2013's Text Santa charity fundraiser was the biggest yet. Vodafone's JustTextGiving service powered the text donations, so we've got the inside story...
Last December’s Text Santa was the biggest to date, with the live ITV extravaganza raising more than £5.1 million for Age UK, Barnardo’s, BeatBullying, The British Heart Foundation, CLIC Sargent and Help the Hospices. And most of that was sent from mobile phones using our very own JustTextGiving service.
We’ve been speaking to Vodafone’s Clare Jones-Leake to find out how all that was made possible, what the difficulties were in facilitating so many donations, and why text donations are the future of big charity appeals.
“Vodafone’s been involved with Text Santa since its start in 2011,” Clare says, “so the 2013 Text Santa was the third one we’ve helped with. It’s a charity appeal with an emphasis on texting, and it uses our JustTextGiving service to power the text donations. We provide the infrastructure to ITV, so that the viewers can simply text in and donate.
“The benefits are that it’s free to send the text from any network, 100% of the money goes to charity and you can add Gift Aid, which adds an extra 25% to the donation. JustTextGiving has a really high Gift Aid declaration rate, which isn’t something you normally see with TV charity appeals.”
Robust and reliable
Because of those fundamental features, JustTextGiving is a logical choice for Text Santa, but it’s also used because of its reliability. The event provides a concentrated burst of text donations over a few hours, which massively outweighs any other day of the year in terms of volume.
“The service is completely robust,” Clare explains. “Which is great because the appeal itself was open from the beginning of December and ran until 10 January, but the bulk of the text traffic is on one day.” And it’s not just limited to the three hours that the live show’s on, either.
“JustTextGiving is very robust – whatever network a text is coming from, the system can handle it.”
“ITV took over the scheduling all day to promote Text Santa, so our Text Santa day actually kicked off at 6.30am. We monitored the systems very closely to make sure they were working as they should, then the volume of texts increased even more when the live show was on (between 8 and 11pm). JustTextGiving is very robust – whatever network a text is coming from, the system can handle it, so the JustTextGiving service was available 100% of the time.”
And it’s just as well; JustTextGiving handled more than 440,000 texts during the three hours that Text Santa took to the air.
“JustTextGiving is a brilliant platform for an appeal like Text Santa, because it’s taking the infrastructure of the Vodafone Foundation – where we’re investing our technology in aiding charities – and scaling up with the right support behind it to make it totally dependable.”
The changing face of charity
Text messages may account for the millions raised for charity, but they weren’t the only source of donations during the Text Santa live event.
“One thing we did differently this year was incorporate our fixed line services for the first time which meant we were also able to support donations made by people calling in to one of the live agents.
“We had 750 volunteers manning the phones across five call centres – all of which were giving up their last Friday before Christmas to take donations.”
There may have been a big number of phone donations, but text messages were the real driving force throughout the campaign and beyond. We asked Clare why she thinks JustTextGiving is so important to the future of charity fundraising, and she told us it’s all a matter of making things as easy as possible:
“Text donating is huge. If you’re thinking of a mass appeal like this, you’ve only got the opportunity to engage people for a short amount of time. Most people will be viewing that from home, and will have their mobile phones next to them. We all like to multitask in that way, and it makes it much more accessible to be able to donate with just a few taps.
“Text messaging is where the lion’s share of donations come from on a night like this, and that’ll only continue to rise.”
How does it work? If you’re like us, you’ll be keen to know exactly how JustTextGiving sends money from your phone to your favourite charity. For all the info your need, read the story of how text donation works here.