Charity text donations surged by £25m during pandemic, phone regulator finds 

09 Sep 2021 News


Text donations increased by 64% to £65.8m, which is the highest level recorded, in the year to March 2021, according to research published today.

This £25.7m boost is attributed to an extra telethon from Comic Relief and Children in Need early in the pandemic, as well as to donations to various campaigns to support the NHS. 

Today the Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) published its annual review of the phone-paid services market for 2020–2021. The report is prepared by Analysys Mason on behalf of the PSA and is based on a survey of nearly 10,000 consumers and in-depth interviews with industry participants. 

Charity text donations was the only channel measured by the PSA which reported an increase during 2020-21. 

Cyclical nature of telethon-driven donations  

The amount raised through text donations varies each year depending on which telethon events, such as Red Nose Day, are scheduled. 

Last year the PSA had expected a £7.8m rise, but the popularity of text donations for fundraising campaigns to support the NHS and the addition of the Big Night In telethon on the BBC, which was a joint Comic Relief and Children in Need initiative led to a bigger than expected rise. 

Some expected telethons were cancelled or postponed during the year, but the amount raised through the one-off campaigns offset this. For example, the Big Night In raised £70m overall, with £27m coming via text donations.

However. the PSA also notes that some telethons suffered because social distancing restrictions made producing high-quality content more difficult. 

“Telethons that did go ahead faced severe filming restrictions, which resulted in a reduction in the quantity and quality of content shown. The strong link between quality of content and on-night donations was reflected in the below-average amounts raised for both Children in Need and Red Nose Day in 2020–2021,” the report says.

The PSA now predicts that next year the amount raised through text donations will fall by £15.7m next year. 

Recurring donations 

People can set up recurring donations to charity via their phone, and the regulator says that this channel became more popular during the year. 

“More charities embraced and promoted text-to-donate services due to the inability to reach potential donors face-to-face,” the PSA says. 

It says that this, combined with the prominence of the NHS Charities Together campaign “inspired an increase in the number of donations outside of telethon events, which accounted for over 25% of phone-paid donations (£16.5m)”. 

Of this figure, £14.8m came via recurring donations. 

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.


More on