The success of text-to-give fundraising efforts after the earthquake in Haiti ignited a firestorm of articles, research (including Cone’s) and debate about mobile giving. Had it reached a tipping point? Is it a valid giving strategy for other organizations and causes? The answer is “yes” because of its ease and immediacy. But at the end of the day, text messaging is still like any other communications and fundraising vehicle – it is still the execution that matters.
Two recent campaigns, both coincidentally focusing on homelessness, are successfully using text-to-donate campaigns to present compelling appeals to potential donors.
The “I Am Here” campaign in Austin, TX has literally hoisted a homeless man named Danny up to a billboard along a major highway. The billboard encourages passing cars to text a donation to help Danny and his family get a home.
The short-term goal is to raise $12,000 to purchase a home for Danny, but the larger scope of the program is to raise visibility and compassion for the homeless population by putting drivers face-to-face with a real human story. Although focused regionally, the campaign has attracted national media attention.
New York-based Pathways to Housing also used a local execution, but added a layer of interactivity to its mobile campaign. The organization projected an image of a sleeping homeless man on the side of a building where passersby could send a message to trigger a video in which the man gets up and walks in the door of his new apartment. The action did not require a donation, but it provided the opportunity to donate via cell phone or to visit the Web site for more information.
Text message fundraising is still novel enough that it’s easy to think it alone will make a campaign successful. But just like direct mail, email or any other fundraising tool, it too will fall flat unless the appeal is compelling, urgent and easy to fulfill. This was certainly the case in Austin where we’re happy to report that just days after his unique billboard appeal, Danny has a new home.