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Two Nonprofits Share Not-To-Miss Secrets About Mobile Giving!

HubSpot Video


September 2, 2020

In this round table discussion with nonprofit leaders from City Harvest and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, they shared their experiences about using mobile phones to raise money.

Our moderator, Patty Ruland, is a leading expert consultant in the mobile technology space. She dived deep into these topics while posing the tough questions to our panelists:

  • What role should mobile giving play at virtual fundraisers?
  • How should you change your marketing messaging to add a mobile giving component?
  • Do you need a tech wiz to implement mobile giving?
  • What is the ROI, and what does mobile giving cost?



Full Transcript

Patty Ruland  0:01  :  My name is Patty Ruland. I am with Give by Cell. I've been involved with the organization for over six years. I'm joined today by Donna Fisher-Lewis from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. She's been super, super busy. She'll tell you a little bit more about that, as well as Gabrielle Mizrahi from City Harvest, one of New York's largest food banks. Again, if you think of a question or something you want to share in the chat window, go ahead and enter. And we try to keep this as interactive as possible. We host these sessions to answer questions to either dispel some of the myths or affirm things that you've heard and so forth. So please be as active as you want in the chat window. And after we talk a little bit about the organizations, we'll go ahead and start fielding some of those questions. A little bit about Give by Cell. We are a division of Engage by Cell. We've been in the space for about 14-15 years or so. And what we do is combine mobile technology with fundraising.

So like I mentioned, my first guest, Donna, is with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. That's a mouthful for me sometimes. You guys have been around for quite awhile. And you basically run programs in all types of areas: education, health care, economic development, and so forth. You've been a longtime client of ours and and one of our team's favorites, because you're so great to work with. I know in the past you've used our services for golf tournaments and conferences and so forth. Most recently you've been doing a text messaging campaign with little MMS messages. Those are multimedia messages, images and so forth for your "Policy for the people" campaign. So why don't you tell us a little bit about your history? I know it's been a long time now. What brought you to the conclusion that mobile fundraising was going to work for your organization and kind of some of your successes, challenges and so forth?

Donna Fisher-Lewis  2:20    :  Thank you, Patty. Good afternoon, everyone. I am Donna Fisher-Lewis from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. We've been with Give by Cell for about seven or eight years. CBCF is the short way to say the Congressional Black Caucus. So CBCF has used it actually before I got there. I've been with the foundation for six years. And so they were just starting it right before I got there, like the year before they had, they signed on. So we've used it. We've had a lot of experience. We have learned a lot. But the main thing I would like everyone to take away is that whatever energy you put into it is how it will benefit you. So if you're passive with the process in the system, it will be passive for you. So you really have to work the system to have it benefit you on what your cause is trying to achieve. We use it at events, mostly. It is available year round, but mostly we have used it for our events. And most recently, I was feeling like we weren't giving it the energy that we should have been giving it, just because we were a bit stretched. And I worked with the team at Give by Cell to figure out how to promote our events. So we were also doing a webinar series. And Casey is great. He helped me kind of think through how to drive people to participate in the webinar series but then that would also drive them hopefully to our website to learn more, which would drive them to our donation page. So that has proved very beneficial for us. To promote events, so it's not always just the fundraising tool. It's also engaging people into what our work is and what we're actually doing and producing. So I'll stop there. So Patty can move on.

Patty Ruland  4:17    :  I just have to say, what you're saying, and what you started off with is something that is imperative for people to understand. You know, mobile fundraising, text-to-donate, Mobile Give, they are great tools, you add them to your toolbox, but they need to be used, they need to be promoted and so forth. It's not, you know, you get the service and the skies are going to magically open, and the money is gonna fall from it. But again, it's just another tool in your toolbox to improve what you're currently doing.

Donna Fisher-Lewis  4:49    :  Right? So she has on the screen, and I actually did this myself, I set this whole thing. This is very user friendly. I just want to say that if I could do it, anybody can do it. So I'm the one who actually set up with the screen looks like on on your mobile phone. So very user friendly system, back-end is very simple to pull reports. It's just overall been very easy for us. Other sales people have come to me, and I have not wanted to change just because this system has proved to be very simple for us. And we're kind of growing with the system. So it's working for our organization.

