Is There a Nonprofit Discount for Short Codes?

If you’re an eligible nonprofit organization or charity, are you aware that the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA) Short Code Registry offers discounted pricing on leasing dedicated short codes? If your nonprofit or charity meets the requirements set forth by the CTIA, your organization can receive a 60% discount on commercial short code pricing.

If your organization meets the CTIA requirements, you can lease a dedicated vanity short code (a chosen number like 12345) at discounted rate of $400/month, or a non-vanity dedicated short code (a random number like 94601) for only $200/month. That’s a savings of $600/month and $300/month respectively, compared to regular commercial rates!

On this page, you’ll not only find nonprofit pricing information for leasing a dedicated short code, but you’ll also learn about the Guidelines for Mobile Giving established by the CTIA. The Guidelines for Mobile Giving provide eligibility requirements for nonprofits and charities to receive discounted short code lease pricing, in addition to information on acceptable short code uses.

CTIA Guidelines for Nonprofits & Charities

Nonprofits and charities have been using short codes to collect text message donations as far back as 2004, raising more than $4 million for victims of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami through text message donations alone. Each year since, the text message marketing industry has seen an increase in the usage of short codes by nonprofits and charities.

In 2005, nonprofits and charities used short codes to raise $400,000 for victims of Hurricane Katrina, and in 2008, the American Red Cross raised over $190,000 to provide victims with relief from Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike. According to The Mobile Giving Foundation, mobile donations in 2009 through a short code amounted to just under $4 million.

“After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to Haiti’s earthquake to Japan’s tsunami, Americans have generously sent millions of dollars in charitable donations via their wireless devices. The ‘Guidelines’ will help provide consumers with peace-of-mind when sending a text donation while ensuring their accredited charities are in accordance to their donors’ intent.”

Steve Largent, President and CEO of the CTIA

Then in 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. Due to the national exposure of the text message donation campaign, and the large amount of donations collected through a single short code, short code usage by nonprofits and charities really gained prominence. According to The Mobile Giving Foundation, within the first 36 hours after the Haiti earthquake, text message donations made through a short code surpassed $7 million. After 30 days, text message donations surpassed $32 million!

haiti text message marketing donations
Source: https://bit.ly/3fmc6zh

As of 2012, even political candidates had started to use short codes for raising text message political donations and communicating to voters.

political text message donations
Source: https://bit.ly/2WpS6TJ

In 2020, the World Health Organization raised more than $207,311,200 from more than 282,000 donors during the COVID-19 pandemic, in part through text message marketing.

“The world has never faced a crisis like COVID-19. The pandemic is impacting communities everywhere. It’s never been more urgent to support the global response, led by the World Health Organization (WHO). You can also donate by text via U.S. mobile carriers. To give $25, text WHO25 to 501501. To give $50, text WHO50 to 501501.

Covid19 Response Fund

covid text message marketing
Source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ETlFnxUXYAMK5Qb.jpg

Nonprofit & Charity Short Code Discount Eligibility Requirements

Given the increased interest from nonprofits and charities in using short codes starting after the Haiti Earthquake, the CTIA collaborated with major wireless carriers, mobile giving service providers, nonprofits, charities and accreditation groups, to not only reduce the cost of leasing a short code for a nonprofit or charity, but also to develop a set of best practices.

On October 12, 2011, after months of hard work, CTIA announced the release of their highly anticipated Guidelines for Mobile Giving. In the document, the CTIA outlined the specific eligibility requirements for nonprofits and charities to be eligible to receive a 60% discount on their short code lease. In addition, the document also addressed general guidelines as to how nonprofits and charities could and couldn’t use their discounted short code.

Below are both the eligibility requirements for nonprofits and charities to be eligible to receive a 60% discount on their short code lease, in addition to how those short codes can and can’t be used. If your nonprofit or charity meets all the requirements below, your organization will be eligible to lease a dedicated vanity short code for only $400/month, or a dedicated non-vanity short code for only $200/month.

  • In addition to your organization being qualified as a tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, your nonprofit or charity must also be accredited by at least one of the accreditation organizations below.
    • Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance: To be accredited by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, a nonprofit or charity must have a current report on file with the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. (www.give.org)
    • Charity Navigator: To be accredited by Charity Navigator, a nonprofit or charity must currently have a 3- or 4-star rating on Charity Navigator. (www.charitynavigator.org)

Guidelines for Nonprofit & Charity Short Code Use

A significant portion of the CTIA’s Guidelines for Mobile Giving details how nonprofits and charities can and can’t use their discounted short code. If an organization using a discounted short code violates any of the rules developed by the CTIA below, they’ll immediately lose their 60% discount, and will have to pay commercial short code lease rates.

