CauseTalk Radio Ep63: The Myths of Mobile Marketing for Nonprofits

This week on CauseTalk Radio, Megan and I talk to Jenifer Snyder, Executive Director of The mGive Foundation, about the myths of mobile marketing for nonprofits.

The mGive Foundation has supported more than 10,000 text donation campaigns for more than 500 nonprofit partners and processes around 85 percent of all text donations made today. Working with their partners, mGive helped charities raise almost $70 million through text message donations.

Megan, Jen and I talk about who's really giving with mobile devices and when and just how valuable having a donor's phone number is.

Finally, Jen and I debate the merits of former Denver Broncos Quarterback Tim Tebow, who now plays for my New England Patriots.

Is Tebow the second coming, or does this virgin throw like Mary? Tune in now!

Donors & Texting: Should Nonprofits Return the Love?

1104160102break-up-lines_ymagg_71 This is a guest post from Jenifer Snyder, Executive Director of the mGive Foundation.

Reading through the results of the study I couldn't help but think that donors seem more in love with texting than nonprofits are. Is texting and nonprofits a story of unrequited love? Should nonprofits put more of an emphasis on text messaging and donations? I'd love to hear your comments below and reactions on social media. 

How often do your supporters tell you that they want to hear more from you? What impact are your social media efforts having on fundraising? Which solicitation methods leave your donors feeling great?

Our 2013 annual mGive Text Donation Study provides the answer to these questions and shows that text donations remain an overwhelmingly positive experience for donors. Supporters are increasingly finding out about text donation campaigns through social media. In addition, donors want to get more information about you through text messaging.

Here are some of the key takeaway points from our 2013 Text Donation Study:**

More donors are hearing about text donation campaigns via social media. Social media is second only to TV or radio as the method by which respondents reported hearing about text campaigns. In fact, social media as a source for text campaign information rose six points to nearly 28 percent from 2012 to 2013. Email as a source of information about text campaigns continues to drop, falling from more than 60 percent in 2011 to 11.5 percent in 2013.

Donor appetite for additional information from nonprofits via text is increasing.  After donation information, respondents were more receptive to receiving other information compared to the 2012 survey, with 17.6 saying they would like to receive information about surveys (a six point increase over 2012); 32.8 percent said information about volunteering (a nine point jump over 2012); and, 18.7 percent said program information (a four point increase over 2012).

Mobile is one of the top three preferred methods of giving. Donors reported they like to contribute online, with live events and mobile donations nearly tied as the second pick.

Donors have positive experiences with text campaigns. Eighty-five percent of respondents rated their experience with text giving as excellent or good.

Donors consistently want to give more money through text. Nearly 85 percent of donors would like to give $25 to $50 through text donations, a slight increase from 82 percent in 2012.

When it comes to nonprofit fundraising, the implications are clear:

When it comes to text donations, be social. Social media clearly is playing a larger role in how donors find out about your text donation campaigns. Promote your text giving through Facebook and Twitter. People love to share videos via social media, so use YouTube videos to promote text donations as well. Don’t forget to encourage your donors to tell their friends about your campaign using their own social media networks.

Survey says:  Social Media and Texting Work Together!

Use mobile communication for info-sharing, not just solicitation. Text donations are popular and increasingly important not just for donations, but for multiple types of information sharing. The increase in desire to receive information about volunteering, surveys and program information presents an opportunity for nonprofits to increase donor engagement through mobile communication.  Survey says: Say it By Text!

Text donations will not undermine traditional giving. The survey also found that an overwhelming 85 percent are inclined to continue donating at larger amounts to a nonprofit via traditional methods after donating by text, clearing up a misconception that text donations can undermine other methods of giving. Donors also strongly favored, by 65 percent, the option to donate $25 via text.  Currently, text donors are limited to gifts of $5 and $10.

Survey says: Text donors will give more!

**The annual survey was conducted online with 993,672 people who completed a text donation through mGive. A total of 20,445 responses were received, a 2 percent response rate. A complete summary of the 2013 Text Giving Study is available here.

Tevolution Brews Cause Marketing Success with SMS


You all know I love cause marketing - a partnership between a nonprofit and for-profit for mutual profit. But I also love iced tea. So it's no surprise that I love Tēvolution, a delicious new brand of iced tea from Purpose Beverages, Inc., launching right now in in Washington, DC and Los Angeles.

This is purpose-driven entrepreneurship as Tēvolution was created specifically with causes in mind. But their model is also a great example of cause marketing that uses text messaging - SMS - to direct donations and engage consumers.

The company has initially partnered with four nonprofits and contributes 25 cents from every bottle sold to one of these causes.

Those of you who read my post on SMS last week know that I have a renewed interest in SMS because of its ease of use and widespread adoption. In short, just about everyone knows how to text. But not everyone understands QR codes, location-based services and apps.

