Topics: Fundraising, SMS, Testing, House File, Text Messaging, Small-Dollar Fundraising

Text Messaging for Political Fundraising

Move Over Email; I Have a New Text Alert!

A decade ago, email fundraising was king. Teams of campaign staffers were dedicated to priming, primping, crafting, and sending highly targeted electronic mail appeals. Now the mediums we utilize have diversified, and one channel is finally giving email marketing some competition — fundraising via text messages.

Texting now rivals email (and in some cases even surpasses it!) because both people and systems have become smarter. They instantly know the campaign email they just received was a mass blast, and as a result, open rates have plummeted.

Do I need text messaging?

Consider This: Research shows that texting has a much higher open rate than email. In fact, our research shows that over 90% of texts are seen and opened within minutes of being received!

That's a powerful tool for any platform, but it is unmatched for reaching people instantly and anywhere in politics.

Do I Need Text Messaging for My Political Campaign?

In short, Yes. Aside from that stellar open-rate, texting can be affordable for campaigns big and small. It's also a great tool to promote events, send rapid response messaging, and turn out your GOTV (Get Out the Vote) universe.

Can I use Text Messaging for My Political Fundraising?

Yes! The first major texting campaign appeared in the 2012 presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The FEC approved a pilot program for both major parties to solicit small SMS donations by adding them to monthly telephone bills.

The idea of collecting donations from people on their smartphones was born, and by 2016 the technology evolved beyond presidential campaigns. The Prosper Group was among the first to make this technology widely available in the Republican and conservative political space.

Once mobile wallets (e.g., Google Pay and Apple Pay) became popular, people gained trust in mobile donations. Digital campaigns benefited from the ease of pre-filled options for required donor information in our mobile-driven society.

Making donating easier is a win-win, providing convenience to donors and eliminating hurdles for small-dollar fundraising campaigns. Donors no longer have to manually input their credit cards every time they want to donate. Who hasn’t opted out of buying something online because their credit card was on the other side of the house?

What is the Difference between Peer-to-Peer or Short Code Texting?

Short Code MMS from Elise for Congress

Before we go further, let's talk about the different ways to reach donors on their phones. You may have heard the terms peer-to-peer texting or shortcode texting.

To understand the difference, let's go back to good old-fashioned robocalls. Stick with us just a minute here.

The Federal Election Commission has specific rules addressing robocalls. According the FCC website: “Political campaign-related autodialed or prerecorded voice calls … are prohibited to cell phones, pagers, or other mobile devices without the called party's prior express consent.”

HOWEVER. If a person manually dials the numbers on the other end of the line, the party sending the message does not need the recipient's expressed permission to make the call.

The same rules apply to political texting campaigns.

Automated bulk text messages, sent en masse, are strictly regulated. These are commonly called short codes, which are five or six digits long. With short codes, your recipients must opt-in before they can receive messages.

The excellent news for text message fundraising is it has never been easier to opt-in new house file subscribers. By requesting permission to send texts on donation pages, you can build up a house file in no time.

Meanwhile, peer-to-peer (also called P2P) texts remain mostly unregulated because they go out individually. But there have been calls for additional p2p regulation by the FCC and the FEC, making its future uncertain.

For now, P2P texts have the advantage of being personal messages from real people allowing back-and-forth conversations to take place.

Where shortcodes beat out P2P is with the added value of a house file of opted-in subscribers. Regardless of any future regulatory changes, you will be able to text opt-in subscribers with confidence.

Regardless, both P2P and shortcode campaigns can ask people to go vote on election day, provide polling location information, and more.

Are P2P or Short Code Messages Better for My Campaign?

Take your campaign fundraising to the next level by setting up short code text messaging. The fundraising advantages are especially valuable for advocacy organizations and incumbent elected officials.

You will need to budget a month or more complete the paperwork to get up and running. Wireless carriers must approve the short code you want to associate with your campaign, but once set up with opt-ins, you can send high volumes of messages without relying on agents and volunteers.

Take your campaign fundraising to the next level by setting up short code text messaging.


P2P is an excellent option for campaigns working on a shoe-string budget or running out of time. With a couple of hours' notice, we can have your peer-to-peer text messages going out later the same day. It is an effective way to get your message out and inform your audience quickly.

One More Consideration: SMS or MMS Messages?

Short Code MMS Republicans Must Flip 20 Seats

Now that you’re ready to start texting for your campaign, you’ll need to decide if you’ll send SMS or MMS texts, or some combination of both.

SMS stands for Short Messaging Service, and MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. The difference is simple but important to know.

SMS is text only, while MMS can be longer and include pictures, videos, sound files, or even animated gifs.

Before you get multimedia happy, though, it's worth mentioning that an average MMS text costs two to three times what an SMS text does. It will take some testing with any campaign to discover where you will get the best return on your investment.

Testing Note: As with most digital campaigns, you can test your text messaging campaigns for optimization and improved performance.

Final Thought Text Alert

Texting may be providing new competition for email marketing in the world of digital fundraising, but one thing doesn't change. Keeping your audience engaged regularly is imperative.

Whether you choose to use short code or P2P messages with SMS or MMS texts, you need to build a relationship with your recipients. If you can get them invested in you and your campaign, especially early on, they will more likely become donors and provide financial support.

If you have questions, our experts at The Prosper Group have the answers you need.

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The Prosper Group is an internationally-recognized, award-winning digital marketing agency headquartered in Indianapolis. The firm specializes in online media, strategy, and fundraising for Republican political candidates, advocacy organizations, associations, and non-profits. The Prosper Group's best-in-industry work has been recognized for awards dozens of times by prestigious organizations such as the American Association of Political Consultants and Campaigns & Elections.

The firm has worked in tandem with Trump for President 2016, Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Ted Cruz, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Congressman John Katko, the National Association of Manufacturers, Fox News, and many other candidates and organizations.

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