  • During the duration of the discounted short code lease, nonprofits and charities must maintain compliance with federal, state and local laws, and the SMS program must be TCPA compliant.
  • The discounted short code must be leased directly from the Common Short Code Administration to the nonprofit or charity. There can’t be any intermediary parties between the Common Short Code Administration and the nonprofit or charity that is using the short code. Don’t worry though, your SMS provider can still assist you in leasing your discounted short code from the Common Short Code Administration.
  • The 60% discount on a monthly short code lease only applies to dedicated short code. The discount does not apply to short codes that will be shared between nonprofits or charities, commonly referred to as a shared short code. The only exception applies to chapter-based nonprofits or charities, where the short code is being used among all the organization’s chapters, as long as there is a common organization name between all chapters.
  • A nonprofit or charity may use a discounted short code for a variety of purposes, including but not limited to mass text messaging, mobile giving, SMS voting, SMS polling, and SMS chat. The only stipulation to using a discounted short code for a variety of messaging is that each type of activity must require its own opt-in.
  • Nonprofits and charities that conduct unified fundraising campaigns, such as United Way or Combined Federal Campaign, may lease a single code in support of their unified campaigns. To perform unified fundraising, a non-profit or charity must demonstrate that they have been in operation for at least five years.
  • Discounted short codes may not be used for gaming-related fundraising or donations (e.g., lotteries, sweepstakes, raffles).
  • If your nonprofit or charity is using a discounted short code, that short code cannot be used to conduct commercial activities such as promoting the sale of clothing or products with the organization’s logo or slogan on them.
  • If a nonprofit or charity is using a discounted short code, they may not use that short code to solicit recurring subscriptions for mobile giving.
  • Only the nonprofit or charity that is leasing the discounted short code from the Common Short Code Administration has rights to any use of the SMS subscriber information collected through the use of the short code. No other entity involved in the SMS campaign may use any part of the SMS subscriber data collected. 
  • When using a discounted short code, the nonprofit or charity may only use the SMS subscriber information collected through the use of the short code, for the campaign in which it was originally collected for.
  • When using a discounted short code, the responsibility is on the nonprofit or charity to both communicate and enforce its privacy policy to SMS subscribers and/or mobile donors.

Non-Profit Short Code Frequently Asked Questions

What payment methods are accepted?

To receive the 60% nonprofit discount on a monthly short code lease, the short code must be leased directly from the Short Code Registry to the nonprofit or charity. The Short Code Registry accepts short code lease payments via credit card or check.

Need help with either the short code application or the short code provisioning process? Your SMS provider can still assist you in leasing your discounted short code, even though your organization must be the one leasing the short code from the Short Code Registry.

If your nonprofit or charity need assistance with a short code application, or the short code provisioning process, please contact the USSCD.

How long does it take to get a nonprofit short code?

Purchasing a short code for a nonprofit or charity is a relatively fast and simple process. Once payment has been made for your short code, and you’ve submitted a short code application to the Short Code Registry, you are able to receive your short code within 24 to 48 hours.

That being said, just because you’ve received your short code, doesn’t mean you will be able to send and receive messages on it. The next step that you’ll need to take, which will allow you to send and receive messages on your new short code, is to go through the short code provisioning process. Unfortunately, this process can take up to 15 weeks.

Can I select a specific nonprofit short code number?

Yes, as a nonprofit or charity, you can select your own short code number, as long as it’s either 5 or 6 digits in length. If you choose to select your own short code number, you’ll have to lease a “vanity short code” rather than a “non-vanity short code” which can be more expensive since it’s a hand-selected number.

The good news is that if you’re interested in leasing a vanity short code, and your nonprofit or charity is eligible, you can save 60% off regular short code pricing. That means instead of paying $1,000/month for a vanity short code, you’ll only have to pay $400/month.

For questions about short code availability, or to get assistance for your nonprofit or charity with leasing your very own short code, please contact the U.S. Short Code Directory.

How much does a nonprofit short code cost?

Being a nonprofit or charity, you can qualify for a discounted monthly short code rate. The discount is 60% off the regular commercial pricing for short codes.

There are two types of short codes available to nonprofits and charities at the 60% discounted rate. Below are the two different types of short codes, and the monthly discounted costs for eligible nonprofits and charities.

  • Non-Vanity Short Code: $200/month ($500 regular)
  • Vanity Short Code: $400/month ($1,000 regular)

Be aware though that, to transmit traffic on a leased short code, the wireless carriers must first approve the code, which is what happens when the short code goes through the carrier provisioning process. The cost of short code provisioning varies depending on the SMS provider.

