Text to Give Strategy: 10 Tips to Optimize Your Keyword Choice

Kevin D. Hendricks
Text to Give Strategy: 10 Tips to Optimize Your Keyword Choice

Text-to-give fundraising is an easy way for your nonprofit to encourage mobile giving. Donors text a special keyword to a shortcode—for example, text DONATE to 24365. But your nonprofit has to choose a keyword. Select that keyword carefully, as your chosen keyword can determine the success of your text-to-give campaign.

We’ll explore how text donations work, share 10 tips for choosing a keyword, look at keyword examples from a dozen nonprofits, and explore next steps after you pick a keyword.

Text Message Donations: Why & How

Let’s cover the basics of text-to-give donations.

Why SMS Donations?

Your nonprofit should be using short message service (SMS) because it’s a quick and easy way to connect. The quick and easy donation process can boost your fundraising efforts. But more importantly, the giving experience allows for ongoing connection. You can use text messages to follow up, say thank you, and share your story. That’s vital for recurring donations and building lifelong support.

How Does Text to Give Work?

It’s simple:

  • You make a donation pitch and encourage people to text a keyword to a shortcode (a shortcode is a simple phone number that’s easy to remember—we use 24365). For example: Text DONATE to 24365 (seriously, you can try that right now and see how it works). It works especially well for in-person events where a link or credit card processing is cumbersome.
  • They get a text back with a link to an online giving page where they complete the donation process. Since it uses your existing online fundraising process, donors can pick their donation amount and use their credit card, debit card, or whatever other payment methods you accept. Your nonprofit gets their support, including donor information and consent for follow up.
Text to give example using Salvation Army's "text BREAD to 24365" keyword.

How to Pick a Text to Give Keyword

Now you know how text to donate works, how do you pick a keyword? Here’s your ultimate guide to SMS keywords:

  1. Short: Keep your keyword short so it’s easy to remember. Seven characters or less is ideal. The simpler the better. You can do multiple words strung together, but just be aware of the potential for confusion. A single word can often be shorter, simpler, and easier to remember.
  2. Connection: Pick a keyword that has an emotional connection to your cause. It might be the name of your nonprofit organization, but something that relates to your mission or what you’re doing might resonate better. The Salvation Army uses BREAD for the hunger program.
  3. Specific: Make sure your keyword relates directly to your nonprofit’s mission. DONATE and HELP are nice and short, but they’re generic. My360Project uses SHOES, which relates directly to its mission and is extremely specific.
  4. Capitals: It doesn’t matter if people use uppercase or lowercase letters when they text a keyword. But it can help avoid confusion if you treat your keyword consistently. Often it’s easier to write your keyword in uppercase so it stands out: “Text RALLY to 24365.” If you’re using more than one word, sometimes initial capping it can make it easier to read: “Text MoreFun to 24365.”
  5. Misspellings: Avoid anything that can be commonly misspelled. OK, spelling is atrocious these days, but be aware of common errors. Be aware of autocorrect as well and how that might play havoc with your keyword. If you really want to avoid issues, you can grab multiple keywords. That’s what the Salvation Army Great Lakes Division did with the keywords COAT and COATS for their kids’ coat drive. “There’s been a little confusion with only having one of them and then somebody texted the other one,” said Christina Holman, their director of integrated marketing and mail. “So we just bought them both.”
  6. Audible: Keywords work especially well in a spoken format, whether in media broadcasts or from an event platform. “I know the media really appreciates it because it's really easy to say during an interview,” Holman said. But say your keyword outloud to make sure it’s easy to understand. For example, if you’re spelling out a word, “m” and “n” can easily be confused when spoken.
  7. Insider lingo: Make sure you pick a word, phrase, or acronym that’s familiar to people. You don’t want to create confusion by choosing an insider term that’s familiar to you but causes confusion with your audience. Don’t pick something people are hearing for the first time.
  8. Fast: Keywords are first come, first served on our shared shortcode 24365, so you need to act quickly to get your preferred keyword. More than 1,000 keywords are currently in use for text to donate campaigns on the Rally platform. There are also system keywords that are reserved, such as START, STOP, HELP, UNSUBSCRIBE, SIGNUP, DONATE, etc.
  9. Special characters: Avoid any special characters like exclamation marks, hyphens, dashes, dollar signs, etc. You’re allowed to have spaces in your keyword, but it’s not recommended. They tend to multiply confusion and can be hard to say out loud. Stick to basic letters and numbers—though use numbers sparingly since people responding to your text-to-give campaign also have to remember the shortcode. Asking people to text FEED24 to 24365 might be too many numbers.
  10. Test: Mobile donations need to be easy (that’s the whole point!). So try typing your keyword into your cell phone to ensure there aren’t any issues. Make sure it’s easy to type, not prone to typos, and doesn’t trigger autocorrect. And test autocorrect on different types of phones, since Apple and Android will work differently.
Chart showing text-to-donate keyword tips.

Try It: Sample Text-to-Give Keywords

Now that we’ve explored the tips, let’s look at potential keywords for Martin Nature Center, a fictional nature center that preserves natural spaces, gets people outside, and uses an eagle in their logo.

Good job:

  • MARTIN - Using a short form of name is simple and direct.
  • NATURE - Pulled from the name but also mission focused.
  • OUTSIDE - Connected to the charity’s mission.
  • RELAX - Evocative, emotional, and outcome focused.
  • EAGLE - Draws on brand imagery and what the nature center is known for.

Try again: 

  • MARTINNATURECENTER - Way too long.
  • MNC - Has autocorrect issues, plus potential misunderstanding when spoken aloud.
  • LIVE4NATURE - The numeral 4 could cause confusion when spoken aloud.
  • MNCSAVE - The public isn’t familiar with this acronym.
  • MARTIN! - Don’t use special characters.
Table with good and bad keyword examples.

