4 Ways to Go Beyond Broadcast Texting

August 15, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Text messaging is often used like email — you build a list and then blast your audience with information, links, or donation requests. However, the channel offers more than just an opportunity to push out messages.

If you know text messaging is a good way to reach your audience and you need ideas for how to use this new capability, consider these four options.

Text Surveys: Text messaging can be a useful way to conduct a survey because each question appears as a new text and requires a simple response. They’re also easy to do. You don’t need a computer or Internet connection to complete a text survey and you can work on it while you’re on a bus or waiting in line.

Simple surveys that include a set number of questions are straightforward to set up. Many texting tools enable branching logic where the next question is dependent on the answer to the previous question. Branching surveys can sometimes be complicated to set up, both technically and because they require a bit of planning to map out all possible pathways.

Automated Reminders: Does your organization have clients or volunteers who need to be reminded about where to go and when? Many organizations have found that timed text messages can increase appointment turnout significantly. To set up appointment reminders, you’ll likely need to integrate your texting service with your database system. Ideally, appointment texts would be automatically triggered when an appointment is entered into your constituent relationship management (CRM) system and each text message would be recorded in the client record.

Texting for Information: Text messages can be a surprisingly effective way to deliver specific bits of information on demand. When a user texts a keyword, it triggers a content management system to deliver an automated message. From there, additional keywords can lead to further information. This approach can take a bit of time and money to implement, but once it’s set up it can reduce the staff time needed to answer common questions.

Hotlines: These work like phone hotlines and can be a very effective way to provide help to people who prefer to text or find it difficult to talk privately on the phone. Hotlines typically use a short code — a five- or six-digit code that initiates your text session — and for crisis intervention scenarios, the systems sometimes have built-in tools to help the counselor understand the crisis level and location of the texter.

Hotlines might also be useful for other kinds of one-on-one help, such as open Q&A sessions, office hours, career counseling, legal aid, and more. The technology needed to run a hotline doesn’t need to be complex, but you will need to staff the hotline appropriately and have a way to archive messages.