Why Text-To-Give Is Dead In 2020

Olivia James
Olivia James

Education at CauseVox

A few years ago, text-to-give was a buzzword that had lots of nonprofits excited. Some people were convinced that it would revolutionize giving for younger generations.

But we’ve had enough time to see how well text-to-give works and here’s the truth: text-to-give is dead in 2020.

Don’t believe us? Let’s take a look at the data and see how well text-to-give actually works.

What Is Text-To-Give?

Here’s a moment of serious honesty: when I sat down to write this piece, I thought I knew what text-to-give was. But after reading articles for over an hour, I had come across so many different definitions that the word “text” was starting to lose all meaning.

So we’re going to start this exploration by clearly defining our terms. Sometimes the phrases text-to-give and text-to-donate are used interchangeably, while other times people see them as distinct ways of donating. Here’s the difference:

Text-to-give is when an organization provides a word and a phone number to potential donors (through e-mail, snail mail, radio, etc.). Donors text the word to the number (ie: text ‘THRIVE’ to 34489) and a preset amount is added to their phone bill as a donation.

Text-to-donate is when someone texts a number to get a reply with the URL of the fundraising campaign.

Many people ask for text-to-give when what they really want is text-to-donate, so it’s important to know the differences, as well as the pros and cons of each. And that’s the first stumbling block for text-to-give. 

So now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s get into what it looks like in practice.

The Rise Of Text-To-Give

While the technology had been around for a while, Text-to-Give became widely known after the Red Cross used it for their Haiti Relief fund after that devastating earthquake in 2010.

At the time, I remember how amazing it was to simply text a number on my flip phone and be able to support a cause.

Since then, nonprofits have sought text-to-give as a way to fundraise with wide-scale advertising campaigns and at large in-person events. The purpose was to make the donation as easy as possible for donors to give, right from their phones.

But, a lot can happen in 10 years. 

The flip phone is nostalgia, and as technology evolves, culture moves away and grows out of outdated tech in search of the best and easiest experience.

And so, after 10 good years, Text-to-Give is being laid to rest in 2020. RIP Text-to-Give. 

Problems With Text-To-Give & Text-To-Donate In 2020

1. Confusion Impacts Donor Conversion

This confusion around what ‘text-to-give’ is poses a threat. If your donors don’t even know what the phrase means, they’re less likely to pull out their wallet and make a donation. It’s intimidating to try to make a donation when you’re unclear about what you’re supposed to do. Plus it makes this Millennial feel old and out of touch.

Here’s an example: let’s say you use the call to action “Text keyword GIVE to number 12345 to donate.” But your donor doesn’t know what happens next. Do they get to choose how much to give? Is there a second step after texting? Do they get a tax-deductible receipt? Will their phone company manage it all? Are there any fees and could they cover those fees if they wanted? You’d have to do a lot of messaging to make it clear and give your donors the sense of confidence they get from a donation page.

A strong digital fundraising platform designed to have a great mobile-giving experience cuts out all of that uncertainty. Your donors will know what to expect, and the process will be clear and easy. Plus they’ll have quick access to their donation information through e-mailed receipts or an account.

2. You’re Not Reaching The Right Audience

You might be thinking to yourself, “Didn’t I read somewhere that people donate more through text-to-give?” 

There are a couple of statistics that float around regularly touting the benefits of text-to-give. But what do they actually say?

According to Nonprofit Source’s 2018 Giving Statistics report, the average text-to-donate gift is $107. It’s important to note that this is text-to-donate, not text-to-give. That number sounds pretty appealing, but let’s dig a little bit deeper.

According to the same report, text donors are most commonly 49-59 year old, married women with college degrees. If you’re looking for a giving solution that will bring in new, younger donors, text is not the right market. 

In fact, according to the Nonprofit Times, Millennials don’t want calls or texts from nonprofit organizations. “In focus groups, they indicated they view texting and phone calls as personal forms of communication and therefore do not want to receive calls or texts from nonprofits.”

