It’s better to lead than to follow. That being said, sometimes it’s a perfectly good idea to follow. Especially if you’re following in the footsteps of some of the most successful mobile fundraising campaigns of the last ten years.
These 5 highly effective campaigns are great examples of how successful a mobile fundraising campaign can be when certain principles are applied and followed.
Read about these case studies and think about what aspects of their strategies your nonprofit might be able to emulate.
Here are the five campaigns we’re going to explore. Click on any of these links to jump ahead:
Below are the top 5 most noteworthy and successful mobile fundraising campaigns of the past decade.
Obviously, one of the most notable and widely talked about mobile fundraising campaigns of the last ten years was the Red Cross’s Haiti earthquake relief fund campaign. To this day, it is still one of the top reference points when people speak about text-to-give. It was one of the first majorly successful mobile fundraising efforts.
For an overwhelming majority of people surveyed, the Haiti campaign was the first time they had ever used texting to donate to charity.
In the end, the Red Cross’s mobile giving campaign raised over tens of millions of dollars that went toward:
• General emergency relief
• Rebuilding shelter
• Water and sanitation
• Disease prevention
• Health and wellness
The immensely successful “Text HAITI to 90999” campaign may have only lasted a few months, but the impact it had on mobile giving as a whole is still felt in the nonprofit realm today.
Because of the unbelievable outpouring it engendered, disaster relief efforts from 2010 forward were able to be funded with the help of this easy-to-use technology. Not only that, but it also opened the door for other nonprofit organizations to use text-to-give as a viable means of fundraising.
Here are some of the key points that helped the Red Cross succeed:
- They promoted their mobile fundraiser early and often.
- They showed transparency in how they used their donations. Their website still displays how those mobile donations were used.
- They appealed to donors’ hearts using videos, photos, and moving words.
As a part of her involvement as co-founder of the Keep A Child Alive foundation, Alicia Keys launched one of the most inspiring and successful mobile fundraising efforts of the past ten years.
The goal of Keep A Child Alive is to bring awareness to and thereby eradicate the AIDS epidemic in India and sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition to raising awareness, Keep A Child Alive, with the help of mobile donors, provides families and orphans affected by the AIDS crisis in Africa and India with:
• Life-saving AIDS medication
• Shelter as well as orphan care centers
• Grief counseling
Using her influence as an internationally acclaimed superstar, Keys asked everyone who attended her sold-out concerts to text “ALIVE” to 90999. Her calls to action at live events, coupled with her simple but effective advertising, spread the word about her campaign like wildfire.
From text message micro-donations ($5 to $10) alone, the campaign was able to raise over $40,000 in just a few short months during the Fall of 2008.
Keys, as a global ambassador and co-founder of the Keep A Child Alive movement, used her status as a touring musician and an international advocate to incite her fans to donate to the cause.
She took time out of each of her concerts that year to explain the process and the importance of contributing to the fund. Keys also appeared on American Idol to make a plea to a wider audience. Her brilliant efforts were rewarded in kind, and the foundation continues to flourish to this day.
Here are some of the key points that helped Keep A Child Alive Succeed:
- The efforts were promoted at live events.
- Instructions for how to donate were made clear and easy-to-follow.
- They used action words in their campaign, such as “Change,” “Act,” and more.
- They also used powerful statistics to back up their claims and incite donors to act.
Chances are, your organization hosts live events from time to time. Fundraising events like concerts and 5K races are the perfect places to promote your mobile fundraising campaign, just like Alicia Keys did.
Text-to-give isn’t just for charities, nonprofits, and churches. Other organizations, such as political campaigns, have hopped on the mobile giving train.
In 2012, both President Obama and Governor Romney instituted mobile fundraising efforts to raise money for their campaigns. Because of federal regulations, exact numbers could never be released, but it’s estimated that Governor Romney raised under $2,000 from his text-to-give campaign; whereas, President Obama raised upwards of an astonishing $800,000.
The chief difference between the two was that President Obama had previously used texting as a means of rallying supporters back in 2008. His supporters were familiar with the medium, and therefore it came naturally to them when he asked them once again at his campaign rallies to band together and support his efforts.
At each of his rallies, President Obama was able to ask thousands of his supporters at a time to take out their phones to donate and get the word out about the vote.
Not only has he been big on text-to-give for his own political campaigns, he has also been a huge proponent of the Red Cross’s disaster relief efforts, often mentioning their mobile fundraising campaigns in his own speeches and national addresses.
Here are some of the key points that helped President Obama’s mobile campaign succeed:
- President Obama incorporated donation buttons on his campaign website that read, “Quick Donate: $5,” which made it easy and intuitive for donors to give on the spot.
- He optimized his campaign site for mobile so that constituents could give through online donation pages as well as through text messages.
- He also promoted his mobile fundraising campaign at every rally and event on the campaign trail.
In 2008, the United Way and the NFL teamed up for a great cause.
The text-to-give campaign was launched during Super Bowl XLII, and proceeds went directly to the United Way’s funds to fight childhood obesity.
Using a 10-second commercial spot on TV, athlete Tom Brady invited Super Bowl watchers to take out their phones and donate. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
Even though this effort pre-dated the Red Cross’s HAITI campaign by two years, and mobile fundraising was still largely unheard of, the United Way’s mobile fundraiser was extremely successful.
They managed to raise awareness for youth fitness as well as an astounding $10,000 the same night that the commercial aired.
More than 2,000 people responded immediately to the call-to-donate.
Since then, the United Way has launched several other successful mobile campaigns, but this effort was one of the most notable for its immediate, rapid response. Each year, the NFL actually donates a free commercial spot to the United Way. This donation is the NFL’s way of helping end childhood obesity.
Here are some of the factors that helped the United Way succeed:
- They captured the attention of a large audience using a commercial.
- The campaign promoted their efforts on a local level as well as a national level.
- They incorporated actionable steps to solve the problems they set out to fix.
Your organization may not be able to buy a commercial at the SuperBowl, but you can advertise your mobile fundraising efforts on local channels, in local magazines, or at bus stops, like this one:
Getting the word out is one of the most important components of a successful mobile fundraising campaign.
It’s also vitally important to keep the people (or animals) that you’re trying to help at the center of your message.
As you can see in this advertisement, the picture of the shelter cat is the largest aspect.
Another thing that this bus stop sign does well is that it incorporates simple instructions for how a donor can send in a contribution through text.
They also use action words like, “You can still help” and “Save our kittens.”
“How long can you go without touching your phone?”
This is the question that UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) asked of people during their famous Tap Project.
While the app was live, users would download the app and aim not to use their phone for as long as they could possibly stand. The longer each user went without touching their phone, the more clean water was donated by UNICEF to children in need.
This became a viral sensation because it required close to zero effort on the user’s part.
Now that the initial sensation has died down, the Tap Project still lives on in other unique ways. You can still be challenged to give up technology for, say, 3 hours and 24 minutes. If you meet the challenge, UNICEF will still donate water on your behalf. You can also donate directly on the mobile app or through their mobile-responsive website.
Here are some of the key points that helped UNICEF succeed:
- UNICEF incorporated images of the children who were affected by the potable water crisis into their mobile campaign.
- They also used statistics and facts to encourage donors to take action.
- They made their mobile fundraising campaign easy for all users.
Adding statistics and facts about your cause to your campaign is sure to drive engagement. Keep in mind that people want to feel as though they are making a tangible difference in the world by donating to your mission.
With the knowledge of the great variety of mobile campaigns out there, it’s time to look into getting started with your nonprofit’s own mobile fundraising campaign.