Patty Ruland  5:24    :  Donna, you use what we call our Mobile Donate service. So basically, a donor would text in a keyword to a shortcode, an opt-in to a list or get a text back with a link to your donation pages, which is what people are seeing in the center of the screen. But yes, you can change that depending upon your event. So you can give it a completely different look and feel if you're doing like a golf outing, or if you're doing something that's more formal and so forth. Do you change it frequently, depending upon what's going on? 

Donna Fisher-Lewis  6:02    :  We do we change it, depending on what the events are. And you know what the purpose of the, whatever the campaign is. So sometimes it's for scholarships. Sometimes it's to support the overall leadership institute or a specific event, like the golf and tennis classic that we mentioned earlier. And right now we're in our annual legislative conference. So everything is geared toward the big conference we're hosting right now.

Patty Ruland  6:26    :  Absolutely. Any quick last minute, anything to add? Before I flip over and chat a little bit with Gabrielle?

Donna Fisher-Lewis  6:37    :  No, I just want to stress how easy this system is to work with. It really is very simple. I was kind of the only person who knew it for a long time and then very easily trained our marketing communications team. So they're really the ones managing the system now, and I can just see kind of things on the back-end, but the ease of use is very simple. So I wouldn't be daunted, because I know some other systems are very complex. But this one to me is a very user friendly system.

Patty Ruland  7:07    :  Excellent. We have a couple of questions coming in, which is great. Let's chat a little bit with Gabrielle. And then we'll jump right in and start answering some of those. So, welcome, Gabrielle. Thanks for joining us. Gabrielle is with City Harvest, one of New York City's largest food rescue organizations. Again, been around for quite some time serving a much needed population. And you collect food that would otherwise maybe go to waste from various outlets: restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, and things like that. And you actually use our Mobile Give service, which is a little different than what Donna uses. Mobile Give is the text message cell phone carrier-based service. So people text in a keyword and a small donation gets put on their cell phone bills. Why don't you tell us a little bit Gabrielle, again, how you arrived at the choice of using mobile fundraising? Any obstacles, challenges and what kind of the overall effect has been?

Gabrielle Mizrahi  8:13    :  Absolutely. So first, thank you so much for having me, I'm really excited to be here. So a little bit more about how we came to Mobile Give. This is something that my manager who is the Director of Corporate and Business Partnerships has wanted to implement for quite some time. She has just had a really great personal experience giving mobiley. But we're a medium sized organization, and I would say that to kind of convince leadership to invest in this technology was definitely challenging. We looked at a lot of different options. And I think when we found Give by Cell, we had finally found the organization that was meeting all our needs, making it easy, which was fantastic. So it's been a really great relationship there. So we have had Mobile Give capability for a little less than a year. We actually were planning to implement this before COVID-19 hit, so really, the timing could not have been more perfect. We got very, very lucky in that regard. We had originally planned to use this tech for a really large activation that we were planning at Hudson Yards. If anyone is familiar with Hudson Yards in New York City, we were going to have a lot of walk by traffic at this event. You know, it was going to be people we weren't necessarily inviting just people who were there. So we thought, how do we make it so quick, so easy, so simple to give, which is why we wanted to use this tech for that event specifically. But obviously with COVID-19 that large event was canceled, but we were able to use our keywords for a number of different things that we've done throughout COVID-19. The two main examples being a large fundraiser called Skip Lunch Fight Hunger that we do each year and then the second being a televised foodathon that we did in I think it was April. So we were able to use the keywords for both of those events.

Patty Ruland  10:10    :  Right. And I think we actually have a screenshot of that as well as some of you guys. So we obviously all made plans before COVID. And everybody had events that were scheduled and this and that, and unfortunately, it didn't happen. But you still been able to gain traction with this, and how have you kind of pushed it out the word? Has it just been people walking by and seeing a sign? Are you doing a type of campaign?

Gabrielle Mizrahi  10:41    :  Yeah, a couple of different ways. I think that what has been the greatest tool for us that has really added to our revenue, not just, you know, replaced another way people gave is that when we have press appearances, influencers who are getting the word out, anything we would have been doing where would have just been raising awareness for City Harvest not necessarily driving revenue, we have now been able to use the Text To Give to have a really easy turnkey way to add revenue there. So, for example, as a food organization, we have a lot of celebrity chefs who support us. A lot of times our PR team and their PR team will book them on morning shows, but they will do a cooking demo but also talk about their work with City Harvest. In the past, those were just awareness building moments. But now we're able to have those chefs shout out our keyword and say, "text FEEDNYC to 20222 if you're interested in this work, and make a quick donation right now," so we've definitely seen huge spikes there. We also did a campaign called Draw Hope where we created coloring pages featuring our trucks. Again, that normally would have just been an awareness raising thing encouraging people to post those images on their social. But instead we were able to include the Text To Give keyword at the bottom. So that has been really fantastic. I think I'm on a fundraising revenue generating team, but by really partnering closely with our marketing team and getting them excited about this tech as well, has really been impactful because now they're constantly thinking, as we roll things out from a marketing perspective, how can we actually be generating income at the same time, which is really nice.

