Feb 22, 2021

Keyword Best Practices for Nonprofits

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The keyword you select for your communication or fundraising campaign can play a critical role in its success. Here’s how to make sure the keyword you select is effective, including common mistakes to avoid, so your mobile messaging and text-to-donate campaigns are effective.  

But first, in case you are not familiar with keywords and shortcodes, keywords refer to unique terms, which can include letters and/or numbers, used for communicating between you and your supporters or donors. Keywords are associated with a short code, which is a five- or six-digit phone number the donor uses to text the keyword to you. They will then receive an automatic reply that may be a simple message or a link to a donation form, signup form, video, web page, or whatever information the nonprofit would like to share. 

What Makes a Good Keyword

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A good keyword is ideally:

  • One word – Give, Help, Impact, Water, Elephant
  • Easy to remember and spell
  • Acronym that is regularly used to refer to your organization – UCLA, USC, NYU, MADD 
  • Not likely to autocorrect

Tip #1: When creating a keyword, pull out your mobile device and type your keyword into the message box. Does it autocorrect? If so, it’s not a great keyword. Autocorrect systems learn over time the words and acronyms you use regularly. Therefore, if you commonly type an acronym or org name that isn’t a real word on your device, autocorrect may learn not to correct it for you, but it will still autocorrect it on a device that doesn’t type it regularly. So be sure to test your keywords on the devices of several people, including some who aren’t associated with your nonprofit. Autocorrect, unfortunately, differs from device to device, so there is no way to universally control the issue, so it’s wise to test on as many devices as possible and with different carriers.    

Tip #2: One way to avoid autocorrect is to add a number to your keyword. 

  • Examples: run4change, give2kids, help4homes, give2020

What is a Bad Keyword?

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A bad keyword can be:  

  • Two words are used together without the use of a number, these will likely autocorrect to multiple words and the carrier will only act on the first word – givenow, runforchange, givetokids
  • Acronyms that are unknown or made up for the campaign. Why? Because they are likely to autocorrect – the keyword RDN autocorrects to Ten, Run or Ran 

Would you like to incorporate text-to-donate into your next fundraising campaign? Talk to our experts today. 

Are Keywords Case Sensitive?

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Keywords are not case sensitive. No matter how a donor types a keyword, as long as it is entered correctly, it will work. Example: the keyword GIVE can be typed as give, Give or GIVE and work properly. 

However, when providing and displaying instructions on how to text a keyword and shortcode in printed materials, presentations, social media, videos and more, we recommend you show it in all caps. Presenting the keyword in all caps makes it easier to read, less likely to be misread, and can help avoid potential autocorrect issues when your supporters believe they must type it in as all caps.


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The importance of the keyword you select depends entirely on how you will be promoting it.

When a keyword matters:  

  • For an in-person ask at a fundraising event, on television, the radio, or live streaming, “Please pull out your phones and text GIVE to 41444”
  • On print materials – table tents, banners, posters, direct mail, etc. 
  • When attendees are requesting information at a conference, meeting or any type of public gathering
  • Video calls-to-action with the keyword announced in the script and/or displayed on screen   
  • Images posted on social media (always link to the form in the copy of your post as well)

The keyword is less important for: 

  • Embedding a donation form on your website, the user will never text the keyword to access it
  • E-mail campaigns, the reader should instead click a link in the email to access the content

Text-to-donate and text-to-request information, signup, subscribe, volunteer, sign a petition and take a survey can be very effective ways of growing your database and organization. Be sure to implement keyword best practices in your campaigns to make the experience, and campaign, as successful as possible. 

Our goal at GiveSmart is to help nonprofit organizations create and manage successful digital fundraising campaigns, raise more money and retain donors longer. Request a free demo with one of our fundraising experts to learn, step by step, how GiveSmart can simply help set up your campaigns while transforming your results.


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