Text donations soared to record high last year, new figures show

Donations to charity by text message rose by almost two-thirds last year to a record high of almost £66m, according to new figures. 

The latest Annual Market Review for Phone-Paid Services, written by the research firm Analysys Mason and published by the Phone-Paid Services Authority, showss UK charity donations by premium rate SMS rose to £65.8m in the year to the end of March, up from £40.1m in the previous 12 months. 

The figure is over £16m more than the former high of £49.6m, which was recorded in 2018/19. 

The report says text donations follow a biennial pattern of up and down years due to the cycle of major charity events such as Red Nose Day, which is held every two years. 

The report says telethons such as the pandemic-inspired Big Night In, a raising of the cap on one-off donations to £40 and organic growth in recurring giving all contributed to this year’s record sum. 

The report says more charities promoted text-to-donate services because they were unable to reach potential donors face-to-face.

“Furthermore, a number of worthy causes emerged during 2020 and gained media prominence, including the NHS Charities Together campaign," it says. 

“These causes inspired an increase in the number of donations outside of telethon events, which accounted for over 25 per cent of phone-paid donations (£16.5m) in 2020/21. 

“Of that amount, an estimated 90 per cent (£14.8m) came from recurring donations made via a monthly subscription, while the rest included one-off/single donations.”

The report, which is based on a survey of more than 9,000 people and industry interviews, says the outlook for charity text donations is good despite an expected fall in total donations in 2021/22 because of the biennial pattern. 

It predicts that charity text donations will be worth £50.1m in 2021/22, which would “compare favourably” with the figures from two years ago, being up by £10m. 

“This increase is the result of a number of factors, including an increase in overall giving in the UK, an increase in the use of text-to-donate functions, an increase in the cap on text-to-donate from £30 to £40 for some charities (eg BBC Children In Need), and an increase in non-telethon donating,” it says. 

“Charities increasingly used and promoted text-to-donate services last year, which contributed to the high levels of spending and will have knock-on effects going forward.”

Jo Prowse, chief executive of the PSA, said: “It’s really encouraging that it has been a record year for charity text donations.

"During the pandemic, consumers continued to trust text as an easy, safe and secure way to donate to their chosen causes.”

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