Seven Secrets of SMS Text Fundraising Campaigns

An SMS text campaign is a good opportunity for a non-profit to raise funds in a short period of time. It can be slightly different from country to country; in Italy the organisations are required to send their proposal to a network of telephone companies, showing their quality standards and demonstrating a strong communication strategy. When a project is approved, the companies give each non-profit a specific number to be used only in a defined period of time to execute their fundraising and communication activities. No fees are due to the telephone companies, as the initiative is part of their CSR .

SMS text fundraising is, or should be: urgent, with a strong call to action, emotional, fast, clear, effective, satisfying for the donors:

  1. Urgent – Everybody must feel an urgent need: people in need, mainly, but also countries in conflict, animals or forests in danger;
  2. Strong call to action: the urgency of the appeal comes from a few but touching words;
  3. Emotional: potential donors read the appeal and should feel immediately engaged with the cause. Your appeal must touch their heart;
  4. Fast: in a few seconds the donors decide to send a text and give;
  5. Clear and well promoted: the beneficiaries and/or the project must be tangible, countable and the communications strategy must be as viral as possible (from word of mouth to social networks, all possible communities must be …woken up!)
  6. Effective: an SMS campaign, in a short time, gives the perception and the trust that the money raised is put in to action right away;
  7. Satisfying: by sending even one text, donors feel happy. Their money will do good: even just one SMS text is part of a bigger success achieved together.


Before planning an SMS campaign there are a few things that should be considered:

  • Choose the campaign project wisely: remember that the main goal is fundraising;
  • Communicate effectively: the SMS text campaign is a chance to promote your organisation, your projects, your actions in the field, even your people;
  • Time optimisation: you’ve got 24 hours a day to promote your campaign through different channels, mainly social media. Plan your days, hour by hour;
  • Save money: yes, these sort of campaigns are an investment but you can run a low cost campaign, for instance focusing on the same subjects/projects replicable in other countries, year after year;
  • Use your patron’s name: if you have patrons, ask them to help you in promoting your campaign or, better, to front the campaign themselves, including asking their close/wider communities to take part;
  • SMS can be for everyone: many people are happy to donate one or two euros by mobile. Easy, fast, cheap.

As with any type of campaign, there are issues that you will need to be aware of with SMS campaigns:

  • Who is the SMS donor? It’s difficult to get new donors and transform them in regular givers;
  • Donations do not go directly to the non-profit but to the phone companies (then later on to the non-profit);
  • A donation by SMS means no real commitment to the cause/organisation.

Francesca Mineo, Director, IFC Italy