Is A SMS Fundraiser Right For Your Group?

With close to $40,000,000 in donations, the Haiti SMS fundraiser is a great example of people coming together to help those in need. This effective and inventive fundraising effort by the American Red Cross was the perfect way to raise money quickly and from many different demographic groups. You may be wondering if such a fundraiser is right for your group. Here is what you need to know about this type of fundraising effort.

(Note: SMS stands for “short message service.” You send someone a text message using a SMS.)


text sms donation


The role of SMS fundraising

This relatively new form of fundraising has managed to net impressive sums of money even in a time when unemployment is high and the economy has seen much better days. People have pulled out their phones in droves to contribute via text messages. All donors have to do is text a keyword to a short code to make a mobile donation from their cell phone.

The large amounts given through text messages to disaster fundraisers has created a new beacon of hope for all those involved in fundraising efforts. This means of raising money appears to be simple and effective. But there is more to it than just asking people to text money to a cause.

SMS fundraiser challenges

The first challenge that this type of fundraising presents is the cost. This is a relatively expensive method for smaller groups to raise money, at least initially. The start up cost of such a campaign add up to at least about $1,000. While some charities have this kind of cash at their disposal, many don’t. (Visit for more information on how to set up an SMS fundraiser and get an estimate of what it would cost for you. Then stop by the American Red Cross website for FAQs about their mobile donation program.)

Even if you manage to get this technology set up then there are more details of which you should be aware. Your charity will be paying transaction fees to make this type of fundraising work. Anywhere from 3.5% and up is a typical amount for your charity to be paying back to the vendor for fundraising through SMS.

More than that, vendors may have minimum requirements as to the size of your charity. The challenges continue as you realize that text donations are smaller and make it harder for your charity to form an ongoing relationship with donors.

Are SMS fundraisers worthwhile?

The answer to this question depends on the charity. If your charity can manage the basic requirements to set up such a fundraiser then you still want to crunch the numbers before you do. The money that such a fundraising attempt generates may or may not be worth it. The SMS fundraising efforts have done amazing things for Haiti but raising funds through SMS is not for every non-profit, especially smaller ones.

The success of large disaster texting fundraisers has many non-profits excited about the potential for their own fundraising efforts. You just need to figure out if this type of fundraiser will be worth your while before you sink any money into it. Your group may have to consider other options.

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