Texting Gets Faster Reaction From Donors, Advocates

April 13, 2018       The NonProfit Times      

The average American spends 26 minutes each day texting, sending and receiving more than 41 messages daily.

Mobile is by far the best direct response communications tool, ideal for engaging and great for rapid response. Not only can text messaging be effective for raising money and organizing, it can help charities reach new and different audiences, particularly young people and people of color.

That was the message from panelists during the session, “You Raised How Much with SMS?!?” (#18NTCsmsfundraising) at the 2018 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) taking place this week at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, La.

The panel included Rachel Kottler, senior account executive at Lautman, Maska, Neill & Co.; Drew-Shane Daniels, senior manager, online strategy, for Human Rights Campaign (HRC); Tayler Dankmyer, mobile strategist at Mobile Commons by Upland, and Sandi Fox, founder and principal consultant at Smart As A Fox, a digital strategy firm.

Text messaging usage among adults ages 18 to 49 is well more than 90 percent but the fastest growing group of users are those 50 to 64 years old. Even among people older than 65, more than one-third use text messaging. Hispanics text 1.56 times more than Caucasians and African-Americans text 2.24 times more than Caucasians, according to the panelists.

SMS, which stands for Short Message Service, is the fastest way to reach the most people. Texts are most likely to be noticed first and responded to immediately compared with emails, voicemails and mobile app notifications. Action, response and click-through and conversion rates are two to four times that of email or social. The SMS app is one of the top five used apps on a person’s smart phone. Other than these top five, app retention is about 20 percent three months after a user downloads it. Most people use an app one time, or not at all.

The beauty of text messaging is that it doesn’t take long to write because you’re limited to 160 characters and maybe an image. That makes not only quick and simple to write but also won’t take long to copy edit and get approval as compared to an email, website or social media message.

HRC has used text messaging successfully not only to organize campaigns and engage advocates but also raise money. HRC’s Mobile Action Network sends three to four messages per month, seeing rapid growth in mobile number collection around marriage equality and after President Donald Trump’s election.

Revenue has nearly doubled each year and December year-end fundraising hit an all-time high, bringing 42 percent more revenue. About 60 percent of HRC’s mobile list subscribers are donors, 30 percent are SMS only, and 43 percent of subscribers have made advocacy calls. Mobile subscribers are 250 percent more likely to donate, Daniels said.

Don’t reinvent the wheel, Dankmyer warned, because it isn’t necessary. Most successful mobile campaigns grow your list and engage your current subscribers; use engagement as acquisition and vice versa. At one point, your organization started from scratch with direct mail, Facebook, email, and telemarketing, he said. Growing a SMS list is no different and already built additional channels can make it easier to promote.

    Among the suggestions for organizations looking to get started with text messaging:

  • Integrate SMS into email campaigns and mail campaigns;
  • Uses SMS for sustainers, upgrades and invites;
  • Keep it simple. People crave easy interactive experiences;
  • Text reminders to donate; and,
  • Be human. Not a robot. Use language that sounds real.
    Among the ways that nonprofits can engage their constituents on text were:

  • Get people somewhere; location finder or RSVP for an event;
  • Give you content: text in messages of support, pictures, tell their stories or other crowdsourcing;
  • Test their knowledge; send a poll or quick about your issue;
  • List build and say thank you; add a mobile number field to your forms and send thank you texts to all who submit; and,
  • Give exclusive content via SMS.