Patty Ruland  12:26    :  Right, and we were talking about that earlier. And this is an issue that people have been running up against during COVID is they're afraid to ask. They're afraid to ask for money. You have people walking by and they can just text in and I think your donations are $15 and $25, depending upon the word. So anybody on the street who is walking by can do that. Whereas with Donna's service, she has her members that she works with and things like that. So it's reaching different groups of people but still ivging them the ease of use of doing it through their phones. And thankfully, you both have been successful during this because you're asking. I tell people all the time, you're not going to get it if you don't ask. A little truck is not going to back up and dump money in your lap. You have to go out there. And we all know fundraising is a full contact sport. And we should all have like pads and helmets and so forth when we go out there. But again, I can't stress enough to you know, despite what's going on, just ask for that generous donation. The worst somebody could do is say no. So thank you for sharing that. What I'm going to do is go through some of the questions now and see if you folks can help me out with some of the answers. So let's start with, and pardon me while I scroll through this. "Hi, I see there is no opt out language does that mean everyone opted out?" I think that was just our example that we mocked up there. You can include the out of out language through our platform: "to opt out reply stop." So I think our little mock up, we didn't include that in there. That one I can answer. Okay from Christa. "How has this method compared with email donation solicitation campaigns in terms of dollars raised?" So either if you want to handle that, were you doing much email solicitation for donations?

Donna Fisher-Lewis  14:38    :  So I don't think we look at it separately. We look at it as really a comprehensive approach to get individual contributions. To me one is not better than the other. I think they have to work together. And so in our thinking, we do email. You know, we do kind of annual appeals and year-end campaigns. And we do all of those things that every other nonprofit does. But I think this is an added enhancement, that this is another way, another tool, another vehicle to give. So we do not look at this separately. And so our audience often comes from those who've attended our events and have opted in to getting text messages, and also receiving our messages that we give out even just to promote events. And so because of that, we don't just look at this as kind of this is what we get from this platform only. We really look at it comprehensively across all of our annual appeals and all of our individual giving.

Gabrielle Mizrahi  15:43    :  I was just going to add, I think that for us, the way that Text To Give works, we're really looking at a very different audience than our email audience. I think the way we're using it, obviously, people who we send our emails to we're including a lot of programmatic information. They're receiving emails regularly from us. Whereas with Text To Give, I think it's more about, you hear about City Harvest in this moment. You think it sounds great. Maybe someone that you respect is sharing it on TV or via their social media. And it's so easy and low lift that you just give. So I think it's a different kind of donor. But definitely someone you know, we still want to capture. And something really interesting about the platform is it shares state by state who is giving. Obviously, the bulk for us is still New York in the northeast area, but we have donors all across the country now through Give by Cell. So they're seeing something on TV or social and they're still giving, which is really nice, especially for a local organization like us.

Patty Ruland  16:43    :  Right. And you just mentioned on social. So it looks like we just got a question. Somebody mentioned about integrating with social media. I'll answer it from my perspective, and then you guys can chime in. You can always put in a social media post a little GIF or an image that says, you know, Text ABC to 56512 to make your donation and so forth. And of course those posts are shareable within, you know, your groups. Have you done much on social media?

Donna Fisher-Lewis  17:13    :  Yes. So our marketing communications team does use use this for that as well. And they kind of do an integrated approach. So absolutely. This is promoted through our social media platforms, as well. And then of course, because it's often promoting events versus just the fundraising piece just to raise money, they're using it in both ways.

Patty Ruland  17:37    :  Right. Um, I have a question. This is probably more pertinent to Gabrielle about the Mobile Give service. Now, the question was, can people change the amount they'd like to give? So when you set up the services set up at a preset dollar amount and those dollar amounts are $5, $10, $15, $20, $25, $30, $40 and $50. And you chose to have multiple keywords, a couple at one price point and a couple at another price point. What's the logic behind the two different price points? Are they targeting different audiences? Or what's the situation in that decision-making process?

