How to use mobile phones for fundraising

As a millennial, I absolutely love smartphones. Who doesn’t? You can use it to communicate, navigate (google maps yo!) and look up information. At the very least, it is a great source of entertainment. Mobile phones to me and the rest of my generation are much like an extension of ourselves – they just makes our lives so much easier. So why haven’t many nonprofit professionals thought of using mobile phones as a medium for fundraising?

Several nonprofit organisations like Red Cross, Keep A Child Alive, and Operation Smile have made this shift and have seen tremendous benefits; especially in terms of having caught the attention of the younger generation. From making the donation process faster to building personal connections with donors, mobile phones are a great tool when it comes to raising more funds for your organisation.

Unsure of where to begin? You’re certainly not alone. But don’t worry! In this article, I’ve highlighted 5 ways in which you can leverage mobile phones to fundraise.

Personal and meaningful connections

Fundraising through text messages helps to create personal connections with your supporters, making them investors in your cause rather than one-time donors. And it’s rather convenient. With just a simple dance of your fingers, anyone with a phone can contribute to your cause. You can easily draft a text and send it to all your constituents within minutes. For instance, “Hi Alice. This is Jon from Hope Society. We’re almost reaching our fundraising goal of $5,000 for the Clean Iowa ballot initiative. Can I send you a small $10 donation?

This works best when you’re reaching out to first-time or lapsed donors. People are more likely to engage with you and donate when the request comes as part of a personal, one to one conversation.

Link it to your peer-to-peer campaign

An advantage of integrating your peer-to-peer campaign with your mobile fundraising campaign is that it increases the number of potential donors. Moreover, it also makes it easy for you to build and cultivate donor lists. What you can do is motivate a few of your core supporters to make personal appeals to their social networks. You can send them three types of text:

  • Motivational texts encouraging them to reach out to more people
  • Informational texts providing them with various tips and tools
  • Text appeals which they can send to their circles

Now that you have those new donors’ email addresses and numbers, you can add them to your database and existing email marketing list, so as to keep them updated on all the workings of your organisation and upcoming volunteering opportunities.

Make use of SMS sign-up

An SMS sign-up campaign is a great way to encourage mobile giving and to build your donor lists. For this, all you need is a keyword and a shortcode. By publishing your number at an event, rally or your social media handle, any person interested in your cause can send in a text to make a donation. For example, the American Red Cross made use of SMS sign-up campaigns to raise money to help people affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific region. Here, US residents were given the option to text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate to the cause. In this example, the keyword is “REDCROSS” and shortcode is “90999”.

Once a prospective donor texts the keyword, you can send an automated reply to collect their details, the donation amount, and the cause they want to help out. You can set the keyword while creating your SMS sign-up campaign and rent a shortcode or longcode.

Encourage text pledges

Text pledges are much like the “paddle-raise” at an event, but performed in a more fun and interactive way. With mobile pledges, the donor texts in the amount they are pledging to donate. You record the amount pledged, the time and date, and the donor’s cell phone number, after which your organisation collects the funds either at the end of the event or a days after the event.

One example of this type of mobile giving is The annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar party (which received a whopping $7 million in funds). They foundation jazzed up their donation process with an on-site giving opportunity. Here, guests were allowed to pledge a limitless monetary contribution via text message. A live feed then broadcasted their pledges to the attendees, which created a social giving network. The donors were given the option to choose the amount they wanted to give and decided if they wanted to be recognised or not. This type of social giving opportunity works because of the power of peer-to-peer influence.

Send out donation prompts during the event

First up, ask for phone numbers during event registration. This solves your problem of having to request for information later. Next, focus on sending out donation prompts during the event urging guests to contribute. You need to highlight the need and urgency. You can say something like this “Hey Alice, we’ve almost raised of $10,000 for Clean drinking water initiative at Randwa. But we’re still $2000 short. Can you help us out by donating $15?” Sending out such prompts right at the beginning of an event, when attendees are getting settled, can result in the request being ignored. Instead, send out prompts after a presentation or during a speech that plays on the feelings of need or motivation to best encourage your potential donors.

Your nonprofit needs donations to keep running and mobile phones just make the process a whole lot easier. Try the above ideas for your organisation. And when you do, let me know! I would love to hear how they worked for you!

Author bio:

Jasmine Somaiah is a communications specialist at CallHub, a multi-channel engagement platform for nonprofits. She helps organisations grow their contact database and create personal channels of communication with supporters. If you have any queries hit her up at