Text-to-give has been all the rage over the past few years. Once nonprofits saw how high donations skyrocketed during the Red Cross’ Haiti earthquake relief effort back in 2010, organizations were quick to hop on the bandwagon…without pausing to consider the costs.
The good news is that text-to-give technology has improved considerably since its conception. However, this fundraising method still presents many significant challenges that can hamper your organization’s success if left unaccounted for.
In this article, we’ll give you the lowdown on 5 major challenges associated with text-to-give to help your organization gauge if it’s really right for you. Here are the issues we’ll look into:
- Text-to-give can be expensive.
- Text giving can be subject to all sorts of limitations.
- There’s no clear-cut engagement pathway.
- You often won’t have a way to facilitate recurring giving.
- Many text-to-give services don’t support easy integration with your CRM.
Keep in mind: while text-to-give presents its difficulties, it can still be a lucrative fundraising channel for many organizations. Our goal isn’t to put you off of text-to-give altogether, but to illuminate the reality of implementing this fundraising channel so that your organization can do so more strategically if you do decide to adopt text-to-give.
Now let’s get started!
Bonus: If you need a little more context before we begin, check out this helpful guide from Qgiv.
1. Text-to-Give can be expensive.
There’s no beating around the bush: purchasing any sort of fundraising software will be a significant investment for your nonprofit. However, the costs associated with text-to-give software are relatively high when compared to other types of platforms.
Consider all of these costs:
- The software itself.
The text-to-give software itself will come at a monthly fee, the exact cost of which will vary from vendor to vendor. Most services will range in the hundreds of dollars annually.
- Payment processing fees.
In order to actually accept donations, your software must be equipped with a payment processing service. That means your nonprofit will incur fees from the payment processor, too. Most transaction fees fall somewhere between 4-10% of all donations, in addition to a flat rate per transaction.
- Maintenance and setup fees.
When you shop for software, you aren’t just looking for the perfect technology; you’re also looking for the perfect vendor. Unfortunately, many vendor services aren’t built into the base price of text-to-give software, so you may also have to shell out additional money for setup, training, and upkeep.
- Vendor fees.
On top of their services, many text-to-give vendors also charge convenience fees to cover data management, hosting, database integrations, and other resources required to maintain text-to-give.
Some text-to-give models require that your nonprofit set a unique shortcode (the phone number that donors send their donations to), which can cost up to $10,000!
- Additional keywords and messages.
Many services place a cap on the number of keywords (short words or phrases that donors use to signify which campaign they’d like to allocate their donations to) and/or the number of text messages you can receive. If you go over the pre-set amount, you’ll likely have to spend even more money.
Of course, some text-to-give services will be more affordable than others, so your nonprofit may not have to worry about all of these costs.
However, it’s important to be cognizant of them so you can make informed decisions while shopping and better judge whether or not text-to-give will be worth the investment.
In short: There are many costs associated with text-to-give that can potentially make it a hefty investment for nonprofits.
2. Text giving can be subject to all sorts of limitations.
It can certainly be argued that next generation text-to-give services have made the process of text giving less cumbersome; however, there are still many prominent providers who are stuck in the past.
Who we’re mainly referring to here are software providers associated with the Mobile Giving Foundation (MGF), a nonprofit that was founded back in 2008 with the intention of making mobile giving more widespread and accessible. While that may seem like a noble cause, the way it’s been approached is problematic.
Providers who fall under the Mobile Giving Foundation run their services by partnering up with cell service carriers, who handle processing all donation transactions.
Let’s look into why this model is a major disadvantage for nonprofits:
- Your nonprofit can only accept donations as high as $10.
Mobile Giving Foundation providers have placed a $10 cap on all donations, and some will only process donations as low as $5. There’s some debate as to why donation amounts are so low, but most agree that it’s an arbitrary limit set by cell service carriers.
- There’s a long turnaround time for receiving donations.
If you’re working with an MGF provider, your nonprofit likely won’t see your donations for weeks or even months on end. That’s because these providers process donations by adding them onto the donor’s phone bill, meaning that the donor has to pay the previous month’s bill before their donation can actually be completed.
- You’ll have to split your proceeds.
This payment model also presents another downside: since transactions are being handled by the cell service carrier, they can take a portion of all of the money you raise, diminishing already low donation amounts.
- You’ll have to liaise with yet another party.
While working with third-parties is pretty common in the nonprofit space (after all, nonprofits frequently work with software vendors, corporate partners, and other entities), teaming up with an MFG provider means you’ll have to liaise with two parties (both the text-to-give provider and the cell service carrier) for one effort.
If you ever run into any disputed charges, glitches with your software, or other problems, you’ll have to work with both the software provider and the service carrier to iron them out, which will be more complicated than working with just one vendor.
As we mentioned before, not all text-to-give services operate in this way. If you want to avoid these limitations (and we’re assuming you do!), look for an independent vendor whose service is backed by its own payment processor.
In short: Text-to-give services associated with the Mobile Giving Foundation have many limitations in place that decrease nonprofits’ mobile fundraising potential. If your organization is adopting text-to-give, search for an independent provider.