And, now that GenZ is becoming a player, you’ll want to pay more attention to their communication preferences. GenZ is entirely at home with mobile browsing, which means that sending them to a well-built mobile donation page will make them feel comfortable.

So it’s clear that younger donors aren’t necessarily interested in texting, and all your donors need more support than simple text messages. But there’s more to the problem than that.

3. Cost

Text-to-give might seem like the option you want, but there are quite a few hidden costs involved. 

  • You need to pay for a platform that will help you set up the process, and fees can add up quickly. 
  • Many processors don’t get you the funds for 30-60 days, so you’re likely going to have to wait a while before funds can be put to use. 
  • You’ll be spending a lot to market. In general, text-to-give works best when you have a lot of people in one place to see your message. Unless you’re shelling out for a radio spot or a billboard campaign, you need an easy way to share with lots of people at once. And here’s a spoiler for later in this article: lots of people in one place is not going to happen in 2020.

But even more importantly, if you want the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to rely on good old-fashioned email: it has the highest return on investment of any marketing channel with $40 coming in for every dollar spent. That means you should be reaching out to your donors through more traditional channels, as opposed to text-to-give. 

4. Text-to-Give Isn’t Relevant For Today’s Climate

If you remember a couple paragraphs ago when we talked about the history of text-to-give, you might have noticed that there were some themes in where it was used. Huge advertising campaigns and large in-person events have been the realm of text-to-give for years.

And then COVID happened. The world is completely different from the way it was 6 months ago. Sporting events, concerts, large galas, and other massive events aren’t happening.

Gathering hundreds of people in one place is not an option in our current world. Text-to-give relies on capturing people when they feel impulsive and spontaneous, when you can control their environment. That kind of setting is straight-up impossible right now. Text-to-give has had its legs swept, and it’s not getting up any time soon.

Since we don’t have in-person events, one of your strongest alternatives would be to set up a virtual event with smooth and simple mobile giving. Check out these options for virtual events.

5. Limitations Causing Lower Gift Sizes And Drop In Retention 

One of the biggest concerns with text-to-give is that it doesn’t offer your donors the options they want. Many text-to-give platforms cap donations at $15 or $25, plus most of them don’t offer a recurring gift option. 

That’s a huge hit if your donors would be giving more or creating a recurring donation.You never want to limit the amount that a donor can give.

Not only that, but text-to-give doesn’t provide you with a strong way to connect with your donors. They’re limited in how they give, and you’re limited in how you communicate. You can’t provide your donors with donation tiers, and your story is limited to the size of a text. Sometimes, you don’t even receive that all important donor data to follow up afterwards. As we all know, the thank you and continuing communication are essential to building a strong relationship and an ongoing donor. Without that information all you get is a one-time $15 gift instead of a relationship with someone who will continue to support you.

All of that makes it so much harder to truly connect with donors and retain them for the long run.

6. Clunky Donation Process

You might be thinking to yourself “ah, but what about text-to-donate? That seems like a great option!”

There are specific circumstances that a text-to-give or text-to-donate campaign makes sense. But even text-to-donate has some downsides. 

Let’s take a minute to think through the practical steps of the giving process: let’s say you want your donors to try text-to-donate. You advertise a 10 digit number that they can text to receive the URL of the fundraiser. 

Now, your donor has to try to remember that number, take out their phone and text in, wait for a link, and follow the link. That’s a 4 step process just to get to the page where they would start the donation process.

Isn’t it easier to just send them the link in the first place? 

If you’re creating great mobile-friendly giving experiences by driving people to a mobile-optimized donation form, your donors will be able to give easily and comfortably from their phones without all the hassle of setting up text-to-give.

The Newer, Better Alternatives To Text-to-Give That Get You More Donations

So what should you do instead? 

