How do you raise donations quickly when a crisis arises?
The Jewish Federations of North America needed donations in late 2012 to support the JFNA Israel Terror Relief Fund, which was set up to help Israelis recover from rocket fire coming from Gaza.
JFNA wanted to make it as easy as possible for potential donors to give – but also did not want to set arbitrary limits on the size of their donations.
A text-to-pledge campaign that makes it easy for members to give
JFNA wanted to make it simple for supporters to donate. In addition to web and mail donations, JFNA launched a Text to Pledge program using the Mobile Commons platform (licensed by FedWeb).
Texting is a powerful way to reach your member base quickly. It’s simple to set up. It can easily be promoted via social media. And it is effective even when potential donors don’t have access to other communication platforms, like their computers, as was the case during the live events and rallies that the Federations held at the beginning of the Israel crisis.
JFNA chose to use “Text to Pledge” over “Text to Donate” (where the donation is deducted automatically from the cell phone bill) because “Text to Donate” donations are limited to $10. “Text to Pledge” allows supporters to donate any amount, though gifts are not automatically deducted.
How It Worked:
JFNA sent out communications about the JFNA Israel Terror Relief Fund that encouraged people to text in their pledge amount, after they texted keyword ISRAEL to their custom 51818 short code. The keyword/short code were also announced at several pro-Israel rallies held by Federations during the crisis.
Those who texted in received a response from the script below to set their pledge amount. JFNA staff then made a follow-up call to each pledger to fulfill the transaction.
The automated reply: Thank you for helping Israel in its time of need. Please reply now with your zip code to make a donation. Reply STOP to quit. Msg&DataRatesMayApply
The automated reply: Thank you! Please text in your donation pledge amount (ex. $518) and we will follow up to complete the pledge.
The automated reply: We appreciate your generosity in supporting Israel. We will contact you via phone soon to securely complete your donation.
As a tactical note, please notice that JFNA set the example donation level ‘anchor amount’ in the above script at $518. Studies have shown that providing such an example makes larger donations more likely, as long as your anchor amount is at the high end of a realistic range.
Thousands of dollars in donations
JFNA received 78 texted pledges, for a pledge total of $6,233. They called back donors and completed 36 transactions for a total of $3,377.
Additionally, a number of people from those original 78 pledgers decided they were not comfortable sharing their credit card information over the phone, and were instead thanked for their pledge and guided to JFNA’s online donation form via a short follow-up email. So, additional donations may have come as a result of mobile pledges that were not specifically tracked as such (JFNA hopes to track that behavior more precisely in the future.)
The average sum of a pledge was $81, with the highest pledge being $1000 and the lowest $1. The average donation (fulfilled pledge) was $96, with the highest donation being $1000 and the lowest $10. One person increased their pledge from $518 to $1000. No donor reduced his or her pledge amount.
The Jewish Federation in Phoenix used a similar “Text to Pledge” strategy. Even though their target population is smaller, the Federation was still able to collect $1,556.00 through text donations. Thirty pledges were made and 10 were fulfilled. (Some donors were unavailable when called, and a few chose to mail in a check rather than share their billing information over the phone.)
The Jewish Federation in Atlanta altered their technique. Once an individual texted in a pledge amount, he or she would receive a follow-up text asking for an email address. The Federation then sent them a confirmation email with a bill attached. The donor could either pay online or mail in a check. A total of 10 people texted in a pledge and only 3 pledges were fulfilled.
Text to Pledge Versus Text to Donate
JFNA found that Text to Pledge brought in dramatically more money than a Text to Donate campaign would have. If all the pledges received were $10.00, they would have collected a mere $780, instead of the $3,377.00 actually collected. Additionally, the Federation would not have received any of the donors’ information with the “Text to Donate” service.
That highlights another benefit of the Text to Pledge program. Once donors had texted in their pledge, JFNA and Federations could ask them for further information, such as their names, addresses, and emails. This was particularly useful for those not yet in Federation databases.
Dedication and persistence are necessary with Text to Pledge, as you need follow-up calls to complete transactions. While labor-intensive, Text to Pledge campaigns do yield impressive results. JFNA saw a 46% pledge-to-donation conversion rate and Phoenix saw a 38% pledge-to-donation conversion rate. Even with a percentage that is not 100% or even 50%, the sums collected were still greater than the amount that would be collected using a Text to Donate campaign.
Looking to the Future
As smartphones become even more widely accessible, texting will be even better at collecting donations. Both 2012 Presidential campaigns, for example, connected donors from text messages directly to a mobile web donation form. They also used texting to keep supporters informed about the candidates’ initiatives.
In conclusion, texting provides a quick and effective way to collect donations, and also provides a versatile way to engage the member-base. Text interactions should be brief and to-the-point, keeping in mind that donors chose to text for its ease of use and speed. Whether using it to share information or to mobilize quickly, as was the case for the Israel Rallies, the Federations concluded that texting has the potential to be a powerful tool.