INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: Member Viewpoint - Text messaging gives cheap and easy access to receptive audience

JOEL VOYSEY, supporter recruitment manager, Amnesty International UK. The Institute of Fundraising is the professional body for fundraisers promoting the highest standards in fundraising

In the week when Sport Relief released figures showing the effectiveness of text messaging for raising funds, has the sector found another way to prop up existing recruitment mechanisms into the future?

There is a real opportunity here for charities to get their message out to new audiences and text messaging, in the short-term, may be primarily a communications tool that pays for itself.

The Sport Relief campaign was unique in terms of the coverage afforded to it by the BBC.

For most organisations, raising more than £100,000 from their first text campaign is an impossible dream. However, there may still be ways to form relationships with people that are not just about financial return.

Amnesty International has run text campaigns in the Netherlands and Norway to engage people in the work of the organisation. By asking people to opt in by sending a text, and then to pay for the cost of all subsequent communications, we were able to switch people on to the cause in a cheap and immediate way. For Amnesty, sending a text petition on behalf of a prisoner of conscience, or someone on death row, is a real route into our work with people responding to the message.

The question then might be at what point should you ask someone to consider becoming a member of Amnesty? And what communication paths should you leave open to people who want to help but don't want to do any more than make a small donation or return the petition?

The beauty of this medium is that the end-user pays the costs of the contact as a premium rate text, so it should cost you little or nothing to keep this contact going. Part of what Amnesty does should be about building a culture where human rights are respected and that needn't always figure on the bottom of a balance sheet.

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