Text for life

I have recently become interested in the effects of texting for campaigns. At the University of Oregon Relay for Life we have a texting program that is being used to update participants and encourage further fundraising. I began to wonder, how effective is a text campaign?

Not everyone wants to receive twenty texts a day from one organization. Relay for Life is choosing to send out, at most, six texts a week. These texts include reminders of an upcoming relay participant meeting, or a fundraiser at our local pizza joint. As a college student texting is a big part of my life, whether I like to admit that or not is another story. Research shows that approximately 200,000 texts are sent per second around the world.

In January 2010 a terrible earthquake hit Haiti. The American Red Cross decided to approach fundraising for the victims through technology, thus the “Text for Haiti”campaign was born. The study discusses whether or not texting is a useful donation and fundraising tool for a nonprofit. Brooke Weberling and Richard Waters surveyed 500 people about their thoughts on texting campaigns. The results showed that many people believed a text campaign would be successful and helpful to an organization. But, when it came to actually participating in the text campaign more participants became hesitant.

Something to consider is the difference between “Text for Haiti” campaign’s success and United Way’s “Fit for Life” campaign. United Way’s “Fit for Life” campaign was promoted during the Super Bowl in 2009 through an television commercial. Why was one a success and the other a failure?

One of my answers to this question is people tend to be more responsive to a crisis situation. People in a crisis need help with others’ help with a snap of their fingers. With the push of a button the American Red Cross donated $10 for every text sent to “90999”. The urgency of a crisis parallels the urgency of a text message.

Even though Relay for Life’s approach is more of a device to remind participants about upcoming events and fundraisers, it is an indicator that text campaigns are on the rise. Who will be the next organization to create the next text campaign?

Waters, R. D. Weberling, B. Gauging the public’s preparedness for mobile public relations: The “text for Haiti” campaign. Public Relations Review. 38. 51-55.


Communicating with a low-income audience

As Relay for Life draws closer, I began wondering: How do low-income cancer patients learn about their resources? My pondering has led to me to various articles discussing how to communicate with a low-income audience.

Health-related nonprofits provide support for many low-income individuals and families. An organization must first understand how to communicate with this audience before creating brochures, posters and websites.

First, here are a few facts about the low-income population:

  • In the United States, 14.7 percent of our citizens live in poverty.

One study I read discusses the use of metaphors to relay a message to an audience. Metaphors are used often in the health field to create a better understanding of what their disease is, or maybe why getting the flu shot is important. Metaphors are an easy way to express a complex idea. There are four important things to take away from the article:

  • Know your audience. Too many times, communications plans are implemented without understanding the culture of their target audience.
  • Going along with the first point, do not stereotype your audience.
  • When you create a metaphoric message, make sure that the target is a known subject among your audience (e.g., the phrase “Cancer is war”, cancer is the target).

The literacy rate at which materials are written at organizations is important. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that cancer was diagnosed later in some patients because of a misunderstanding in the screening pamphlets. There was also a lack of understanding of the treatment options, as well as informed consent documents.

The study further discusses the topic of cancer and how to educate low-income audiences about cancer. Cancer affects everyone and does not care about your socioeconomic status, religion, race, ethnicity, age, or income. It is important for all people to know how to deal with cancer and what a person can do to defeat cancer.

As a public relations practitioner it is our duty to know our audience. Perhaps the most important take away from this post is to never stereotype your audience. Do your research before implementing a plan, and don’t assume you know your audience before conducting any research.

Why donor relations is more important than ever

Donors relations is part of the stepping stones to creating a successful organization.

During these harsh economic times nonprofit organizations struggle to secure new donors and cultivate relationships with existing donors through fundraisers. From my own experience during the economic downturn, it is simply too much for some companies and people to make a simple donation. What can a nonprofit organization do to develop positive relationships through fundraising? In this post I will summarize the findings from an academic study discussing the communication theory and nonprofit organization’s relationships with donors.

Richard D. Waters, the author of the study, states that now more than ever, it is necessary to weave communication strategies into relations with major gift and annual giving donors. Communication theory can be used to examine the characteristics, purpose, nature of communication, and what sort of communication model is used. You must identify what type of public you are dealing with as well, for example, passive, active, or latent.

