are words or phrases your organization can use to trigger an autoresponder.

To ensure a response, you’ll want to select a memorable, easy-to-spell keyword that kicks off your campaign. Texting a keyword could trigger a link to a webpage, a form, or even segment the donor into a group.

Text to Give/Donate Keyword Examples:

  • Give
  • Donate
  • Tithe
  • Help
  • Support
  • Relief
  • Aide

5. Set Up Autoresponders and Custom Groups

You’ll need to set up an automatic, real-time text message response for when donors text your keyword.

This autoresponder could look like:

Hey {{ FirstName }}, {{ OrganizationName }} is hosting an event Wednesday at 7PM. Text VOLUNTEER to {{ OrganizationPhoneNumber }} to learn more about how you can get involved!

Have you donated to {{ OrganizationName }} this year? Text the word DONATE to {{ OrganizationPhoneNumber }} so you can help us meet our fundraising goal!

Keywords and autoresponders are also fantastic for segmenting your contacts. With messaging platforms like MesssageDesk, you can use certain keywords and autoresponders to segment donors into particular groups.

Sorting donors into groups based on their actions makes it easy to send more targeted, specific, engaging messages.

For example:

“Our organization has been doing a lot lately, text SUBSCRIBE  to (775) 313-9465 to stay in the know.”

The donor texts SUBSCRIBE to your number and they get an automated response. You can then set up your texting software to automatically sort them into your “subscriber” or even “recurring donation” group.

6. Use Dynamic Tags to Customize Your Text Messages at Scale

Texting at scale presents some challenges. How do you send a message to 1,000 people (each with a different first name) and still sound personal?

This is where advanced text messaging features, like dynamic tags, can help. Don’t just say hello or hey at the beginning of your message. Instead, use tags to automatically insert a donor’s first name into a message.

When asking for donations, “Dear Valued Donor,” sounds impersonal when compared to, “Hey there Ben,”

Simple gestures like these can increase your donation rates.

Here’s an example of what a personalized message with dynamic tags might look like using MessageDesk:

Hey there {{ FirstName }},

Last year you donated {{ DonationAmount }} to {{ OrganizationName }} and it made a big impact. This year, we’re asking for your help again.

7. Make The Donation Ask

There’s an art to asking for money. It’s all about your timing, messaging, and how you articulate the return on investment.

You want to clarify for donors what they get out of giving to your campaign or non-profit.

Sure, there’s always the possibility of a tax write-off. But you’ll need to go deeper than that.

Marketers that sell products focus on the benefits of buying the product, not the product itself. So you should focus on the benefits of donating.

The best donation messaging appeals to a donor’s sense of philanthropic gratification. People often feel good about themselves after giving money to a good cause.

They want that reinforcement of “I’m a good person” or “I just helped change the world.” These are powerful emotional appeals. They can help you reframe how you ask for money, even in the space of a few hundred characters.


“Hey {{ FirstName }}, we really need your help this year! We have to raise $100,000 to build a new shelter. Donate here: [LINK].”

“We need your help! {{ FirstName }}, it has been a tough year and we are trying to meet our monthly goal. Will you help us? [LINK]”

“Have you donated to a nonprofit organization this year? It feels mighty good to help build a new shelter. Click on the link to make your donation: [LINK]”

8. Collect and Analyze Data on Campaign Performance

You can’t improve results if you don’t measure them. As with any fundraising activity, you’ll want to keep track of your performance. Key metrics make it possible to adjust and validate assumptions. You’ll want to start by tracking basic metrics like:

  • Donor information (name, mailing address, etc.)
  • First giving date
  • Giving frequency
  • Average text donation size
  • Referral channel (how the donor found your organization)

Tracking this data gives you a better sense of what’s working and what’s not. It also allows you to answer key questions like:

  • Which marketing channels are receiving the most engagement?
  • Which marketing channels are receiving the least engagement?
  • What’s the response rate on one message over the other?
  • Which calls to action get the best response?

How to Choose the Best Text to Donate or Text to Give Software

Selecting a mobile giving platform can be daunting. Especially if you’re just learning how to set up charity text donations or you struggle with data collection. Regardless, you’ll want a donation solution that aligns with your needs.

Ask yourself the following as you find information and look for giving solutions:

  • What are your organization’s needs and fundraising goals?
  • What giving platforms provide the least amount of friction for donors?
  • Do you need your text donation platform to integrate with your CRM or existing database?
  • Does the platform offer security features that protect donor information?
  • Is the text-to-donate software PCI-compliant for payments?
  • Does the platform support keywords?
  • Does the texting service use a shortcode or ten-digit phone number?

The best text to donate platforms have these features:

  1. Easy to use and get started with
  2. Accessible on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices
  3. Supports adding multiple users
  4. Uses a local 10-digit phone number
  5. Has call forwarding features
  6. Saves text messages as templates
  7. Creates groups and lists of contacts and customers
  8. Sends texts to multiple recipients without reply all
  9. Schedules text messages for sending later at any time
  10. Manages opt-in, opt-out, and consent
  11. Integrates with other apps
  12. Provides good customer service and support

Suggested Article: How to Choose the Best Text Messaging Platform

Payment Processing and Credit Card Fees

Payment processing and credit card transaction are fees are important. They’re the final aspects to consider when selecting a text-to-donate platform. The best text-giving solutions integrate payment processing into their services, but each comes with different rates.

There’s always a percentage cut for processing payments. But services charging more than around 3.5% per transaction typically aren’t cost-effective.

Most payment processors also have added fees of around $0.25 per transaction.

Text to Give and Text to Donate Payment Processing Fees

The following illustrates what donation payment processing fees could look like for your organization.

10,000 donations at $1 yields you $10,000 in donations.

Apply MessageDesk’s payment processing fees:

($10000 x .0285) + (10000 x .25) = $2,785 in total fees

Since Stripe takes $0.30 per transaction instead of $0.25 they take a total of $3,295.

The important thing to keep in mind is your average donation size. The lower your average, the more significant transaction fees become.

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No switching carriers. Just add texting. Talk to Sales to get started.
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Final Thoughts and Next Steps

Ready to launch your mobile fundraising efforts? MessageDesk is here to help with smarter, simpler text messaging for nonprofits and charitable organizations of all sizes.

Visit our learning center for information on how to get started with MessageDesk. You’ll find a quick start guide to texting, a features overview, and an explanation of what MessageDesk is.

You’ll also want to check out our list of free SMS text message templates. Just copy and paste to start texting.

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