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Text Giving For Churches – What Is It And Why Do You Need It?

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Published: Oct 30, 2020

Even though text giving for churches has been in use for some time, there are still a lot of churches asking, “Do we need this to be part of our giving? Isn’t passing around the basket for cash and cheques or encouraging people to use our website enough?” 

text giving churches

The straight answer is, No!

The fact is people prefer texting. It’s easy, intuitive, and most importantly, people are more comfortable with it. In fact, 7 out of 10 churchgoers actively use text messaging. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to communicate with them over a channel they prefer? 

Text giving for churches alleviates several barriers to in-person donations and makes fundraising more convenient for you and the donor. 

Let’s take a look at how it achieves that and how can you implement it in your church. 

What is text giving for churches?

Church text giving or text-to-tithe is a fundraising technique that involves receiving donations over SMS. An individual initiates the donation process by texting a keyword to a phone number. 

Typically, there are two major methods of text giving that churches, small and big can leverage:

  1. Text-to-give
  2. Text-to-donate

Let’s take a look at how each of these works.

What is Text-to-Give?

In a church text-to-give campaign, donors initiate the donation by texting a keyword to a shortcode (or standard phone number). When they do, a donation amount gets added to their monthly phone bill. This donation amount is predetermined when setting up the campaign.

To set up text-to-give for churches, you will need a text-to-give platform (like Pushpay). Typically, such platforms charge a fixed monthly fee and a small commission on every transaction. Text-to-give for small churches

Here’s an example of how the conversation for text-to-give for your church would look like:

Text to give churches

How does text-to-give work?

While there may be some other intricacies based on the software you choose, here’s an overview of how text-to-give for churches works. 

For the church
→ Pick a text-to-give platform.
→ Receive a unique number (or shortcode).
→ Set up your campaign (set the keyword, the fixed donation amount, the messages to be sent, etc.)
→ Market the shortcode and keyword for people to know.

For the donor
→ Text the keyword to the shortcode/ standard number.
→ Reply “Yes” to the confirmation message (that is usually sent as the first response).
→ Done (the amount is added to their phone bill).

What is Text-to-Donate?

In a church text-to-donate campaign, donors send a keyword to a number to show their interest in donating. They get an automated response with the link to a donation form/page.

Donors follow the link, fill in the desired donation amount, and are directed to a payment gateway. There is no predetermined donation amount.  

To set-up text-to-donate for churches, all you need is:

Here’s an example of how the conversation flow for text-to-donate for your church would be like: 

text to donate churches

How does text-to-donate work?

Text-to-donate campaigns usually are less complicated and have a workflow as follows: 

For the church
→ Select a mass texting software (you can use the same payment gateway you use for online giving).
→ Set up a checkout page using the payment gateway and save the link.
→ Set up a shortcode, keyword, and automated responses (with the checkout page link) for the campaign.
→ Market the shortcode and keyword for people to know.

For the donor
→ Text the keyword to the number.
→ Follow the donation link and fill out the details to complete the payment.
→ Done (the amount is debited from the individual’s card/account).
Related reading:
Automated text messaging: How to get started

Surely, by now, you have an idea of how text giving for churches works. But the question remains, “why?” 

What is all the hype, and why do you need text giving? That’s what we’ll talk about next.

Why text giving for churches?

As mentioned earlier, text giving for churches involves receiving donations over SMS. Here are seven reasons you must opt for these methods.  

  1. Eliminates dependency on cash
  2. Opens up a powerful channel of communication
  3. More secure and organized than passing the plate
  4. It is more private
  5. Fast and easy – no learning curve
  6. Text giving is more cost-effective
  7. It helps you reach out to more donors on average

Let’s take a look at each of these in detail. 

1. Eliminates dependency on cash

Digital currency is on its way to making cash and checks obsolete. A report by Bankrate found that at any given time: 

  • 8 in 10 people carry less than $50 cash
  • Nearly 50% carry less than $20
  • 9% carry no cash at all

Asking for cash donations would reduce the amount each person can donate. Imagine, if you had just $20 with you, would you give away even $10 without a second thought? 

2. Opens up a powerful channel of communication

Many would argue that any form of online fundraising would eliminate the dependency on cash. True, but would that give you the chance to communicate with your congregation on a personal level? 

Text messages have:

  • 98% open rate
  • 7.5X higher response rate than emails.

This shows that your texts are more likely to be read and have a higher chance of opening up two-way communication between you and your followers. 

When someone gives to your church via text, their number is added to your database. You can use this to communicate with them about upcoming events, services, or general updates to nurture them more effectively. Click To Tweet

3. More secure and organized than passing the plate 

Another major issue with collecting physical currency for donations is that it comes with a lot of responsibility and disorganization. Churches are required to:

  • Collect and count the money being donated
  • Store it securely until it is deposited
  • Deposit the cheques and cash

A single mistake in any of these tasks (like counting the wrong amount or misplacing a cheque) could lead to a huge problem.   

