How Nonprofits Can Use Text Messaging

nonprofit communications training

Alexa Lemzy

Have you tried mobile fundraising or contacting your supporters via text? Alexa Lemzy shares some ways you can get started in today’s post. ~Kristina

Guest Post by Alexa Lemzy

Texting is one of the most effective ways to communicate to a large number of people. Nonprofits and charity organizations that want to effectively reach more people should consider spreading the word via text.

Here are some ways that your nonprofit can benefit from using text messaging for fundraising, coordinating groups, promoting events and other campaigns.

Raising Money with Text-to-Give

This is a very popular fundraising channel that nonprofits have used with great success for more than a decade. The popularity of text messaging and smartphone use makes text-to-give campaigns an increasingly approachable and attractive option for a wide range of organizations. Some basic guidelines for running a successful text-to-give campaign include:

  • Raising awareness first. Donors have to feel the urgency of your cause to be moved to give. Give them all the necessary facts about the issue so they know why it’s important to take action.
  • Hold events to build your community. Nonprofits who invest in their donors by holding events where they can meet each other in person have greater success — meaning 84% of event fundraising expectations are fulfilled.
  • “Thank you” texts. After a fundraising drive, make sure you send texts with “Thank you” messages. It’s useful to let donors know if you’ve met your goal. They want to know that their donation actually helped.

Promote Events and Volunteer Opportunities

Nonprofits use text to get the word out about their event, send updates about their activities, or upcoming calls for volunteers. Though email is the more traditional route, it lacks immediacy and the percentage of email messages opened is lower compared to texts. Consider sending a text to let donors and members know you’ll be hosting an event and ask them to RSVP.

Text messaging reaches the recipients immediately, so it’s ideal for time-sensitive situations. If you need the message to be read right away, or if you need to send a reminder, go with texting. If the message is long but urgent, you can send both email and text alert letting know that they need to check their inbox ASAP. 

Coordinate Groups and Events

If you’ve ever hosted an event for a nonprofit, then you know all the work and small details that go into it. Texting is an ideal way to make sure that everyone is on the same page. If people are busy, they sometimes won’t answer a phone call but will read a text message immediately.

For urgent situations, such as last minute changes or unexpected issues, a text can save an event from disaster. Group texts also have a great benefit over phone calls: everyone involved can be kept up to date on issues or changes initiated by staff and volunteers.

You can also send reminders as the date gets closer to let people know any additional important information.

Prompt Action with Contests

Contests are great ways to get your donors and members engaged. There are many ways to run contests that result in increased membership and greater member buy-in, and text messaging can help you effectively promote content and boost participation.

Want to give something away? It could be something as small as a t-shirt or as big as a trip to a community in Africa that your organization serves. If your supporters are interested, they can enter the sweepstakes by texting a keyword to your short code.

Text messaging is a popular and affordable way to communicate, and there are many creative and effective ways it can benefit your nonprofit. Nonprofits that leverage texting wisely can increase their membership base, save money, run successful events and increase donations. Try it and see for yourself!

Alexa Lemzy is the customer support manager at TextMagic, a text messaging service for businesses and nonprofits. She is into all things mobile and automated, and she is passionate about how technology transforms communication. You can find @Alexa_Lemzy on Twitter.



© 2007-2017, Nonprofit Marketing Guide. All Rights Reserved.

Author: Kristina Leroux, Community Engagement Manager

I am the Community Engagement Manager at Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com.

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  • Interesting article! My knee-jerk reaction is that receiving any sort of “mass” text message is nothing but annoying. I typically unsubscribe immediately when sent any unsolicited text message. While it might make sense that the “percentage of email messages opened is lower compared to texts” (although I’d love to see a source for this stat), I’m curious about how the unsubscribe rates compare. I’d bet the farm that even though more texts get opened, they produce far more unsubscribes.

    • Alexa Lemzy

      Thank you for the thorough reading! You’re right about the annoying nature of unsolicited mass texts, and I think the crucial word here is “unsolicited”. Text messaging is an immediate and quite intimate communication medium. That’s why opt-in is legally a must – people should agree to receive the text messages. They are likely to do so if:

      1) They see the value in receiving such texts (text reminder helps them not to miss an interesting event or participate in a time-limited contest);
      2) They think texts won’t be intrusive. That’s why it makes sense to let the potential subscribers choose a frequency – how many texts they would like to receive per month.

      Regarding the statistics, text messages have an open rate of 82% (source http://www.shiftcomm.com/blog/what-is-the-open-rate-of-sms-text-messaging/). Email open rates range from 15% to 27% (you can check the split by industry from MailChimp: https://mailchimp.com/resources/research/email-marketing-benchmarks/).

      Unfortunately, I didn’t see the decent data on the unsubscribe rates (this is a great idea for research, I added it to my list!), but I’m sure it depends heavily on the campaign itself. If organizations built the opt-in process wisely and met the recipients’ expectations (delivering value and not being intrusive), unsubscribe rates would be minimal.

    • Gnosis Media Group

      You’re right, Lauren: Unsolicited anything is usually unwelcome. By law, you cannot send a text message to someone who has not first opted in to receive messages from you.

      However, when “solicited,” texting is one of the most powerful tools for nonprofit fundraising around.

      Texting and mobile giving are so powerful that it’s amazing these technologies are still so underrated in the nonprofit community. SMS, for example, is truly a cinderella technology for nonprofits and social enterprises.

      Texting is cheap, fast and easy. Has almost zero barrier to entry. And is built into every phone. People in lower-income communities, not just in the U.S. but around the world, have been utilizing SMS to give to charity.

      We’ve been helping nonprofits use text messaging to raise funds since 2008. We offer a text to donate service that is affordable and effective.

      Research shows that many nonprofits will raise more overall with an SMS donation program in their marketing mix than they will without one. Check out stats here: https://www.gmg.cm/blog/do-sms-donations-work