Working for a nonprofit can be tough. When you’re faced with the highs, lows, and getting all the essentials checked off your to-do list, staying motivated often comes down to a passion for the cause. And, if you’re working in a smaller grassroots charity or NGO, you’ll likely need to do a lot more than sticking to the core description of your role.
In the rush of getting it all done, do you wonder if you’re communicating enough with your supporters? Many nonprofit professionals use text messaging to help.
In the UK, during the Coronavirus lockdown, a televised appeal launched in support of two causes: Comic Relief and BBC Children in Need. Thanks to its online and text-to-donate channels, the Big Night In raised more than £27M on the night and over £70M in total. Text-to-donate donations on the night alone brought in over £10M (almost $13M).
When 90% of text messages are opened within 5 minutes, even from boomers, it makes sense to use text messaging at your nonprofit.
Reasons Nonprofits Should Use Text Messaging
1. To Stand Out in the Crowd
Like you, donors are busy, passionate people who want to help good causes. With around 10,000,000 NGOs globally, the competition to attract the most committed donors is high.
While it’s important to stay focused on building strong relationships with your supporters, finding the right time to get that quality conversation can take weeks, sometimes months.
As part of your engagement process, consider sending personalized text messaging as a unique and convenient way to get attention. As we know, even the most committed donors can’t always put you before their professional or personal lives.
2. Build Better Relationships
While staying in contact with donors should be high on your list of priorities, your nonprofit will also need to communicate with volunteers, service practitioners, even beneficiaries.
You may have gotten along fine using email, phone, or by sending newsletters. But the reality is, most people prefer to use texts over any other form of communication.
According to a study supported by Twilio, all generations prefer communication using messages at a rate of 3-8 times more than they do a face-to-face conversation.
3. Reduce Costs
SAWA-Australia is an NGO supporting vulnerable women in Afghanistan. While looking for ways to save money on donor communications, they moved away from the expense of Direct Mail to email but found response rates lower than expected. Switching to SMS, they found texts also saved them money but offered far greater rates of engagement. It also resulted in increased attendance at their events.
Bigger charities, with an extensive base of donors, may find considerable cost-savings switching their marketing to SMS.
4. Faster Communication
Globally, we live in a fast-paced culture that expects an immediate response. While writing letters becomes something of a relic, most of us get flooded with daily emails. And let’s be honest, we struggle to get through them.
Sending a text message is a fast and effective way to communicate. Along with being the preferred method for most, the use of smartphones is continuing to grow. By 2025, it’s predicted that over 70% of the world will use their phone to access the internet. This means more of us going to our phones for all of our daily communications.
8 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Text Messaging
1.1. Text-to-give campaigns
Asking donors to send a text message “keyword” to a “shortcode” as part of an automated SMS service—for example, DONATE to 20586—sets a clear ask for support. Donations are either added to a phone bill or taken via a link to a donation page.
Of course, text-to-donate campaigns are only successful with strong marketing, but they can offer a fast way to get donations in.
1.2. Emergency appeals
Your work may need a real-time response to an emerging crisis.
If so, you’ll need immediate funding. This is where texting steps in, and it works – Red Cross’s Haiti earthquake relief campaign raised over $43M from text donations alone.
1.3. Peer-to-peer donation (P2P) solicitation
In recent years, political canvassers have seen decreasing response rates to phone calls and door-knocking. This has allowed texting to take center stage as the most efficient method for advocacy.
By recruiting volunteers to send bulk P2P SMS, you could add a human touch to your community fundraising or individual giving plans without costing your nonprofit additional time.
2. Steward donors
2.1. Say thank you, all the time
As any good fundraiser knows, remembering to thank your donors can make the difference between getting a second gift or not. And, while you won’t want to depend on SMS texting alone, setting up automated thank you messages takes the worry away. It also makes sure donors aren’t waiting too long to feel valued.
2.2. Customize your donor journeys
If you’re a fundraiser working in individual giving, with a mass of donors giving on a regular basis, you’ll want to segment your donor base. This way, you can create effective pathways to help solicit donations, thank donors, and share updates on your mission.
Consider using SMS as part of a multi-channel approach. It could help to target customer preferences and personalize their experience.
2.3. Communicate on COVID19
Whether they express it or not, your donors care about your cause. They also care about what you’re doing to achieve your mission. During periods of crisis, proactive nonprofits should communicate how much they care for and value their donors.
There are many ways to use SMS to reach out, share updates, and keep your supporters informed of developments.
3. Rally supporters
If you’re hosting a lobby day or rally, schedule a point where you’ll make a public ask. You could request they text a keyword to a shortcode using an SMS call-to-action. This could be a great way for supporters to opt-in to receive instructions on how to help your cause.
In the UK, Amnesty International runs an SMS Action Network called “Pocket Protest”. This is an effective text campaign that gives supporters a simple way to help defend human rights.
4. Plan strategies
To deliver an effective donor engagement or supporter communication strategy, you need insights and data. By conducting surveys, your marketing or outreach strategies could better-meet your supporter’s communications preferences.
While making sure to avoid common mistakes, SMS surveys could be used to segment your audiences, personalize your communications, and elevate your strategies to the highest standards.
5. Manage events
Do you find attendance at your events is waning?
With a simple reminder, text messages can help boost attendance. Insert a helpful link or directions to the address location to make it easier for your supporters to get there.
Even if your events schedule has moved online, most people are still looking for a personalized experience. This is where using automated text messaging can help.
6. Organize volunteers
Gaining the support of volunteers should be an essential part of any nonprofit’s culture. After all, your trustees are usually giving up their time for free.
Using text messaging to recruit help with an upcoming campaign or event is simple. All it takes is deciding on a keyword and short code, creating a simple message, then promoting it through your marketing channels.
Using short, branded links in your recruitment campaigns also helps to boost recruitment rates.
7. Communicate between teams
With so much of the world going to their mobile phones, communicating with teams in the field via text messaging could improve their effectiveness in achieving goals.
International development charity Action Aid found women on the island nation of Vanuatu were better able to respond to the multiple crises they face using SMS messaging services.
And, where remote working is on the rise, SMS could improve how you connect with your team.
8. Market your services
As a nonprofit, you may offer essential services to those in need. Whether it’s counseling support to people who struggle with mental health or supplying aid to conflict-affected regions of the Global South, you need to make your services known.
Text messaging should be a standard part of your outreach strategy. If you can source the investment, consider having a chatbot on your service’s website too. While saving your staff time, they could also increase the number of inquiries you receive by 150%.
Start Planning How to Use Text Messaging
There are almost 5 billion people in ownership of mobile phones across the globe. Setting up automated systems to send text messages to your supporters is a win-win; you get to focus on reaching your mission while they get to hear from you more often.
If you’re a nonprofit who doesn’t use text messaging, ask yourself why. If managed well it can bring huge benefits – from improved supporter retention rates through personalization to better-customized marketing strategies using supporter data.
Remember to exercise caution in how you use supporter details. Opting-in is mandatory. You also need to protect their data, and your nonprofits, from any risk of compromise.
With so much promise available, it’s worth considering how to use text messaging to improve the experience both for your supporters and for you.