A Better Way to Give with SMS: Part 1

Matt EversoleArticles0 Comments

Whether it’s a reaction over-eating & hyper-consumerism or something more benevolent, this time of year (the period between Thanksgiving in the United States and Christmas) lends itself to charitable giving and in particular donors giving to their local food bank. Look no further than a Buzzfeed article that touts a list of food that food banks actually need. People love to give and they want to know that their donation is making a difference.

What if there was a better way of helping instead donating a couple cans of soup? In fact, donors can make their gift go 2.5x further when they make a monetary donation. That’s right; instead donating two cans of soup, the same amount of money could purchase 5 cans for your local food bank.

In Pittsburgh, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is facing a shortage of 60,000,000 meals over the next decade. The need is great and increasing every donation by a factor of 2.5x would make a substantial impact in reducing or eliminating that gap.

So, who wants to give 2 cans of soup instead of 5? You do. Even if you’re aware that the food bank can do more with a monetary donation, there are two things that might stop you:

  1. Tangible Connection – There is a tangible connection associated with dropping those cans of soup in a donation box which is more gratifying than the click, click, click of donating on the food bank’s website. Simply stated, it’s more rewarding to donate 2 cans of soup than give money that could go towards 5 cans of soup.
  2. Transparency – Some donors are turned-off to monetary donations because they want their contribution to go directly to the cause. In the case of food banks, they might want to support the organization’s mission of providing meals to those in need but not staff salaries, advertising, or fuel for the delivery truck.

If food banks want to overcome these barriers, perhaps they could try to emulate another type of charitable bank: blood banks. Highlighted in an article from the Toronto Star, Blodcentralen Stockholm, a blood bank in Sweden’s capital, uses automated SMS to build a lasting connection with their donors. The innovative campaign sends a text message thanking the donor after initially giving blood and, more importantly, it follows-up with additional text messages to inform the donor that their blood was used to help someone in need. According to Karolina Blom Wiberg, a communications manager at Blodcentralen Stockholm, “It seems that this campaign makes our donors more loyal. They come back to us to donate again.”

Why is the Blodcentralen Stockholm’s SMS campaign so effective? It makes the process of donating blood transparent. Donors don’t have to assume that the blood they gave has made a difference in someone else’s life; they know that they’ve made a difference. Additionally, the campaign communicates with donors on their terms.

Why would a similar campaign help food banks increase monetary donations and narrow their meal gap?

  1. Gives the donor something tangible. While it still might not provide the same instant gratification as dropping canned goods into a crate, the text notifications will provide donors with something more tangible & personal than the emailed receipt that might currently receive. This might be enough, combined with the donation going 2.5x further, to encourage them to make a monetary donation instead of donating canned goods.
  2. Shows the donor how they’ve made a difference in someone else’s life. The text notifications that the donor will receive weeks or even months from their initial donation will build a positive connection with the food bank. In theory, these reminders will also accelerate the donor cultivation cycle and encourage them to donate again.

Check-out A Better Way to Give: Part 2 where I’ll discuss more of the technological & marketing aspects that food banks should consider when launching a SMS campaign.


Let me know what you think in the comments section below and, if you would like to make a donation or learn more about the organizations that are working to end hunger in Southwestern Pennsylvania, check-out the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the 412 Food Rescue Truck.

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