By automating the entire process, text giving eliminates churches’ need to spend time on these activities and focus on their congregation. The automation also keeps the process more organized and secure. 

4. It is more private

Donors don’t typically broadcast how much they’re giving. They support the church because they want to help as much as they can. But you don’t want to pressure them into giving more than they can afford and leave them struggling, right?

Asking for cash or cheque donations isn’t very private. Individuals may feel like all eyes are on them when it’s their turn. This would lead to concerns about being judged for giving too little or even for not having cash.

They may not feel very good about this part of the service, and it could lead to them avoiding service altogether. Text giving makes the donation process private and hence ensures a more pleasant experience. 

5. Fast and easy – no learning curve 

Let’s be honest, navigating through a kiosk could be a little complicated, especially for first-time users. People have to go through a lot of instructions to make sure they don’t face any hurdles. On the other hand, a mobile app may require a lot of time and effort to complete the donation (from downloading and installing it to creating an account). 

In both these instances, the number of drop-offs increases since the process is either too long or too complicated. 

But texting is quick and easy. Everyone’s familiar with it, and it doesn’t require you to learn anything new. All they have to do is text a keyword (and fill a form for text-to-donate), and voila, it’s done. 

6. Text giving is cost-effective

Fundraising through texts is relatively more cost-effective than most digital giving platforms. It eliminates the need for you to buy:

  • An expensive card reader technology to accept donations through cards
  • A kiosk to accept donations (which could cost you around $5000)

For text giving, all churches need are payment gateways (that they probably already have) and software to enable giving, which usually costs around $20. 

7. It helps you reach out to more donors on average.

Passing the plate, setting up a kiosk, or swiping a card all have one major issue, they require the donor to be present in the church. But, with text message donations, that’s not the case. 

Text giving eliminates the need for donors to be physically present in the church. This allows you to reach out to even those not attending the service.

Moreover, people can also make a donation any time after the service. They are not restricted by the hours of the service. 

This flexibility allows you to reach out to more people than traditional methods. 

The next question is which text giving method would be suitable for your church? Let’s weigh in the pros and cons of each to understand which one would be a better fit for you. 

Pros and cons of text-to-give for churches

ProsCons
Extremely easy to make donations. No option to enroll for recurring donations.
Smaller donation amounts lead to higher conversions.Donors can’t change how much they can give.
Lesser drop-offs due to the shorter and frictionless process.No control over donor experience. 

Delay in receiving donations – it is only processed after users pay their phone bills.

When is text-to-give for churches a viable option?

Text-to-give will be suitable for:

1. One-time campaigns or emergency fundraising

Since you don’t get any information on the donor, text-to-give is suitable for campaigns in which building a donor list for nurturing is not a priority. One-time campaigns in response to an emergency or for a launch (of a program, event, etc.) would benefit from it. 

2. In combination with other fundraising techniques

For instance, if you wish to collect donations during fundraising events or gatherings. You could also include the keyword and shortcode in your direct mail or email newsletters for people to opt-in and donate. 

How to set up text-to-give for churches?

Once you select the text-to-give software based on your needs and budget, here’s how you can set up the campaign. 

Step 1: Select a phone number to which the texts will be sent

text to give get number
text giving setup select number

Step 2: Select the keyword with the donation amount for the campaign

text to give keyword

Some platforms may have a defined keyword; others may give you the option to set up your own custom keyword. 

Step 3: Set up your communications

These include the initial message you’ll send when someone texts you the keyword and the thank you message/receipt at the end of the process. 

text to give donation message
text to give receipt message

Source: Faithlife

Once it’s all set, you’re good to go live with your campaign and track the donations on the platform’s analytics dashboard.  

Next, let’s go over what text-to-donate for churches entails. 

Pros and cons of text-to-donate for churches

ProsCons
Flexibility in choosing a donation amount.A slightly longer process (than text-to-give) could increase drop-offs.
Easy to provide an option for recurring donations.Lack of branding on the checkout page – since it is hosted on the payment platform.
Checkout page fields provide you with vital donor data that can be used for nurturing.Hidden costs – some payment gateways may take a higher percentage of each transaction. 
Immediate impact – donations are transferred through payment gateway in real-time.

When is text-to-donate for churches a viable option?

Text-to-donate works best for churches when: 

1. Building a new donor list is a priority

Since you get more information on the donor from the fields on the checkout page, you can use this data to set up a nurturing flow for them or communicate with them otherwise. 

2. You want to push for repeat donations

With text-to-give, a donor will have to send in a keyword again to donate. Text-to-donate allows you to set up reminders after a fixed time period (for instance, a month) asking donors to give again. Apart from that, the option to opt for repeat donations is available on the checkout page. 

How to set up text-to-donate for churches?

To set up a text-to-donate campaign, all you need to do is set up text message autoresponders to be sent out once a donor shows interest. With a mass texting software like CallHub, here’s how you can do it:

Step 1: Select a phone number and keyword of your choice for the campaign 

text to donate shortcode

Step 2: Create a new phonebook to save all the contacts that send in the keyword. 