3. There’s no clear-cut engagement pathway.
We’ve discussed the problems with text-to-give software, but what about the process itself?
The major problem with text-to-give as a fundraising method is that it leaves no obvious space for donor engagement.
Think about it: to make a text donation, all a donor has to do is take out their phone and type up a message in the texting application that they use daily to communicate with friends, family, and other personal connections. They’ll then be taken to a simplistic donation page that’s loosely branded to your nonprofit and asks for the bare minimum (usually their name, a confirmation of the donation amount, and their payment information).
After that, donors may have the option to input their email address to receive a donation receipt, a step which they may or may not complete.
So why exactly is this format problematic for donor stewardship?
- On the frontend:
There’s no direct interaction with your nonprofit. Even other digital fundraising channels, like online and mobile donation forms, at least require that the donor go through your nonprofit’s website and immerse themselves in your brand before submitting a contribution.
Even if a donor is directed to your donation page through a direct link, they’ll have read correspondence from your nonprofit before embarking on the giving process.
- On the backend:
There’s no information capture to help you keep building on the relationships initiated through text-to-give. If a donor chooses to forgo entering their contact information, you’ll be left with a faceless phone number and donation, unable to provide further engagement opportunities. You won’t even be able to make that initial follow-up by sending an automated acknowledgement.
Even if you do manage to capture some information, the amount you’re able to cull is limited when compared to other donation methods.
Of course, there are some ways to alleviate these problems. You could, for example, require that donors fill in their contact information on your text-to-give donation form.
However, one of the benefits of text-to-give is the speed and simplicity it provides, so the more hoops your donors have to jump through, the more likely they are to abandon the process.
In short: Text-to-give doesn’t naturally facilitate building deeper relationships with donors, making it more difficult to retain supporters through this channel than others.
4. You often won’t have a way to facilitate recurring giving.
One of the benefits of conducting online and mobile giving through an online donation form is that your nonprofit can easily add a recurring gift option, where donors can specify their donation schedule and automate regular gifts. This feature is a huge advantage, since donors can conveniently get set up and will never run the risk of forgetting when it’s time to make another gift.
In simpler terms, offering automated recurring gifts is one of the easiest ways to retain more donors.
Text-to-give donation forms are drastically simplified, since it’s much harder to fill out fields on a mobile device. As such, many text-to-give platforms won’t include an automated recurring gift feature. Mobile Giving Foundation providers definitely won’t give you access to this feature, since there’s no streamlined way to implement recurring gifts when third-party service carriers are handling your transactions.
That means that your nonprofit will have to work much harder to raise awareness of recurring gifts among text donors (that is, if you receive their contact info and can continue communicating with them).
Even worse, getting set up with this option will be more arduous for your donors, reducing the chances that they’ll become regular contributors.
In short: Your nonprofit likely won’t have the option to automate recurring gifts through text, making it more difficult for donors to become regular supporters.
5. Many text-to-give services don’t support easy integration with your CRM.
Text-to-give is a channel in isolation. Similar to how it contains donor interactions with your nonprofit, it also exists separately from the rest of your fundraising strategy.
To clarify, text-to-give services often don’t support seamless integration with your nonprofit CRM or other fundraising tools. In order to get data received through text giving into your CRM, you’ll likely have to manually export a .CSV file of your data and import it into your software.
Both data silos and manual data management are less than ideal for multiple reasons:
- You won’t get the full picture of your donors.
If your text-to-give transactions are sitting in a separate platform, you won’t be able to view them in context with holistic supporter histories. That means you’ll miss out on valuable insights (for example, you won’t be able to see that some donors prefer mobile channels or specifically reference previous gifts in future outreach).
- It’s much harder to keep data current.
When your software platforms aren’t integrated, you won’t be able to automate data collection. It will be much harder to stay on top of creating new donor profiles and adding to existing ones.
- It eats up time.
Manual data handling eats up time. Instead of focusing on the projects that could have more impact when it comes to furthering your cause, your staff will have to spend hours on end completing a task that software could easily take over for them.
- Data management errors will occur in a higher volume.
Any time a person is handling data, they’re introducing human error into the equation. Without automation, your database will likely be messier and less accurate.
Of course, some text-to-give services will integrate fluidly with your other fundraising tools. Just make sure to ask your vendor of choice about the difficulty of this process and whether or not they can provide any assistance.
In short: Text-to-give software is often unable to communicate with the other fundraising platforms your nonprofit uses, making data management a huge hassle.
In short, text-to-give can be a profitable fundraising channel, but only if your organization is aware of its shortcomings and knows how to work around them.
We urge you to think long and hard before you decide to make text-to-give a part of your fundraising strategy!
If you’re interested in learning more about text-to-give, check out the following resources:
- Planning a Fundraising Event – Mobile giving works well with fundraising events! If you’ve implemented text-to-give, make sure to promote it at your next event fundraiser.
- Text-to-Give Pricing—Explained – Read this helpful article from BidPal to learn more about how text-to-give providers break down their costs.