It is the new-ish big thing. You may have heard that London Underground had to bring in quotas to stop every advertisement on the Tube from being a charity ad.
You may have also heard about premium SMS (pSMS) trials in Australia, or seen charities raising funds in your country through donations to SMS.
But how can you get SMS to work for you?
Outside of massive natural disasters by far and away the majority of income from SMS campaigns came after the SMS – and usually, through phone follow up.
There tend to be two main drivers to find people interested in your organisation.
Text to Give, like this Friends of the Earth ad in the UK.
Many fundraisers may think the £3 is key, but it is actually the phone number that is key. After a member of the public sends their SMS donation they will be phoned and given the opportunity to partner with Friends of the Earth on an ongoing basis, with a monthly gift.
In some countries that monthly contribution can be debited to their phone bill. Don’t worry if this is not possible in your country – it has its pros and cons. In the end, a credit card commitment is still great.
The other main method is Text to Get, like this Australian ad from Cancer Council Queensland.
This needs no special numbers or pSMS set-up. People (in this case, women) would be sent their guide following their SMS. The charity would also explain that they are funded purely by donations and give the person who requested the guide the opportunity to support the charity with an ongoing gift.
Both text to give and text to get work well, with between 6% and 15% of people contacted on the phone taking up the opportunity to make an ongoing monthly donation
The combination of online and offline advertising followed by phone calls can rarely be effective for budgets below around $100,000 (£50,000) and tend to need agency support on some or all of the creative, media buying and phone calls.
In conclusion: if you want to make SMS work for your cause, you are going to need a decent budget and focus on converting leads into ongoing monthly gifts.
PS If you are interested and want to find out more you really need to get expert advice. Let me know if you need this and I will try and find someone. In Australia and New Zealand, Pareto Fundraising and Pareto Phone can help, but I can put you in touch with agencies that are experts on this in other countries too.