Can I Collect Text Message Donations with a Short Code?

If you’re running a political campaign or a nonprofit organization, you want donations from as many places as possible. With the ubiquity of cell phones and text messaging, SMS donations can be one of those places. You can collect text message donations via a short code as long as your nonprofit meets the nonprofit qualifications set up by the wireless carriers.

Did you know that nearly one in ten US adults has contributed charitably using text messaging on their mobile phones? Now your 501(c)(3) organization can accept text message donations and take advantage of that statistic. How does it work? It’s actually very similar to how organizations such as the Red Cross collected an estimated $43 million in the aftermath of the January 2010 Haiti earthquake.

 

Text Message Donations - Text Haiti to 90999 (Red Cross)

 

Text Message Donation Statistics

If you’re not convinced yet, let’s talk data. Back in 2012, the Pew Internet Project, in partnership with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and the mGive Foundation (now acquired by GRYYT), conducted the first in-depth study of text message donors. The data was gathered by phone surveys of 863 individuals who used text messaging to donate to the Red Cross after the January 2010 Haiti earthquake. These are some of the interesting insights discovered about text message donors:

  • 89% of text message donors heard about the Text to Haiti effort on television.
  • 50% of donors made a text message donation immediately after hearing about the campaign. An additional 23% of donors made their text message donation on the same day they heard about the campaign.
    • Unfortunately, after making their text message donations, 43% of donors surveyed said they have “not too closely” followed the ongoing reconstruction efforts in Haiti.
    • 15% of text message donors said they had “not at all” been following the ongoing efforts in Haiti.
  • 75% of text message donors said their donation was a spur-of-the-moment decision
  • 21% of text message donors said they researched the incident before making their donation.
  • 56% of text message donors who contributed to the relief efforts in Haiti have since made another text message donation to other disaster relief efforts.
      • 40% of Haiti text message donors reported making a text message donation to groups assisting people living in Japan after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
      • 27% of Haiti text message donors reported making a text message donation to groups helping people living in the US Gulf region following the 2010 BP oil spill.
      • 18% of Haiti text message donors reported making a text message donation to groups helping victims of the 2011 tornadoes in the US.
  • 43% of text message donors encouraged family and friends to make similar text message donations.
    • 76% of these donors who encouraged family and friends were successful in their efforts, saying that their family and friends did indeed make a text message donation after their encouragement to do so.
  • 75% of text message donors spread awareness by talking with others in person.
  • 25% of donors preferred to donate via text message.
  • 24% of donors preferred to donate online via a web form.

 

Nonprofit Qualifications for Text Message Donations

To be qualified to accept text message donations, a nonprofit must meet all the mandatory standards, and three or more of the preferred standards below.

 

Mandatory Standards:

  • The organization shall be exempt from income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (includes filing a 990 annually and reporting gross revenues of at least $500,000.00 on such 990);
  • The organization shall be registered as a soliciting charity in all states in which the solicitation will occur. In the event of multi-state solicitations, the nonprofit organization must be a registered as a soliciting charity in all states requiring registration, unless sponsored by a qualified 501(c)(3) organization who is registered in all states requiring registration;
  • The organization shall be in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws including remaining current with all required filings (includes US Patriot Act Compliance);
  • The organization shall be in good standing in its state of incorporation and have been operational for at least one year;
  • The organization shall make only truthful representations to the public with respect to its fundraising, finances, operation, and solicitations;
  • The organization shall be accessible and responsive to the public and shall have a donor privacy policy that allows for donor opt-outs.

 

Preferred Standards:

  • The organization shall have an elected and volunteer Board of Directors of at least five members who meet at least four times each year;
  • The organization shall measure its effectiveness through assessment tools every two years;
  • The organization shall have a well-defined mission statement and operate programs that work to efficiently achieve that mission;
  • The organization shall spend its funds in a prudent and transparent manner;
  • The organization shall accurately report its expenses and make such information, financial statements, and annual reports openly available to the public.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Text Message Donations

 

Q: What is the Mobile Giving Foundation?

A: The Mobile Giving Foundation was founded in 2007 by veterans of the wireless industry who wanted to harness the immense power of wireless communications to empower nonprofit organizations. The organization is located in Bellevue, Washington.

The goals of the Mobile Giving Foundation:

  1. Develop and manage carrier standards for participation;
  2. Ensure compliance with all laws and regulations concerning charitable giving.
  3. Certify the participation of nonprofit organizations and their campaigns.
  4. Manage message delivery and billing solutions across all wireless carriers.
  5. Act as a billing settlement and records clearinghouse between wireless carriers and participating nonprofit charities.

The Mobile Giving Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization registered in all states to undertake charitable solicitations.

 

Q: What wireless carriers support text message donations?

A: The following wireless carriers in the United States support text message donations.

  • AT&T
  • Sprint
  • T-Mobile USA
  • Verizon Wireless

 

Q: What amounts can text message donations be?

A: One-time text message donations can be in the amounts of $5, $10, and $25 on all supported carriers. Monthly recurring text message donations can be in amounts of $5 or $10 on all supported carriers.

 

Q: How do text message donations work?

A: The Mobile Giving Foundation serves as the “glue” between a charitable giving campaign, the wireless industry, and the 250 million wireless users in the US.

The Mobile Giving Foundation processes and approves applications from nonprofit organizations wishing to deploy wireless technology in their communication and fundraising activities.

Once approved, the Mobile Giving Foundation develops fundraising campaigns in conjunction with established mobile marketing firms and the nonprofit. Wireless carriers then use the Mobile Giving Foundation’s messaging platform through their short message service (SMS) centers.

The wireless carriers pass 100% of the charitable funds they collect through to the Mobile Giving Foundation. The Mobile Giving Foundation also remits 100% of the donation to the recipient nonprofit within 30 days of receiving funds from the wireless carriers.

The Mobile Giving Foundation charges back costs for short-code costs, reporting, and messaging charges directly to the nonprofit organizations or their supporting service providers on a post-donation basis.

 

Q: What percentage of text message donations are remitted?

A: The wireless carriers pass 100% of the charitable funds they collect through to the Mobile Giving Foundation. The Mobile Giving Foundation also remits 100% of the donation to the recipient nonprofit within 30 days of receiving funds from the wireless carriers.

 

Q: How long does it take to receive text message donations?

A: The Mobile Giving Foundation remits 100% of the donation to the recipient nonprofit within 30 days of receiving funds from the wireless carriers.

 

Q: How does an application service provider apply?

A: Application service providers interested in being approved by the Mobile Giving Foundation must meet the following criteria:

  1. Service provider services a sustainable portfolio of nonprofit clients.
  2. Service provider is familiar with the consumer best practice requirements from the Mobile Marketing Association and CTIA and is good standing with all major wireless carriers.
  3. Service provider is financially stable and provides transparency of their management team and governance information on their corporate website.
  4. Service provider is rated by their local Better Business Bureau affiliate.
  5. Service provider completes an application with the Mobile Giving Foundation.

We hope this answered most (if not all) your SMS donation and short code-related questions. If you have other questions or concerns regarding short codes or SMS marketing, we invite you to reference our Learning Center.