An M+R benchmarks study found that nonprofit text messaging audiences grew by 26% in 2020, outpacing growth for other popular channels like Facebook and email.
To examine just a few reasons why:
- Text messaging allows for 1-to-1 communication, giving it the upper hand over social media.
- Text messages have a higher open rate and response rate than emails.
With this rapidly growing audience, there comes the need for nonprofits to learn and adapt to using texts for fundraising and supporter engagement. Below is an overview of how you can get off to a great start when:
- Collecting opt-ins and contact details
- Sending immediate text alerts
- Having 1-to-1 texting conversations
Collecting contact details and fundraising with SMS opt-in
Right now, most nonprofits aren’t collecting phone numbers from their audience, especially when compared to the rate at which they’re collecting email addresses.
Take this stat from the M+R report mentioned above: Organizations have 50 mobile numbers in their contact list for every 1,000 email addresses. That means that while texting is an effective communication channel, most organizations aren’t taking advantage of this opportunity for growing their fundraising efforts and engaging their supporters.
One common solution to getting opt-ins is having a phone number field in your donation or event registration form. The other is to use SMS opt-in campaigns.
SMS opt-in campaigns involve advertising a keyword and a phone number to your audience. A potential supporter can text the keyword to the number to donate or join your list.
MN350 used SMS to get in-person event attendees to opt in to their messages. During a climate strike rally, 2,919 of 6,000 attendees opted in to the campaign through SMS.
Here’s what makes SMS opt-ins a great addition to your subscriber collection avenues:
- They offer flexibility, allowing you to gather opt-ins offline and online. You can promote your keyword and number during in-person events or on your website, social media posts, or physical posters.
- They make data collection easier. Set up automated texts to collect additional data once they send the initial text. That means if someone stops responding mid-conversation, you still have their information.
- You can personalize it as you go as you go. For example, if you collect a name from a contact, you can auto-fill the next text in the opt-in sequence with their name.
Immediate alerts with text broadcasts
Sending a mass automated text to everyone in a contact list is useful when you want to send out an urgent message to supporters.
Consider a text broadcast the next time you need to: send event updates, coordinate volunteers, communicate emergencies, and fundraise. All you will need to get started (besides a text broadcast tool) is a list of contacts (ex. people who subscribed through SMS opt-in) and copy for your text message.
MN350’s list of supporters collected with SMS opt-in came in handy when they wanted to send further communications, such as event updates. They used mass texts to gather supporters for art builds, events where they created posters and signs for climate rallies.
They also reached out to supporters through peer-to-peer texting to get them to take action.
Conversational messaging with peer-to-peer texting
Peer-to-peer texting involves texting agents or volunteers reaching out to the contacts in your lists.
Here’s what sets peer-to-peer texting apart from mass texting: It encourages conversations with your contacts. Since there is a back and forth happening between real people, it is much like any text conversation a contact might have with friends or family.
According to research, peer-to-peer text messages received responses 9.8% of the time, with 1.24 messages per month being sent in 2020. Conversational texts are much more likely to get people to respond and, in the process, take action for your cause.
To compare mass texting and peer-to-peer texting:
- Mass texts are great if you want to send out urgent messages to your audience. For more conversational messaging, peer-to-peer texts are your best bet.
- Peer-to-peer texting means you’ll need the help of agents or volunteers to handle conversations. Your needs will depend on the size of your contact list. It may be a good idea to use mass texting for large campaigns.
- Peer-to-peer texting is more likely to convince people to take action (donate or volunteer), compared to a single mass text.
The personal nature of the act of fundraising for a cause makes texting a channel that is uniquely suited for nonprofits. It allows your organization to talk to supporters in a way that makes them feel like valued, integral members of your community. With audiences getting more used to communicating with organizations through text, it may be time to consider adding this channel to your outreach strategy.