Just another CRAFT site

Text to Donate: The Future of Political Campaigns?

by CRAFT | Media / Digital

On June 11, the FEC shook up campaign finance when it approved a proposal that will allow campaigns to accept donations via text message. If carriers choose to participate, the ruling will allow candidates to register 5- to 6-digit codes, which donors can key in to contribute.

The change comes in response to a petition from a group comprised of a Democratic consulting firm, a Republican political group, and a mobile messaging aggregator. To participate, donors must affirm they are U.S. citizens, 18 years or older and pay their own bills — though only by replying “yes” to a follow up text message.

Many campaigns already accept smartphone donations – but those contributions are routed through websites and require the donor to provide contact and billing information as they would for any other online donation. The rule will allow supporters to quickly send anonymous donations.

These donations must add up to make a difference, however. to Each phone number has a maximum $50 donation per month, and a max per text of $10. This restriction brings text donations in line with existing FEC regulations that limit but allow anonymous donations.

The system also solves the problem of donor record-keeping compliance rules that prevented text-to-donate from coming into existence when it was first put on the table in 2010. Messaging aggregators like m-Qube ensure that donations are under the maximum allowable anonymous amount and that relevant customer data is transmitted to campaigns.

The Red Cross pioneered text-to-donate and raised $32 million for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. With low-dollar limits, campaign text donations will likely not reach this scale – but they do open the opportunity to collect in the same way.

So what will change?

The decision will allow small-amount donors to play a larger role in campaigns typically dominated by six-figure contributions and SuperPACs. The simplicity text-to-donate offers will cut through the barrier between supporters’ wallets and favored campaigns. Candidates can utilize the codes on existing banners and advertisements to boost immediate donations.

By giving small-scale donors more opportunities to participate in the campaign, text-message donation may be powerful for building grassroots support. Campaigns willing to integrate text-to-donate into existing advertising efforts will see the greatest results. A viewer that sees a TV political ad will now be able to donate while the idea is still fresh in his mind. An immediate opportunity to donate engages voters and makes them feel more involved.

The next step for text-to-donate will be for wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T to come to a consensus on the fees they will charge. Phone companies could take a cut of each donation – as will middleman companies that collect donations from wireless companies and distribute them to campaigns. Until carriers agree on a standard for rates, and until those rates are reasonable, adoption of text-to-donate in the political sphere will be limited.