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How Nonprofits Can Get Started With Text Messaging
4 min to read ✭
Nonprofit text messaging is a powerful way to break through the noise and connect with your supporters. But how do you get started? We’ll walk through the process from building a list to sending regular text messages.
Why Nonprofit Texting?
We’ve talked before about the benefits of texting. You can’t argue with the data—it just works.
- 98% open rate? Yes, please.
- 19% click-through rate vs. 4%? Sounds good.
Text messaging is such an effective means of communication because people carry their phones everywhere. Reach them where they are, and that means mobile first.
Building a List
The first step to getting started with nonprofit text messaging is building your list. Like every communication channel, you can’t just spam people. So there’s a process you need to follow to get permission to text people.
- Existing phone numbers: If you have existing cell phone numbers, you can start your list there. Though you’ll need to have specific permission to text them. So you’ll want to create a permission series that sends these numbers a text message telling them what you plan to send and giving them a chance to opt-out.
- Existing contacts: If you have an existing list of contacts but no phone numbers, you’ll want to reach out to them through other channels and ask them to opt in to text messages. There are a few ways to do this, including online forms, but the simplest way is to have them text you. You can accomplish this with a QR code or shortcode to sign up (text ‘YOURNAME’ to 24365 to sign up).
- Contact forms: You also want to make sure new contacts are brought to your list. So you’ll want to add a field for cell phone numbers and a check box giving you permission to text them to all your contact or intake forms. Make gathering info and getting permission a regular part of your process, no matter where it happens.
Auto Text Series Introducing Your Nonprofit
Now that you have a list, you want it to be effective. You don’t want to just text people out of the blue. You need to ease into it. You need to warm up your list so they’re used to receiving texts and receptive to the kind of asks you’ll make as a nonprofit.
You’ll want to do this for your entire list, but it should also be something new numbers go through.
- Introduce your nonprofit: Give a quick, one-sentence pitch about what you do.
- Cover the legal bases: Various regulations cover texting, so make sure you’re in legal compliance for texting with a confirmation message, the purpose and frequency of your texts, and how to opt-out.
- Share a success story: Talk about a recent win and how your nonprofit is making a difference.
- Volunteers and donors: Give some examples of how people help your nonprofit make a difference, whether it’s volunteers or donors.
These text messages should come over several days or weeks. You definitely don’t want to overwhelm people with a pile of texts as soon as they sign up. But you do want to let them know who you are and the work you do.
Tip: While you could ask for donations in some of these early texts (that’s why people are signing up—they want to support you), you don’t have to. Sometimes there’s value in holding back and not always hitting up your supporters for more money.
A Series of Regular Texts
Now you’ve got a list and you’ve warmed it up. You’re ready for nonprofit text messaging.
You should send out a series of regular texts, sharing your story, announcing updates, asking for donations, thanking supporters, and more. You’ll want to make nonprofit text messaging a standard part of your communication, just like email or social media. Not every communication needs to go out via text, but it’s another channel to consider.
Here are some standard nonprofit texts we’ve seen:
- Donation requests: This is the big one that everybody is doing. Why? It’s effective. Just make sure you do more than ask for money.
- Thank you: And when you do ask for money, say thank you. Give updates on your campaign, let supporters know when you hit goals, and say thank you.
- Volunteer needs: Let supporters know how they can help. Not everybody can give money and some people want to help in other ways.
- Event updates: Texting can be a great channel for event updates, especially just before or even during the event. Imagine how helpful it is to get a text message with parking info the day of an event.
- Announcements: Whether it’s event updates, weather closures, or other pressing info, texting is a great way to send immediate updates.
- Share your story: Too often nonprofits focus on asking for money and forget to tell their story. Talk about how you’re making a difference, your latest successes, the vital need. Remember, people are following you because they believe in your cause. So keep them updated.
How to Segment Your List
Finally, you can keep your nonprofit text messaging list effective by segmenting to reach different audiences. Sort your contacts into various categories depending on their interest.
You might have lists for dedicated volunteers, big donors, event or program attendees, influential leaders, partners, etc.
The key is to focus on specific groups that need to hear specific messages.
- You may send everybody a standard donation request, but you might make a specific ask of your big donors—such as creating a matching fund.
- You may send everybody an invite to an event, but you might send a special invitation to previous attendees who already know what the event is like.
- You should let everybody know about your wins, but a thank you message should specifically go to donors.
Segmenting is all about effectiveness. You want to send targeted messages to the people most likely to reply. People appreciate getting relevant messages. Not only is it more effective, but they’re less likely to unsubscribe. It makes your list more useful.
Now that you know how to get started with nonprofit text messaging, it’s time to get to work. We’ve covered various texting platforms before, and we’re big fans of Rally Corp. Either way, find the platform that works for you, and get to it.