Hey all! So, today brought super-interesting and earlier-than-expected news. A while back, we described the risks of using SMS/MMS/text-to-give platforms that revolve around “shared short codes”. The TL;DR version: Although it’s tempting to use a shared short code through services like Textiful, it’s extremely risky due to spam/fraud challenges and regulations preventing their use were imminent.

Well, it turns out “imminent” was…imminent. This morning, a few clients received the following from Textiful:

We’ve recently been informed of a policy change from AT&T and T-Mobile regarding the use of short code numbers which affects all text message platforms.

Starting March 1, they will prevent all shared short codes from sending or receiving messages on their networks. This includes the 5-digit numbers on the Textiful platform used for data capture campaigns.

Keywords assigned to our short code numbers – 33777 or 55444 – will most likely stop functioning on or after March 1, 2021.

We are actively trying to acquire a waiver to this new policy to allow our short code numbers to continue functioning beyond March 1. Unfortunately few, if any, exemptions will be issued by the carriers.

We are operating under the assumption that no waiver will be issued to Textiful and our numbers will be decommissioned on March 1. These numbers will no longer be able to send or receive messages at that time.

New information is expected to be released by the carriers in the coming weeks. We will send you updates as we get more information from our carrier partners.

Why are the carrier making this policy change?

This is an effort to reduce SPAM messages that are being sent by bad actors using shared short code numbers.

Who is affected by this policy change?

This change affects the entire texting industry. All text message platforms – not just Textiful – will be impacted. The carriers are applying this policy to all shared short codes.

What happens to my current keywords that use a 5-digit number?

As of now, we are planning on deactivating all keywords assigned to 55444 or 33777 on March 1. This date may change as we learn more from the phone carriers.

Is there anything that can be done to prevent this from happening?

This policy is set by the phone carriers and is out of our control. We are waiting on more guidance on whether or not waivers will be issued. If we are able to get a waiver, then our short codes will continue to function as they do today. But all indications are that waivers will not be issued by the carriers.

Is there ANY way I can continue using a 5-digit short code number?

Yes, there is. You can acquire your own, dedicated short code number. These are not restricted by the new carrier policy.

They’re expensive ($1,000+ /mo) and the application process takes a while (up to 3 months). These costs are 100% carrier fees. Textiful does not receive any portion or charge a mark up.

With short codes off the table, these platforms frankly provide little value. I know we keep saying this, but: it doesn’t have to be this way! CRM signup through an incoming SMS message, text-to-give leading to a mobile-friendly donation form, interactive engagement and outreach (including MMS and other messaging platforms), and more can all be done with a few dozen lines of code and a partner like Twilio to handle the telecom side.

If you don’t want to roll that on your own, we’d love to chat — we build simple automation tools for nonprofits all the time. As an example, here is an overview of a CRM signup process we created for Destiny Rescue: Collect CRM Contacts Through SMS. Alternatively, we have a couple of products that can make this even simpler. SMS Super Sheet is a way to send and receive both SMS and MMS, all from a single Google Sheet. Nonprofit Nucleus, our integration platform, is also wired into Twilio and a variety of CRMs, making it a cinch to tie them together.