Creating a new phonebook will make it easier to export these contacts to your CRM and add them to a nurturing flow. 

save number

Step 3: Craft the message (which includes the link to the checkout page) to be sent to the donor when they send in the keyword.

text to donate appeal

Once the donation is complete, the payment gateway sends the receipt for the same through email. 

Filter out people in your CRM who didn’t opt for recurring giving and export them to a new phonebook on CallHub. You can then set up a monthly reminder text to be sent to this segment to drive repeat donations. 

Related reading:
Text message autoresponders: Engaging prospects with instant replies

Other text giving options for churches 

Text-to-give and text-to-donate are the most popular and commonly used text fundraising methods. However, these methods only come into play when a follower shows interest in donating to the church by sending a keyword. 

What about instances when you want to initiate a fundraising appeal? 

For these instances, there are two major text giving methods that churches can leverage:

  1. Text-to-donate using bulk SMS
  2. Text-to-donate using peer to peer texting
Two things to note for these methods are:

Both of these methods are text-to-donate as you will be sharing a donation link with the prospects and not charging their phone bills directly. 

These methods are only applicable to existing contacts in your database. These contacts could have been collected through a sign-up form (on your website) or may  have opted in for a previous campaign/fundraiser. 

Let’s take a look at what each of these methods entails. 

Text-to-donate using bulk SMS

This entails a donation appeal sent as a text blast to people in your congregation. This message will include the link to your donation page or checkout page. As before, donors can follow the link to your form and complete donating. 

These bulk texts can be sent to: 

  • Everyone in your database
  • A segment of your database, typically those who have donated frequently in the past. 

The former is a scalable strategy that can be used to expand your reach. The latter is suitable when you don’t have the budget to send a bulk SMS to everyone. Prioritizing sending the appeals to those most likely to give can ensure maximum impact.

When to use it?  

Churches can send a bulk SMS donation appeal when launching a new fundraiser or event. For instance, for a fundraiser created in response to an emergency, you can use a text-to-give campaign to raise money from new donors and a text blast to get existing donors to give. 

How to set up text to donate using bulk SMS 

Step 1: Import all contacts to a phone book

text giving import contacts

Step 2: Craft the donation appeal you want to send all contacts.

text to donate appeal

Step 3: Choose the date and time when you want to send the message to all your contacts

text giving schedule

Once you hit finish, the broadcast is sent to all the contacts in your phonebook. 

Next, let’s go over text-to-donate using P2P texting.

Text-to-donate using peer to peer texting

Peer to peer texting is an SMS marketing technique that allows you to have personal, two-way conversations with multiple donors at the same time. 

Churches can leverage P2P texting to engage with people from their congregation and ask them if they are willing to donate during the course of the conversation. If they respond positively, you can send them the link to go through with the donation. 

Peer to peer texting appeals have a higher chance of converting because:

  • You send the donation link only if the prospect is willing. 
  • You have the opportunity to convey the importance of their donation and motivate them to donate. 

When to use it?  

Peer to peer text giving for churches is most suitable to be used to follow-up on previous campaigns or conversations. For instance, when sending an event invite over text, if a follower cannot make it, you can ask them for a donation instead.

Even at the end of a fundraiser that didn’t perform well, you could set up a P2P texting campaign to reach out to all your donors and ask them to chip in a little more. 

How to set up text-to-donate using peer-to-peer SMS

Since your donation appeal will be a part of another p2p texting campaign (and not an independent one), setting it up is as easy as creating a message template, as we’ll see below. 

The first few steps would be similar to any P2P texting campaign:

Step 1: Set up the message that will be sent first

text to donate first message

Step 2: Set up message templates to be sent for different responses

One of these templates could be a donation appeal, as shown below. 

Peer to peer texting fundraising
p2p text templates

So, when a prospect responds, you can select the appropriate templates and send it to them. 

Related reading:
How to set up a peer-to-peer texting campaign
Peer to peer texting: Fundraising guide
Church texting services: Using SMS for your congregation

To conclude

Hopefully, the points above helped you understand why text giving for churches is vital and how you can implement it. 

While executing a good balance of all the above text giving techniques is recommended, it might not be as practical to start with, especially if you don’t have a lot of resources at your disposal. Keep these two factors in mind to start with: 

1. Donor priorities – Are you looking to acquire new donors or nurture existing ones to turn them to repeat donors? For the former, you will have to set up a text-to-give/donate campaign. The latter can do with a bulk SMS or peer to peer appeal with mass texting software. 

2. Costs – What kind of a budget do you have? Text-to-give platforms charge a percentage per transaction and a fixed monthly subscription fee. All text-to-donate campaigns have charges per SMS and transaction. Go over these costs and estimate the average cost based on your database (and estimated usage) to prioritize one.

Once you start with one, you can branch into other methods as the need arises. 
Featured image source: Sincerely Media

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