At the core of every obstacle is an opportunity

publication date: May 29, 2013
author/source: Katherine Winchester

As the administrator for Mobile Giving Foundation Canada, I hear it all: the confusion, the struggles, the successes. I hear about the “aha” moments and I hear about the missed opportunities too. Most frequently, I hear charities telling me about the obstacles they face that are unique to the mobile giving channel; obstacles that are not faced when using more traditional channels for donating. 

  • “Consent needed to contact donor!”
  • “No personal donor information!”
  • “Low donation amounts!”

These obstacles typically predicate mental road blocks when it comes to seeing the applicability of a text-to-donate program. 

  • “How can I get valid consent from the donor if there are no means available to do so?”
  • “How can I engage with or steward donors if I don’t know who they are?”
  • “How can I get a return on my investment with such low donation amounts?”

For the greater part of the past two years, the focus has been on obstacles rather than finding potential solutions.  But a light bulb came on. In order to make mobile giving sustainable, we realized we had to address the ongoing challenges that charities were facing.

What if charities were able to ask text donors for their consent through the same message flow required to initiate and complete a text message donation? 

What if the request for consent to call a donor came as a follow up message once a donation had been confirmed?

Further, what if we were able to track these consenting donors so that charities would have easy access to this information? And, what if through this follow up call, charities could obtain personal information about the donor; information such as: name, email and home address.

What if charities were able to get a better sense from text-donors as to why they chose this channel for donating, where they heard or saw the text-to-donate call-to-action, and what compelled them to take action?

These were my questions less than six months ago. They formed the basis for the development of the consent-to-receive-a-call follow up message that has recently been made available to all charities running mobile giving programs. Without any added cost for use, it’s really just an additional feature that provides charities with newfound opportunities.

With implementation just starting, it’s difficult to say how the landscape of mobile giving will change. But, one can easily predict that it will encourage more charities to develop comprehensive strategies around the use of text-to-donate as a part of the overall fundraising and engagement plan.

Consider higher donation amounts

For many organizations it is difficult to quantify what a $5 or $10 donation will do in terms of overall impact. Yet, being able to communicate how a single donation (or the sum of all donations) will make a difference is critical in getting potential supporters to respond. For some, this task may become easier if the amount of the one-time donation is higher. The release of the $20 and the $25 donation amounts makes this possible.

Fewer individual donors are needed at $20 and $25 to get the same return as one would at $5 and $10. Not that each donation amount doesn’t have its place for any particular campaign; rather, these options give charities more flexibility in designing a strategy that will work for their particular program.

It is absolutely worth saying again – text-to-donate is not a strategy. It is a tool that can be used to complement other fundraising channels - one that can open doors for new donors, and younger donors alike. Our goal is to continuously improve opportunities for text-to-donate based on the charity feedback I am lucky enough to receive.

Katherine Winchester is the Administrator of the Mobile Giving Foundation, where she manages day-to-day operations along with all major projects for text-to-donate programs, and works to broaden the awareness of its applicable use in the charitable sector. Contact her at, 613-233-4888 x216;

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