And that's just one of the reasons Tēvolution co-founders Ian Simpson and Gerard Artavia chose to go with SMS.

Here's how Tēvolution works.

Once you tear off the label, you still have the choice of going online to enter your bottle’s unique code. This is a good idea your first time as you can create a profile for yourself that, among other things, allows you to share your giving with friends on Twitter and Facebook, and track your total contribution.

The Tēvolution guys have even gone the distance there, optimizing the same message for SMS text (160 characters), Facebook (embedded branding), and Twitter (140 characters, @ user names, and great use of Twitter-speak).

Tēvolution chose SMS for what it's meant for: broad reach. Text is just the messenger. In addition, Tēvolution smartly engages consumers with a variety of messages that are designed to educate them about the causes they’re supporting. It’s a cross-platform approach that really shows what a company can do when thinking outside the box. Their texts include a link to a richer media experience for those with smartphones, in this case a landing page with an embedded video on the cause.

“We wanted to be at the leading edge of cause branding,” explained Ian.  “We are transparent about how much we’re giving and how we support our nonprofit partners who make a real impact in communities across the US.”

Regardless of the type of cause marketing your cause or company is using, Tēvolution offers an excellent example of how and why more promotions should include the simple, but ever-present text message.

How is your cause or company using text messaging for cause marketing?

Is the Humble Text Message a Cause Marketing Star?

I'm reevaluating my thinking on text messages (SMS) for cause marketing. Previously, SMS only meant text-to-give for me. And unless you used SMS after some horrific disaster, or at a concert displayed it on a jumbotron at some major sporting event it wasn't very useful for cause marketing.

However, the more I learn about text and the more I sober up to the reality of adoption rates on things like smartphone apps, location-based services, QR codes and other mobile gadgetry in general, the more I appreciate the simple text message.

  • I know a lot of people who know nothing about iPhone apps, QR codes and location-based services, but know how to use SMS. I bet you do too. It's something my eight year old son and 85 year old godmother can both do.
  • The fact that you don't have to learn anything about text to use it is really the beauty of it. Most phones push text messages so they're hard to miss. Compare that to getting someone to download your app. Or explaining Foursquare to a newbie. Or explaining what a QR code is.
  • Maybe that's why 97% of mobile subscribers will read a text message within four minutes of receipt. I mean, WOW. Forget talking to my two kids. I should just text them!

Nevertheless, we should be careful not to oversell SMS. Hipcricket Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Hasen, a SMS campaign veteran, puts it nicely: use SMS for reach and something else for a "richer media experience" (e.g. landing page, QR code, mobile app). He also says that for the companies he works with SMS is best for special offers or time sensitive deals.

So while SMS is the knock that just about every consumer will answer, they're particular on what they will let in.

Which brings us to how text messages can be used for cause marketing (beyond text-to-give). For this, I turned to Douglas Plank who founded MobileCause, a company focused on providing mobile solutions to nonprofits and companies.

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Doug agreed that nonprofits generally think of just text-to-give when it comes to SMS. But it could be used for a lot of things.

  • Communication - An environmental nonprofit could use SMS to update supporters on key activities or "breaking news."
  • Outreach - An agency working to stop teen pregnancy could use text messages to target teens, the most common and responsive users of mobile devices.
  • Information Gathering - A local YMCA could poll members on their choice for gym hours over the holidays.
  • Activism - A city hospital could use SMS to urge supporters to call their governor, congressman or senator to weigh in on an important piece of legislation.

There are a lot of good ways to use SMS, and nonprofits should encourage their donors and supporters to opt-in for text messages.

But to make this a cause marketing effort, nonprofits should partner with companies that boast a long list of SMS subscribers. The company could tap its list to help a nonprofit with communication, outreach, information gathering, activism and even fundraising.

  • SMS could inform customers of an in-store promotion for your cause with a link to more information about your mission. (SMS is the QR code you type instead of scan!)
  • A point of sale or purchase triggered promotion could include a keyword and short code that would reward donors with a special offer or discount, which they can access right from their phones.
  • A text from the company could ask customers to give by replying with a provided keyword and short code to make an instant donation.

There's a lot of potential with SMS. Nonprofits should build their own SMS subscriber base. But another option is to explore the potential of SMS with current business partners and make a point to target new partners that are known for their SMS savvy.

I believe in the future of location-based services, QR codes and smartphone apps. Over 100 years ago, the early inventors and makers of the automobile believed in its future too. But good, strong horses were needed until the age of the automobile arrived. The same is true of SMS. It's the best thing we have right now and it can do more than we think.

SMS is a good, sturdy workhorse. We shouldn't look this gift horse in the mouth.