Giving on the Go: Text-to-Donate vs. Text Donation Links for Nonprofits

Smartphone adoption is soaring and more people have cell phones than landlines. So hThe word DONATEow can nonprofits put the proliferation of cell phones to work for them? There are two ways you can donate with a phone.  Here’s the breakdown:

1. Text-to-Donate

Text-to-donate authorizes a donation via text only. No websites and no credit cards required. Here’s how it works:

  1. Text a custom short code to a special number.
  2. You’ll get a text back asking to confirm your donation.
  3. You respond YES, and a fixed donation amount is added to your cell phone bill.

But text-to-donate has some limitations. We’ll get to those in a minute.

2. Text Donation Links

Text donation links are pretty simple, but do require a smartphone. Here’s how it works:

  1. Text a short code like 41411 to a special number (yep, both methods start out the same).
  2. You’ll get a text back with a link sending you to a mobile-friendly website to donate.
  3. You complete your donation on the mobile site using your credit card info.

Pros & Cons: Text-to-Donate vs. Text Donation Links

There are some obvious benefits to text-to-donate. It’s a more direct giving option and doesn’t require any Internet connectivity. If they can text, they can give (usually).

But there are some lesser-known drawbacks to text-to-donate:

  • Fixed amounts: Text-to-donate options are usually for only $5 or $10 and the donor doesn’t have a choice. Text donation links can be in any amount.
  • Recurring giving: There’s no way to do recurring giving with text-to-donate, but text donation links can offer that as an option, which is a good way to increase giving.
  • Big Nonprofits Only: Text-to-donate usually requires nonprofits to have least $500,000 per year in revenue. Text donation links have no such requirement.
  • Longer set up: Donation codes have to be approved by carriers, so it can take 90 days or more to get a campaign going. Text donation links can often be done the same day.
  • Wait for the money: It can take at least 90 days for a nonprofit to receive funds with text-to-donate because it has to go through the carriers. With text donation links, the money goes through your standard donation process so you get the money faster.
  • Larger fees: Text-to-donate generally has greater fees, which means more money is wasted on overhead. Text donation links use your standard donation process, so there are no extra fees.
  • Not always compatible: While text-to-donate works on more cell phones because they don’t have to be Internet capable, it doesn’t work on all cell phones. Providers have to be participating and it won’t work with some corporate or group accounts.
  • More issues: Most people don’t expect to see donations showing up on their phone bill. Even though they confirmed the donation, they may not remember when the bill comes around. So text-to-donate can result in more disputes and chargebacks. Text donation links show up on a credit card bill, which is more expected for donors.

It’s easy to get confused as your nonprofit considers text donation options. But consider the differences carefully. Text donation links can often be simpler and an easier way for your nonprofit to engage your supporters.




Interested in text donation links? So long as you have an online donation page to send people to, TextMarks provides easy set-up for text donation links. Call us at 800-696-1393 or email


Kevin D. Hendricks

Kevin D. Hendricks is an avid reader, a former yo-yo man and a freelance writer living in St. Paul, Minn.

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