Text to give

November 7, 2012

In the aftermath of the recent storm, it’s been impossible not to see it everywhere:  “Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.” And no doubt, in the weeks to come, someone in your organization will ask when you’ll launch a text-to-give effort.

Here’s the thing. The business model of text-to-give is volume. Set up and processing fees are still high. Information you receive on contributors is still limited. And the maximum donation size remains $10.
You literally need tens of millions of people to see your message to generate enough $10 donations to make this business model work. And it takes a true crisis to deliver those eyes — to get your message striped across national news reports, weekend football games and big televised benefit concerts.
Another way to consider it isto place any significant portion of your revenue expectations on a text-to-give campaign means that you must replace one $100 donation secured in another way with ten cell phone givers. It’s simply not a sustainable proposition in our world of shrinking donor pools.
The flip side of the equation is what happens after the donation is made. In a disaster, funds are contributed and quickly spent helping people. Then it’s over. Most organizations rarely have expenses that rise up, then go away. Add to that, the fact that these donors will be extremely difficult and costly to retain in future years as you continue to need stable funding that simply won‘t be there.
Relief organizations know that they’re basically building two files – their tried and true donors who stick with them year-round, and their disaster donors – people inspired to make a difference in the moment. And they need both of these kinds of people to accomplish the work they do. But it’s a rare occasion that disaster donors transition to becoming annual donors.  
Yet, even if these techniques won’t work for most of us right now, it’s still important to keep our eyes wide open to what’s out there… to do the analysis of how it might impact the work we do… and to pick up little kernels and pieces of efforts that just might work in our programs today or at some point in the future.

And ultimately, what really matters this week is that enough dollars are contributed in every possible way to support the many people for whom daily survival is now their only concern.