Gabrielle Mizrahi  18:19    :  So for City Harvest, we're very lucky that for every dollar amount, we can tie an impact stat directly to it. So for instance, one of our keywords which is LUNCH, it was for a $15 donation. And the reason we did that is that it was a it was part of our annual Skip Lunch Fight Hunger campaign, which we've been doing for almost 20 years now. And we go out with very heavy advertising and messaging that $15 helps feed 55 New York City children. So our hope was that, you know, people will associate those two numbers, and it's one of our highest. We obviously track on the back-end how much people are donating, and there's a huge bulk of individuals who donate at the $15 level. So that's why we chose that for Skip Lunch specifically. Our other keyword, which was FEEDNYC was at the $25 level, which we used for our foodathon, mainly, so the TV special. Again, we provided the host of the foodathon with the impact stat. But also during foodathon, we said, text FEEDNYC or donate online at So we were really using them in tandem. If someone wanted to make the quick, easy $25 donation great. If someone was so inspired, they wanted to give $500 they have that option as well. And we saw great engagement on both sides. I think a concern was that everyone's going to donate and we're going to miss out on higher revenue numbers that they would have given on the website. But I think that if someone wants to donate on their phone and they don't feel like pulling up the website, we would have lost them otherwise. So there's a risk but there's also I think, a lot of reward. We were very very happy with how it went.

Patty Ruland  20:01    :  And with the Mobile Give, donors can simply go to the Mobile Giving Foundation website to pull up their tax receipt. This is another question somebody asked about receipts. And with our mobile donation service that Donna's using, the system will automatically email a receipt that includes tax ID and all that kind of information. So receipts are available with both programs. Let's see, what else do we have here? Donor data, oh, that was an answer. What information is gathered on back-end, and if it's charged to cell phone bills? So there's limited information on that, but it depends upon how you want to set it up. So have you guys been happy with the information that you've been getting? Or is it the $15 and the $25 are just transactional sales that you don't need a lot of information about that donor?

Gabrielle Mizrahi  21:02    :  So obviously, the more information we have, the better. We don't get names or email addresses or anything like that. We just get phone numbers, which I completely respect. Obviously, these carriers are not going to share their customer information with us. We do pay for a service called The Fifth Message where after they complete that donation, there'll be another message that pops up that says, "Thanks for your donation. To learn more, fill out this form. And we'll add you to our email list." So that's sort of a way for people to opt in to stay in touch with us.

Patty Ruland  21:37    :  Are you getting good feedback on that? People are willing to give that extra little bit of information to be contacted maybe about future stuff and so forth?

Gabrielle Mizrahi  21:44    :  Yes, absolutely. And something we say internally is that we only want people to opt in who want to opt in. So if someone gave $25 and that's the extent they want to do with City Harvest, that's okay. I saw there was another question about donor fatigue. I think we never have a problem if someone opts out. We think it's a way of naturally cleaning our list, because we only want people to be receiving information who want to receive the information from us. And we have a good strategy of not reaching out too often and combining asks with information. So yeah, we see it just as another way of giving people the option to opt in, but if they're not interested, and they just want to make the gift and step away, that is fine as well.

Patty Ruland  22:30    :  And Donna, how's your organization handle that with people opting out or not wanting to receive messages and so forth?

Donna Fisher-Lewis  22:37    :  I mean, so, you know, that's natural. It's part of the process. I think that we have enough events, and we have large audiences at most of our events that we are able to kind of regenerate that list often. As many as opting out which we don't find that a whole lot, I mean, but it happens, we are able to gain some new ones all the time. And I honestly think, because we don't always use it just to ask for money, and sometimes it's to promote events that has kind of softened the blow, if you will a bit of people who are more open to providing their information and wanting to to give. So I'll give you guys some credit for helping us think this through. That it's a balance for us between asking and then sometimes just promoting and please join us. And so that has, I think reduced the opt outs a bit, because we're often just providing information and not asking directly for money all the time.

Patty Ruland  23:38    :  Yeah, and people like the inclusion of it, I mean, you know, I want to know what's going on at City Harvest. So I want to know how close they are to their goals, or maybe what events are coming up, and same with your organization Donna, especially because you have so many members involved and so forth. They want to be kept up to date, and a quick text is a great way to do that. Give them a little information, you give them a little more, a little more, and then maybe ask them for some money. You know, it's the game we all play. Let's see, we have another question here. Oh, as far as the information that's gathered by the system, both services do provide reporting. And those reports are exportable into an Excel spreadsheet that you can then do whatever you want. I think the question was, "Was there an integration with a CRM or a donor management system and so forth?" So you can export those reports and then import them to whatever you're currently using for your management software.