According to the Giving USA Foundation, in 2007 an estimated 1.6 million charitable organizations received $306 billion from Americans. An annual giver can be an individual, an organization, a foundation, or a corporation. A major donor is usually a sponsor.


  •  Waters mailed surveys to a random sample of 4,290 people.
  •  However, only 4,173 surveys were received due to bad addresses.
  •  There was a 41 percent response rate, meaning 1,706 people completed a survey.


  •  Waters conducted a pre-test to determine the formation of the survey and size of the scales
  •  The surveys consisted of demographic information.
  •  The surveys incorporated Hon and Grunig’s relationship outcomes scale (i.e., satisfaction, trust, commitment, and balance of power).
  •   The surveys incorporated Ki and Hon’s scales (i.e., trust, control mutuality, commitment, satisfaction, communal relationship, exchange relationship)
  •  A 9-point scale measured participants’ responses. The scale ranged from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (9).


  •  53 percent female, 47 percent male
  •  Caucasion: 45 percent
  •   Asian/Pacific Islander: 17 percent
  •   Hispanic/Latino: 12 percent
  •   Middle Easter: 12 percent
  •   African-American: 9 percent
  •   Annual giving donors: 79 percent
  •   The mean age of donors: 44.8 years, the mean age for major gift donors: 52.1 years, and the mean age for annual giving donors: 42.9 years


Organizations with more reciprocity received higher levels of satisfaction and commitment by major gift donors. Reciprocity means an organization is returning the favor. For example, if your organization has a large sponsor who donates each year, then the donor would be acknowledged through printing his or her logo on a T-shirt for an event. Trust and balance of power increased when there was a large amount of relationship nurturing.

Major gift donors agreed access had a significant impact on the balance of power in the relationship. Access means the donor is able to interact with all levels of the organization and the organization is transparent with the donor.

Annual giving donors looked to networking, relationship nurturing, positivity, and responsibility as major effectors of balance of power, trust, commitment, and satisfaction

Annual giving donors showed greater need for trust. To achieve this, an organization is advised to be as open as possible when the donor is giving for the first time.

Networking is a big influencer for annual giving donors. Networking provides the donor and the organization with a mutual connection between whom they know and who the organization knows. Thus, it is a win-win for both.


Major Donors

  • Inviting major donors to participate in organizational activities is crucial to the relationship.
  •  Major donors like to discuss projects or events, and want to work closely with the organization.

Annual Giving Donors

  • Meetings between annual donors and the organization must be brief during a fundraiser; you must be timely, open and pleasant.
  • Nonprofit leaders should recognize and discuss other organizations with similar goals because annual giving donors like to see the nonprofit community supportive of other organizations.
  •  Handwritten notes are important for big donors. The personal touch of a handwritten note makes the donor feel special. Donors feel recognized for their contribution when a handwritten note is sent.
  •  When donors express concern, nonprofits should demonstrate organizational behavioral changes, not just verbal and written assurances. Actions speak louder than words.
  •  The audience is active. Donors want to engage with the organization that they are donating to. For example, when hosting a fundraising event periodically give shout outs to the donor who raised a high amount. Another example would be inviting a donor to volunteer for your organization. Volunteering is one of the best ways to involve a donor in your organization.


  •  The study was limited to the Western United States.
  •  The study was limited to just three nonprofits and only nonprofit hospitals.
  •  It is hard to generalize the study, as the sample is small and further research would need to be conducted.


Major gift and annual giving donors are some of the most important supporters that a nonprofit must maintain. These two groups donate some of the largest amounts to an organization. The ability to connect with annual giving donors is especially important. If an annual giver has an exceptional experience at an event, then an annual giver will want to continue supporting the organization. It is vital to follow communication theory to achieve the tight-knit relationship we want our donors to feel for our organization.

Waters, R. D. (2010). Increasing fundraising efficiency through evaluation: Applying communication theory to the nonprofit organization – Donor relationship. Nonprofit and Voluntary Quarterly 40(3), 458475. doi:10.1177/0899764009354322