New FEC Ruling Paves The Way for Text-To-Donate Strategy

New FEC Ruling Paves The Way for Text-To-Donate Strategy

160 characters … That’s the limit of a standard text sent over Short Message Service (SMS). And those 160 characters can have significant influence on political operations. Since the 2008 election, campaigns and candidates have been using text messaging to engage their supporters to mobilize in support of shared causes with increasing frequency and success. Now, the text messaging game is changing in a new and potentially explosive way: fundraising.

An August ruling by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) cleared the way for campaign contributions to be sent via text message, adding a new and powerful arrow to the fundraising quiver. There’s little doubt that fundraising via SMS has the potential to play an important role in identifying, growing and mobilizing a stronger donor and advocate base for those that take advantage of it. As seen in the wake of natural disasters, people can be quickly engaged and vast sums can be raised in short periods, such as $43 million in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. And we are excited about the new possibilities it presents for the organizations with whom we work.

For many potential donors, sending a pledge over text is far more convenient than filling out a form and entering payment details. And, for the organizations that leverage SMS, they are interacting through a technology that most of their donors and stakeholders use on a daily basis. Stakeholders and donors can now simply text “GIVE” to a designated number to donate to a campaign or PAC. Strategies such as this can help an organization successfully raise money and expand their contact lists.

According to Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at Arent Fox LLP, who worked to convince the FEC to allow contributions by text message, “Text message contributions have the potential to truly revolutionize the way PACs raise funds.”

While the FEC ruling on texting unleashes a powerful new set of possibilities that can prove to be a game-changer to many candidates and organizations, there are still issues to work out with regard to the cost of overhead and collection of accurate donor information. However, smart organizations seeking thoughtful and intelligent application of this new tool will quickly find ways to perfect the process. Some may even seek to convert text donors to more traditional methods of engagement, while continuing to take advantage of the power of SMS to identify new donors and mobilize the grassroots.

As with any new opportunity, there are kinks to work out. However, supporters of the ruling, including both 2012 Presidential campaigns, which launched text-to-donate efforts in late August, lobbied the FEC to move on this for one reason: this technology can play a strong role in expanding their donor base and growing their grassroots advocacy missions. And we here at 720 Strategies certainly agree!

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