You don’t need text-to-give to make it easy for people to give on their phones anymore. It’s all about using the most updated technology available to get more donors through mobile-optimization and mobile payments.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the trends around digital fundraising:

  • In the last 2 years, there’s been a 24% growth in online donations.
  • In 2018, mobile giving increased by 205%.
  • 65+% of all fundraising site web traffic is on mobile, and is growing each year.
  • 54% of consumers have used a mobile wallet to make a donation.
  • 75% of young donors are turned off by an out-of date website
  • Conversion rates increase 50% when form fields are lowered form 4 to 3.
  • Donors are 38% more likely to give on mobile responsive websites.
  • Supporters are 70% more likely to give again if they gave on a branded page the first time.
  • Donors are 400% more likely to give again if they’re thanked within the first 48 hours.

You’ve probably picked up on the main suggestion we’ve got: make sure your donation forms on your website and your fundraising campaigns are mobile-optimized and easy to use, without extra clunky steps. 

Whether you’re hosting virtual events, in-person events, peer-to-peer fundraising, creating a campaign, or just optimizing your donation page on your website, it’s incredibly important to create a clunk-free donation form. That means making sure you aren’t asking too many questions, keeping the process quick and easy, and ensuring that you have mobile payments built in from the get-go.

Summit Assistance Dogs Virtual Luncheon

1. Mobile-Optimized Donation Forms Help Increase Traffic And Conversion

Especially when it comes to young donors, visiting mobile websites and making online payments is natural. 65% of millennial donors head to an organization’s website first for information.

Combine that with the 200% increase in mobile donations in 2018, and the fact that 51% of people who visit nonprofit websites are using mobile devices to do so, and we’ve seen that 65% of traffic on fundraising sites is on mobile.

Better than investing in text-to-give, focus your energies on making your mobile site smooth and engaging. According to Nonprofits Source, using mobile-responsive design in your website increases donations by 126% on average.

Here’s a few ways to improve the mobile donor experience:

  • Make sure your form is mobile responsive (try making a donation on your phone to your org, if it isn’t as easy as buying something online, look for a solution).
  • Limit your donation tiers to 6 options or under– you don’t want people to have to do so much scrolling to pick an amount.
  • Limit form fields- don’t require your donors to put in too much info. Keep the process short and simple.
  • Make sure you provide automatic receipts so your donors don’t need to go looking at tax time.
  • Allow recurring or one time donations.

If you want to capitalize on donors’ love for their phones, make sure your donation page is mobile-optimized and seamless and easy to use. No frustration, no clunk, just a great story and your cause.

2. Mobile Payments Options Are The New Text-to-Give

Remember how amazing it was to text-to-give from your phone? 

Well, mobile payments are the new text-to-give. In the click of a button, you can make a payment right from your phone, no credit card required.

It can’t get any easier than that. 

Mobile payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay are the newer, easier, trend that helps you get more donations from mobile donors- and will continue to grow. In fact 54% of consumers have used mobile payments, and most predictions show those numbers only going up.

Text to give was big 10 years ago. 

Mobile payments will be big for the next 10 years.


When you cater to the ways donors want to give now, you’re able to convert more donors and retain them for the long run. Isn’t that the whole point?

Now is the time to get set up with it to capitalize on that growth.

And if you wanted a few more stats to convince you: 92% of European millennials said they would use mobile payments in 2020. A 2019 forecast showed that mobile payments are expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 26.93% between 2020 – 2025. Those are some serious numbers.

Don’t miss out on the future of fundraising, because you’ve been looking back.

You can make the most of that growth now with CauseVox’s built-in mobile payment options, so you can raise more online, reach more donors, and convert more donors on your donation form.

Get More Donations With Mobile-Giving On CauseVox

CauseVox helps you get more donors with smart donations forms. In fact CauseVox’s forms are so effective that the average donation on the site is $109, making it higher than text-to-give.

Replace your clunky, outdated, donation pages and campaigns with CauseVox, so you can get more donations with less effort.

To help support nonprofits during this time, CauseVox has introduced a new Basic Plan Unlimited, which gives you more capabilities for free. Learn more about Basic Plan Unlimited.

Sign up for free today!

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