Momentum builds for FEC to allow text-to-donate

Text-t0-donate could be a boon to federal races as it allows donors to make impulse-donations to candidates.

To be sure, there are kinks to work out: donations from corporate accounts on federal candidates is a no-no; the delay in sending the donation to the candidates is a major issue if you’re in the last 30 days of a race.

Essentially – lots of kinks to work out, but promising in concept.

Campaign Insider reports:

Firms are putting pressure on the Federal Election Commission to give its blessing to text-message campaign contributions. For those in the Beltway last cycle, you may remember that “text-to-donate” was the hot snake oil of 2010. Several companies and consultants tried to ride the buzz of the successful Haiti text-donation efforts.

Text-message contributions aren’t allowed under federal law. But there are reports that firms are upping the pressure on the FEC to make a change.

The Verizons & AT&Ts of the world aren’t soft hearted when politics is involved. Maryland and California have allowed text-message contributions for state-level candidates. Maryland hasn’t held a statewide race since it changed its rules and in California, party officials have complained that cell providers haven’t offered the service.

Other problems around collecting political donation via a text message include:

  • The donations are not forwarded to the campaign until well after the billing cycle. This is no good if a campaign needs their funds right away to buy ads or support GOTV efforts.
  • The donations are only tagged with the donor’s cell number. Not their name, address, occupation and employer as required by the FEC. Telecommunications companies are going to have to change their policy and provide far more information about donors to make the FEC happy.

Political fundraisers have ways to get around these problems such having donors send a text and then having a phone bank call the prospect back for her donor and credit card info.

Another technique is to have donors send a text and then they would receive a link to a donation page via text. The benefits of these two strategies is that the campaign would have phone numbers of prospective donors. The down side is that the campaign doesn’t receive a corresponding name for the prospect who responded to the call-to-action.

Needless to say, neither of these strategies notched any significant fundraising success. One large Midwestern Republican state party tried something similar at its big annual fundraiser banquet. They hired a vendor who promised them fundraising riches. At the event a text-to-donate number was flashed on massive screens around the event. Phone bank operators were poised to call donors back to process their donation. When the event was over, a grand total of $143 was collected.