Impressive Text Santa milestone shows the power of SMS

Most people are familiar with Children in Need; it’s a national institution that does great work for young people across the country. The brainchild of the BBC, it has been running annually since 1980, raising millions of pounds.

The charity has also provided inspiration for other kind-hearted broadcasters, with rival ITV launching its own ‘Text Santa’ event back in 2011. In the four years since, this Christmas-related fundraiser has gone from strength to strength, with the most recent telethon – which took place on December 18 – raising a record £8,383,361 for Macmillan Cancer Support, Make-A-Wish UK and Save the Children.

Last week’s event, like any good public-eye fundraiser, called on famous faces to help get viewers into the giving mood. You had presenters Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby (among others) introducing acts such as Olly Murs, Little Mix and Louisa Johnson; as well as personal appeals from the likes of Jack Black, Elijah Wood and Prime Minister David Cameron.

The involvement of these familiar names and faces no doubt played a big part in the achievement, but it wouldn’t have happened without a certain 20-year-old technology. While givers were able to pledge online or by calling up, it was SMS that organisers pushed as the main donation channel. Perhaps unsurprising, given the name.

So, by sending a simple message with the text SANTA5 (for a £5 donation) or SANTA10 (£10) to the short-code 70760*, viewers could send money quickly without even having to leave their comfy spot on the sofa. The money is then taken from credit there and then or added to the user’s phone bill at the end of the month.

This convenience is the key to ITV’s commendable feat. So many people are ready to give if it means helping others in need – they just need the donation process to be as simple as possible before they actually go ahead. And, when it comes to ease-of-use, SMS comes head and shoulders above the alternatives.

Don’t believe us? Stats from PhonepayPlus, the Ofcom-approved premium rate services regulator, show that texters donated a whopping £115 million in 2014, with growth of almost eight per cent expected this year.

It’s not just down to simplicity either. “One of the reasons that some people give this way is because of the anonymity,” says Kate Ixer, Digital Fundraising Officer at the British Red Cross. What’s more, people trust SMS more than they have in the past, and more than some of the alternatives. This means they’re ready to give more – explaining why Text Santa alone has generated more than £29 million in its short history.

*This code is still accepting donations at time of writing.