Remembering the Fort McMurray Fires of 2016: How a country and the Red Cross responded

As Canadians, one of the things we as a collective have always prided ourselves in is our country’s global humanitarian efforts and our reputation for aiding those in need. Recent history has been marked with countless instances of Canadians putting their time, money, and even lives on the line all in the name of helping others; world wars, the invasion of Holland, the Iranian hostage crisis, peace-keeping efforts, and more recently our endeavors to help countries brutally affected by COVID-19, to name a few. However, what happens when the crisis is in our own country and it’s our fellow Canadians that need help? Five years ago, we received the answer to this question, when tragedy struck a small Canadian town and the whole country responded.

For the majority of Canadians, the morning of May 1, 2016 began as any other. The mild Sunday marked the beginning of springtime in Canada and was a welcomed change after the long haul of winter. People were eager to get outside to enjoy the warmer air and begin their morning routines. However, for the residents of Fort McMurray, Alberta, enjoying the budding sprig morning would be the furthest thing from their collective realities. What began as small wildfire in the surrounding forests of the Albertan town would quickly intensify, prompting the provincial government to declare a local state of emergency followed by the largest fire-related evacuation in the province’s history. Within 2 days, the blaze had reached the town, forcing more than 80,000 people to flee their homes and community,

May27 Blog Image

A wildfire burns through a forest south of Fort McMurray, Alta., on Highway 63 on May 7, 2016. Jonathan Hayward, the Canadian Press

bringing only a few belongings and the clothes on their back. Walls of fire lined the sides of the roadways as residents drove to nearby aid stations, where the Canadian Red Cross had already begun their long list of support measures.

In almost every major crisis around the globe, Red Cross societies have always been amongst the first organizations to respond due to their massive international reach and ability to mobilize support campaigns almost immediately. In the case of the Fort McMurray fires, the Canadian Red Cross was no exception. When the province of Alberta ordered a mass evacuation, Red Cross Canada sprang into action by deploying support workers and volunteers, and launched one of the largest domestic emergency campaigns in addition to the most successful text-to-donate campaign of the time. By utilizing a multitude of promotional channels- such as social media, carrier messaging, public service announcements, television and radio etc.- the Canadian Red Cross were able to quickly send out their calls for help and Canadians were even faster to respond. Within a matter of days:

  • The Red Cross campaign had the highest single day donation volume MGFC had ever seen.
  • In the first week of the relief campaign, more than $1.1 million was raised and by the end of May, more than $1.6 million was raised through text-to-donate channel alone.
  • Of the 233K+ unique donors who gave generously, more than 6,000 opted in to monthly giving to show their ongoing support to the Red Cross’s relief efforts.
  • The Canadian Red Cross reported that 90% of all the text donations they had received during their May 2016 campaign had come from completely new donors, reinforcing the reach and effectiveness of the channel.

Thanks to the generous outpouring of donations both through the mobile giving channel and other avenues, the Canadian Red Cross was able to provide aid to more than 28,000 households in need to help rebuild a community.


Published May 27, 2021 by:

Megan Bertrim

Charity Outreach Coordinator, MGFC

[email protected]


Keywords & Emojis: Important tips for selecting the right keyword to engage your audience

One of the most common questions we receive from charities that are experimenting with text-to-donate for the first time is how to successfully engage their audience and market their campaign. While we wish we could have a team of Don Drapers and ad men capable of marketing every single charity’s campaign and driving them to success, this is sadly not the case for our small team. In fact, the majority of our insight actually comes from simple observation. With over 11 years serving the charitable community, we have paid close attention to charities and the ways they have found success. Many charities have utilized the power of social media and their loyal following to engage with supporters while others have leveraged radio spots or live events to tap into an entirely new audience. Of course, what works for some is not guaranteed to work for others, which can make it challenging to steer charities in the right direction. While there is no perfect formula we can offer charities, what we have seen time and time again is that the key to engaging your audience begins with your keyword.


Before we dive right into how to select the right keyword, it is important to understand what a keyword actually is. Simply put, the keyword (or emoji!) is what triggers the donation flow. Each charity needs to have a unique keyword + Short Code combination to be able to launch a campaign. To make a donation through the text-to-donate channel, a donor will need to open a new message on their mobile device and in the recipient field type in the charity’s 5-digit Short Code number (20222, 30333, 41010, 45678, or 80100). In the body of that message, the donor types in the charity’s promoted keyword, hits send, which then initiates the donation process.

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of what a keyword is, let’s jump into how to select the right keyword to engage your audience. One of the many benefits to mobile giving is that it calls for non-traditional thinking and some creativity on the charity’s end. However, when choosing a keyword that will be effective, we recommend following these 3 tips:

  1. Keep it short and sweet! We recommend choosing a keyword 8 characters or less.
  2. Think of something that not only resonates with your target audience, but also something that can be easily tied back to the cause your organization supports or a specific campaign.
  3. Consider human error and auto-correct and try to avoid using acronyms.