Are there any setup fees for nonprofits?

No, there are no setup fees or costs to file your short code application when leasing a short code for a nonprofit or charity.

If you’re an eligible nonprofit or charity, you can save 60% off the monthly lease of a dedicated short code. If eligible, a vanity short code with the discount applied will cost $400/month, and a non-vanity short code with the discount applied will cost $200/month.

Depending on the SMS provider, there may be a fee for the short code provisioning process.

If your nonprofit or charity has questions about the short code application or short code provisioning process, please don’t hesitate to contact the U.S. Short Code Directory.

What’s the difference between a non-vanity and vanity short code?

Ready to lease a short code for your nonprofit or charity? The first thing you’ll have to decide is whether you want a non-vanity or vanity short code. But what is the difference? Let us explain below.

  • Vanity short code: The majority of nonprofits select vanity short codes when leasing a short code. A vanity short code is a short code that is chosen specifically because of the number arrangement, making it easy for consumers to interact with. For example, 00100 is a lot easier for consumers to remember than 38597. If you’re an eligible nonprofit or charity, you can save 60% off the monthly commercial lease cost of a vanity short code, bring the cost from $1,000/month down to $400/month.
  • Non-vanity short code: Non-vanity short codes are generated randomly, and are not usually used for marketing or advertising purposes, as they’re significantly harder for consumers to interact with. The nice part about non-vanity short codes is that if you’re eligible, your nonprofit or charity can lease a non-vanity short code for  $200/month, which is a savings of 60% off the monthly lease cost of $500/month.

If you need help deciding whether a non-vanity or vanity short code is right for your nonprofit or charity, feel free to contact the short code experts at the U.S. Short Code Directory for assistance.

Can your nonprofit or charity collect text message donations?

Yes, if you’re an eligible nonprofit or charity, you can collect text message donations through a dedicated SMS short code. For more information on text message donations, click here.

Please note, discounted short codes may not be used for gaming-related fundraising or donations, such as sweepstakes, lotteries, or raffles.

Are political candidates or groups eligible for nonprofit short code discounts?

Unfortunately, political candidates or political organizations are usually not eligible for discounted rates on short codes. The reason is that political candidates or groups usually don’t meet the CTIA requirements for an organization to receive a discount on short code pricing, which are outlined below.

  • The organization must be qualified as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • The organization must be accredited by either the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, or Charity Navigator.

Are there restrictions on how a nonprofit or charity can use a discounted short code?

A nonprofit or charity may use a discounted short code for a variety of purposes, including, but not limited to, mobile giving, mass text messaging, SMS polling, SMS voting, and SMS chat.

If your nonprofit or charity is using a discounted short code, there are a few restrictions on how that short code can be used. The following activities are not permitted on a discounted short code.

  • Discounted short codes cannot be used to conduct commercial activities such as promoting the sale of clothing, or the sale of other products with an organization’s logo or slogan on them.
  • Discounted short codes may not be used for gaming-related fundraising or donations (e.g., lotteries, sweepstakes, raffles).
  • Discounted short codes may not be used by different organizations, unless the organizations are chapter-based.

What nonprofits and charities use an SMS short code?

Several nonprofits and charities use text-message donations. A list of examples is included below.

  • Text “QUAKE” to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
  • Text “HAITI” to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Foundation Haiti Relief Fund.
  • Text “GIVE” to 25383 to donate $10 to the MTV telethon.
  • Text “HAITI” to 25383 to donate $5 to the International Rescue Committee.
  • Text “HAITI” to 85944 to donate $10 to the International Medical Corps.
  • Text “YELE” to 501501 to donate $5 to the Yele Haiti foundation.
  • Text “HAITI” to 52000 to donate $10 to the Salvation Army.
  • Text “HOPE10” or “UNICEF” to 20222 to donate $10 to UNICEF.
  • Text “HABITAT” to 25383 to donate $10 to Habitat for Humanity.
  • Text “OXFAM” to 25383 to donate $10 to Oxfam America, Inc.
  • Text “HAITI” to 40579 to donate $10 to the National Religious Broadcasters.
  • Text “SAVE” or “SAFE” to 20222 to donate $10 to the Save the Children Federation, Inc.
  • Text “GIVE” or “WORLD” to 20222 to donate $10 to World Vision, Inc.
  • Text “CARE” to 24383 to donate to CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc.
  • Text “AJWS” to 25383 to donate $10 to the American Jewish World Service.
  • Text the word “LIVE” to 25383 to donate $10 to AmeriCares, Inc.
  • Text the word “LWR” to 40579 to donate $10 to Lutheran World Relief.