Text Messaging to Meet your Nonprofit’s Mission

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Following is a guest post from Sam McKelvie, Head of Mobile Strategy, MobileCommons

The last few years have seen a lot of buzz around text messaging’s use in the nonprofit sector. More and more nonprofits are using text messaging to organize events, drive fundraising results, advance their organization’s goals, and more. But what is it about text messaging that makes it such a prime option for nonprofits? Here we’ll give you an overview on one of the most versatile and influential communication tools available to nonprofits today.

Why nonprofits are choosing text messaging

text-iconThe basis for any successful nonprofit can be traced to its communication efforts. A well run nonprofit knows how to reach both its current members and members of the communities that they try to serve. That being said, nonprofits need a communication tool with dual functionalities: one that will facilitate dialogue between an organization and its supporters, as well as one that can reach out to the communities it wants to help. That’s why text messaging is such a powerful tool. It can be used for both sides of the communication coin, in a variety of ways that prove to be more powerful than any other channel. Why is that the case?

Reason 1: Text messaging has the widest reach of any communication tool

Not only has text messaging proven to be the most popular way underserved demographics talk to each other – including minorities, people in remote populations, the economically challenged, and the young – but it is also the most popular communication channel, period. 90% of Americans own a cell phone, and most people have their phones on them 24/7. Text messaging is, in other words, a channel that people are both comfortable with and respond well to. And since a text message takes only a few seconds to read and respond to, your organization is getting a high level of engagement with a low ask from your users – which is pretty much the best combination that you could ask for. [Tweet “90% of Americans own a cell phone, and most people have their phones on them 24/7. @sam_mckelvie #M4NP”]

Reason 2: Text messaging seamlessly integrates into your preexisting outreach

Instead of layering yet another platform on top of your existing ones, text messaging integrates seamlessly with your preexisting channels by syncing up with your email and social. It also has a higher and faster read rate than either of these platforms: it takes up to three hours for emails to be read, and many social media posts are not seen at all. On the other hand, 98% of text messages are read within the first 90 seconds of receiving them. [Tweet “#Mobile 98% of text messages are read within the first 90 seconds of receiving them! @Sam_Mckelvie”]

Reason 3: Text messaging is as flexible as it is wide reaching

Long gone are the days when text messaging was simply used to send short messages back and forth between you and your friends and family. A text messaging platform can be used in a variety of ways in the nonprofit sector. Common uses for text messaging include:

  • Organizing events: Use text messaging to send broadcasts to supporters about upcoming events, collect their RSVP’s, and keep them in the loop about updates along the way.
  • Surveys, polls, and quizzes: Ask your supporters questions in a variety of ways in order to educate and inform them about different issues, while also learning more about the people on your list.
  • Fundraising: Many nonprofits choose text messaging because it boosts existing channels in order to collect donations through web forms. Having consistently engaged users throughout the year leads to higher gifts throughout the year and especially during the end-of-year fundraising season.

How to get started with text messaging

The first part of getting started with SMS is selecting a vendor. There is a wealth of information out there in order to set you down the right path. Try speaking with your friends in the nonprofit sector, doing research online, and tracking down resources at conferences as jumping off points. Once you’ve chosen a vendor, you can start planning your campaigns and growing your mobile list. Building a list is possibly the most challenging part of using text messaging, but also the most rewarding. Think about how you can leverage all your existing channels to promote your SMS campaign and read up on best practices for promoting your call to action and you should be off to a good start!


The people who helped you choose your platform can also give you pointers for growing your list – so make sure to ask them for advice! And finally, keep in mind that running your first text message campaign is exactly that – the first – and that it will come with all the challenges, slip ups, and rewards of any initial excursion. Treating SMS as the adventure that it is a great way to keep perspective on what many nonprofits are finding to be the most fruitful communication channel they’ve encountered yet.

We’ll be talking Text Messaging for Nonprofits during our #M4NP Tweetchat on Monday, April 27th at 1pm EST, whether you are already leveraging SMS or considering, join us for a robust conversation and insights on leveraging mobile messaging to meet your mission. [Tweet “Join @SM4Nonprofits & @MobileCommons for a Tweetchat, SMS for Nonprofits, 4/27, 1pm EST #M4NP”]

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