When it comes to promoting your campaign call-to-action, we also recommend that you promote your keyword using all capital letters for emphasis. Wherever possible, try to make the Short Code and keyword stand out – so simple, but just look at the difference:

Text Keyword to 45678 to donate $10 to MGFC.


Text KEYWORD to 45678 to donate $10 to MGFC.

If you’re not sure what keyword best suits your upcoming campaign, consider using an emoji instead!  This is a newer feature that has become a dynamic alternative to a traditional keyword; with emojis, you have the ability to pick any one out of hundreds that will best represent your organization / campaign. Going this route can be a great way to tie in common promotional imagery or even branded colours of your cause/ organization. For example:

  •  Humane societies could use the dog 🐶 and/or the cat 🐱 emoji.
  •  Health associations can pick emojis that represent their awareness colours; hearts are always a great choice: ❤️💙💜💛💚

Emojis are a fun way to grab attention, but not everyone is emoji-savvy, and so MGFC offers a free keyword to support the emoji. E.g. if you want to use the dog emoji, we’ll also make sure that anyone who texts the word DOG will also be able to make a donation.

Choosing a keyword is an important part of the campaign planning process, but it doesn’t need to be a daunting one – we’re here to help and our goal is to help you reach YOUR fundraising goal! What keyword or emoji would you choose?

Published April 27, 2021 by:

Megan Bertrim
Charity Outreach Coordinator, MGFC
[email protected]

Staying afloat in uncertain times: How Charities weathered the COVID-19 storm

In the early months of 2020, the world saw many things: wildfires that ravaged Australia, the controversial beginning of Brexit, and even swarms of locusts that tore through countries in Africa. Yet no radical climate disaster or political folly could have quite prepared us for the unprecedented force that Covid-19 would be. As we enter into a new year, it’s difficult not to look back and reflect on the previous year we have just experienced and think of the many changes it has brought.

As the virus spread to all corners of the world, industries left, right, and centre experienced shutdowns never seen before. Restaurants, retailers, and even schools closed their doors to the public, but one often forgotten industry impacted by these closures is the charitable sector. With provincial wide shutdowns, the majority of Canadian charities had to put a hold on any in-person fundraising or large scale public events for the foreseeable future, and for many, this meant severing their usual revenue sources. In an article published by Imagine Canada in March, it was projected that the virus would directly cause charities to lose $9.5 billion and layoff more than 117,000 employees[1]. Now unable to reach valuable donors and volunteers through the traditional routes, charities across Canada had to seriously rethink how to raise funds to stay afloat.

The Mobile Giving Foundation Canada recognized the emerging issues our fellow charities were facing and decided that we needed to help. MGFC is a unique fundraising avenue – we are Canada’s only carrier-billed text donation solution, where donations are charged to a donor’s monthly cellphone bill, allowing donors to engage with their favourite charities in a contactless and Covid-19 friendly way.

On March 25th, MGFC announced that all application and renewal fees, for new and returning charities, would be completely waived until May 31st. The goal was simple: make our services more accessible for charities during times of uncertainty and financial hardship. In 2020, MGFC saw a great number of charities both big and small, reimagine how they fundraise amid a pandemic and successfully leveraged text-to-donate by promoting the channel through a variety of mediums. Many charities utilized the power of the internet to reach out to their valuable donors through big social media pushes and strategically promoted their text-to-donate campaigns. A few charities combined old technologies with the new, by using radio to promote their campaigns, while some organizations made the leap to virtual fundraising by holding large scale online events and concerts; one charity even managed to raise $1.6 million in text donations in just 48 hours!

From mid March – May 31:

  • More than $2M was raised by 79 charities, which is an astounding 4926% increase in funds raised during the same period in 2019.
  • During this time 24 new charities were certified by MGFC, a 200% increase from 2019.
  • And over 124,000 unique donors made a text donation.

Based on this growth in donation revenue, we can infer that despite the pandemic and all of the financial uncertainty it brings, Canadians are more willing than ever to rally behind and support their favourite charities, and, through the right fundraising avenues, charities can still run successful fundraising campaigns, even if they are virtual. It is our hope that as the new year progresses, we will continue to see this kind of generosity, and while it’s unclear as to when we will see the return to life as we once knew it, what we do know for sure is that we can count on the generosity of Canadians, no matter the circumstances.

Published February 26, 2021 by:
Megan Bertrim
Charity Outreach Coordinator, MGFC
[email protected]


From @MGFCanada

Lost, alone and with a broken leg, Lucky was fending for herself and caring for her kittens. Read this family’s story and donate to help them recover and grow! Text 🍀 right now to 45678 to donate $5 to help Lucky heal! Retweeted by Mobile Giving Foundation Canada

June is #RecreationAndParksMonth - a movement that promotes the benefits of recreation and parks for physical, social, and environmental health! What are your favourite local parks?

June 6 is #NationalCancerSurvivorsDay - a day to applaud, appreciate, and remember those who have survived cancer. To support those in remission or whose battle with cancer is still ongoing, text CARE to 20222 to make a $10 or $20 donation to @CancerCareMBFdn

Supporting Partners

Partenaires parraineurs