12 Examples of Fundraising Keywords

Here’s a look at a dozen nonprofit organizations and the text message keywords they’re using for text-to-donate campaigns:

  • Share the love: Pablove Foundation used their name and went with “text PABLOVE to 24365.”
  • Space OK: Rock School of Dance is an example of a nonprofit that used a two-word keyword with a space—ROCK SCHOOL—and it worked for them.
  • Help the homeless: Denver Rescue Mission uses several keywords including TURKEY, for their annual Thanksgiving turkey drive; WARMTH, for their Spread the Warmth winter campaign where they partner with a local TV station; and HOPE, a simple keyword for radio campaigns.
  • Use it everywhere: “The biggest thing is to get your staff and everybody on board so everything—your branding, everything—can have ‘Text SHOES to 24365’ on it,” says Darryl Carnley with My360Project.
  • A keyword for each need: The Salvation Army Great Lakes Division uses a number of different keywords for different causes, including their most successful one, BREAD, for their Bed and Bread Club; TORNADO and FLOOD for natural disaster fundraising; GRIFFINS for events with a local sports team; GIVE connects with signage at their location in Lansing, Michigan; and GIFT for year-round use.
  • Disaster response: In the aftermath of Typhoon Karding, ABS-CBN Foundation International raised support for the people of the Philippines with HELP4PH.
  • Benefit: When the New Orleans music venue Tipitina’s needed help during the pandemic, they organized a benefit concert using SAVETIPS—an especially smart keyword since “Tiptina’s” could be hard for people to spell and would cause autocorrect issues.
  • Easy for celebs: Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) responds to crises all over the world and uses “Text CORE to 24365”—especially easy for their celebrity founder Sean Penn to share on social media.
  • Mission focused: The criminal justice advocacy group Last Prisoner Project uses FREEDOM to connect their text-to-give campaign to their mission.
  • Heroes: The First Responders Children’s Foundation uses BRAVE to emphasize the heroes they support, while the Los Angeles County Fire Department used SPARK for their Spark the Love toy drive.
  • Event friendly: The Richmond Folk Festival traded in their donation buckets for the handy mobile phone 97% of Americans carry with them, plus “Text FOLK to 24365,” a simple message they could share from the stage and on signage throughout the event.
Examples of real-world keywords from text-to-give campaigns.

More With Keywords

Remember that keywords aren’t limited to text-to-donate campaigns. You can also use keywords to trigger all kinds of workflows. A text to give campaign is just a specific type of workflow. These text messaging keyword tips apply to any type of workflow you want to set up.

Interactive workflows can be a powerful way to follow up with new donors. It’s a good way to boost donor engagement, encourage recurring donations, and reach your fundraising goals.

What’s Next With Text to Give Keywords

Now that you picked a keyword for your text to donate campaign, what’s next?

1. Set Up Text to Give

Reserve your keyword with Rally and set up your fundraising campaign workflow. Remember, the keyword isn’t yours until you reserve it. Be sure to reach out to us as soon as you decide on a keyword so we can save it for your marketing campaign.

Then make sure your workflow is working properly and pointing people to your online donation form. Be sure to test that donation page to make sure it’s mobile friendly.

2. Use Your Keyword Everywhere

Now it’s time to work your keyword into everything you do. Seriously, put it everywhere.

“We use it on our marketing materials, we use it on social media, web banners, we use it on our livestream for the radiothon and the slides for that,” said Holman with the Salvation Army. “It’s really easy to use it during interviews on TV and radio. Then we also use it on our advertising spots. So as many places as we can possibly use it.”

  • Fundraising events: Put it on slides on the big screen, tell speakers to use it from the podium, plaster it on table tents around the venue, share it on posters in the bathroom, slap it on volunteer T-shirts, print it on giveaways that go home with donors. Basically any opportunity you have to remind people to donate, take it! With the proliferation of smartphones, you need to have giving options readily available.
  • Social media: The big social media networks are more interested in their own bottom line than your charity fundraiser. So they tend to encourage off-site links. They like to keep people on their social media platforms. Text to give keywords and shortcodes are a good way to get around those walls. Instagram doesn’t make linking easy, so putting the shortcode and keyword combo on your images is key. Facebook’s algorithm punishes links, so use your keyword and shortcode for a post with no links that will rank higher. YouTube doesn’t allow links in a video, but you can always display your keyword and shortcode.

Ready for Text Donations With Rally?

At Rally, our mission is to mobilize people. That starts by making connections as frictionless as possible, which is what you get with a solid text-to-give fundraising strategy. From there it’s about cultivating your contact list. You can’t just fire off random text messages to strangers. That’s why Rally focuses on data and strategy to help you build relationships and get results.

  • Text-to-give platform: Mobile fundraising is easy with our fundraising tools. People can text a custom keyword to a short code and get a quick link to your donation form. It uses your existing donation platform, so it’s streamlined and user-friendly. They can use a credit card right on their mobile device through your online donation page.
  • Giving tools: We offer integration with multiple fundraising platforms and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, plus other integrations, and fundraising tools including ringless voicemail, a fundraising thermometer, and Rally Insights to supercharge your donor data.
  • Solid support: Our functionality is simple and easy to use, but if you ever need help we’re here. We’ve got FAQs, pre-written text message templates, webinars, office hours, and more. Plus, we’re happy to take a real-time voice call. Just check out our case studies and see how our nonprofit customers rave about our customer service.

Book a demo today and let’s talk about your text to give keyword and how we can help you get results.

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