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How presidential candidates are upping the ante for mobile donations

As the 2016 presidential race ramps up in intensity, candidates are capitalizing on mobile donations that enable supporters to instantly send campaign funds from their smartphones, raising the soliciting stakes even higher.

Candidates from the Republican and Democrat parties introduced SMS-based donation campaigns at the Iowa caucuses this week, highlighting one way for presidential hopefuls to garner collections from millennial audiences. Although mobile donations first took the stage in the 2012 election, the strategy is well-poised to take flight as 2016 progresses.

“Twenty twelve was the first year in which we saw presidential candidates start to use mobile donations, where the amount donated was added directly to the mobile phone bill,” said Derek Johnson, CEO of Tatango, Seattle. “In 2012, text message donations were limited to $10 per donation, whereas in 2016, with browser-based mobile billing, donors are able to select the amount of their donation, ranging from $10 to $20.

“This, I believe, is a significant improvement from what was available to candidates in 2012.”

Catering to voters
Candidates are now, more than ever, attempting to catch potential voters on their most-frequented platforms and communication channels. According to a recent poll by CallFire, 19 percent of survey respondents claimed that SMS was the most effective way of reaching voters.

Several non-profits have also found success in raising donations via mobile, as evidenced by mobile making up nearly 20 percent of relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy.

Therefore, presidential candidates including Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders have incorporated this into their campaign tactics.

During his Iowa caucus, Ted Cruz asked fans to text the keyword “DONATE” to 55022, an action that enabled supporters to give Mr. Cruz’s campaign $10, $15 or $20.

Once consumers texted the keyword in, the designated number replied with a clickable link, which brought donors to a dedicated contribution page. There, they had to verify their age and citizenry status before pressing the amount of money they wanted to donate.

The next steps required individuals to input their phone numbers, receive a PIN code and enter the PIN code back into the contribution page. This allowed the payment to be added onto consumers’ next phone bills.

Supporters could then opt to sign up to receive additional email updates from Mr. Cruz’s campaign.

Senator Bernie Sanders has also tapped this strategy at many of his events. Mr. Sanders has encouraged attendees to send the word “BERNIE” to 82623 to be placed onto his SMS campaign.

This was followed up at his Iowa caucus this week by calling for supporters to text “GIVE” to 82623 to donate $10, which will be added onto their phone bills.

Mr. Sanders’s tactic differs from Mr. Cruz’s in that the former’s fans are only able to contribute a flat fee of $10, whereas the latter’s have several monetary options.

However, both campaigns give donors the ability to opt into receiving additional text messages.

Capturing millennials’ attention
Rolling out the ability for event-goers and political supporters to send in SMS-based donations will likely appeal to a slew of millennial voters, who heavily rely on the constant connectivity that mobile offers. Mobile donations are also able to drive impulse contributions, which can add up to a significant amount.

Nevertheless, this strategy is not necessarily tied to a specific demographic.

“I think text message donations will comprise a significant portion of the money raised by candidates in the 2016 presidential race, no matter what generation the donor belongs to,” Mr. Johnson said. “There’s absolutely nothing easier than sending a text message to make a donation, and when it comes to raising funds for a candidate, the easier it is for donors to give, the better.”

The other presidential frontrunners should certainly consider employing mobile donations as they ramp up for the primaries.

“I believe candidates need to be open to accepting donations from as many different channels as possible,” Mr. Johnson said. “If a candidate limits the channels available for donations, he or she is only making it harder for people to contribute.

“So yes, if a candidate isn’t already accepting donations via the mobile phone, I think he or she is at a significant disadvantage, in my opinion.”