Donna Fisher-Lewis  24:46    :  Yes, that's that's exactly what we do. We just export it and then send it to Finance and they process the gifts so the reports are very simple. On can be date-specific, you can kind of slice them and dice in the way you want to. But they're very easily downloadable to an Excel spreadsheet.

Patty Ruland  25:06    :  And looks like we have something for Gabrielle specifically. "Has City Harvest explored the mobile option that includes events like CBCF? Or has the focus on purely Text to Give met all of your needs?

Gabrielle Mizrahi  25:19    :  We have considered that option. At this point, it's not something we're planning to pursue for a few reasons. Just because, number one, our comms team is very overloaded. So to add, you know, the work of coming up with a mobile strategy and a mobile campaign of sending out messages to our partners is just not something we're looking to pursue at this time. Additionally, we didn't start with a huge database of cell phone numbers. So we didn't think that it was going to be a great use of the information we already had to start sending information out. Of course, that doesn't mean we're not going to reconsider in the future. We're really growing our advocacy arm at City Harvest, and we could really see Advocacy specifically being a great integration for this kind of messaging directly to our supporters, people who sign up and say, I want to be alerted to things I could do to help support the efforts you're taking, whether on a local level or national level. So that's definitely something we're still considering. But at this time, purely text to give has kind of met our specific needs. And also I'll say I am on a fundraising team. So for me, I think, from a fundraising perspective, Text To Give is all I need, but for the organization as a whole, I think there's other teams who might be looking into the options similar to CBCF.

Patty Ruland  26:39    :  Right, and I just want to point it out. Again, Donna's been doing this for years and they've kind of gotten established with it, and so forth. And then she ran into COVID. You guys, as you said, you were brand new to this. I mean, I think you signed up and it's just like everything went crazy. So the fact that you've been able to pivot and use it to your advantage during these times says a lot about the organization and so forth. So both of you, I commend you on your continued success. We're running close to time. Let me see if any other questions are in the chat window. I apologize. It's a little hard for me to see this small type. Um, let's see, how do you both organizations encourage or gather cell phone numbers? And is the system used to reach existing donors and not for donor acquisition? Let's just take a couple minutes and follow up with that. Donna, do you want to address either of those?

Donna Fisher-Lewis  27:42    :  Yes. So our base of phone numbers that we get are coming from our events, and we asked our registrants or attendees to opt in or opt out. So this through registration at events, all kinds of events throughout the year, so theit option is there. And it's not a secret, you know, the opting in is that you're going to receive information and all the different formats from CBCF. So that's how we get new people onto the list.

Patty Ruland  28:14    :  And Gabrielle, you're just word of mouth, people walking by, seeing signs, seeing programming and so forth?

Gabrielle Mizrahi  28:21    :  Yes, definitely. Um, yeah, we have the option for anyone who donates to City Harvest to give us their cell phone number, but it's not required. So it's not something we get a ton of participation in, giving us cell phone numbers.

Patty Ruland  28:37    :  Excellent. Well, Molly, can you throw up the last slide? Let me give some recognition here to our speakers. I want to thank you both, again for joining us today. You know, we appreciate your time, Donna, you have a million things going on with your conference running this month long and, you know, being able to take a half an hour to kind of share your experiences, I totally appreciate it. Same thing with you here. I mean, Gabrielle, your efforts never end obviously,. You know there's always a need to keep your organization going and so forth. We had shown on the slides earlier some examples of their keywords. If anybody would like to make a small donation to either one of these organizations, the slides were on the screen or Kim or Molly can type in the keywords to text into the chat window. You know, we love working with you guys. And if we can encourage support for you, we're glad to do it. Other than that, I appreciate you taking the time to join us. I hope I've been able to share a little bit about our service and the gals could share their experiences. If you have any questions or would like additional information about our servicess, feel free to put your name and email address in the chat window. We'll have our folks reach out to you and schedule a demo and show you a little bit about what we offer. But again for myself and the team and Give by Cell and Donna and Gabrielle, I appreciate you all joining us today. Thanks, everybody. 

Two Nonprofits Share Not-To-Miss Secrets About Mobile Giving!

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