Now that most cell phone plans wrap texting into the base fee, a lot more people are sending and receiving text messages. This is a big deal because texts are not like emails. They pop up on the screen instantly and are hard to ignore.
Nonprofits managers can take advantage of this growing opportunity to reach a large audience, but that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to get messages from you. In fact, there are laws against sending unsolicited text messages. According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, you need “express written consent” from a recipient before you can send them information.
- So, assuming you get permission first, who are the best people for nonprofits to text?
- The Under-30 Crowd: According to a 2016 OpenMarket survey, 75 percent of millennials would rather lose the ability to talk on their cell phone than be unable to send text messages. Other surveys show that younger phone users strongly prefer to trade text messages than call or email someone. Organizations that work primarily with students or young adults risk losing touch with them if they don’t have a way to send or receive texts.
- People with Slow Internet Connections: Pew’s 2017 survey found that 47 percent of people in households with income less than $30,000 per year don’t have home broadband access. Those who have no access or a slow connection aren’t likely to use the Internet often, especially if email messages and websites take a long time to load.
- However, Pew also found that 92 percent of people in households making less than $30,000 have cell phones. That’s a big gap and means that many more low-income people are likely to receive information via text message than on the internet.
- People without Computers: Fewer than 80 percent of people have a laptop or desktop, according to the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. Like the people with slow Internet connections, many of the 20 percent of people without computer access get their information via cell phone. Chances are that many of the people who don’t have computers also don’t have smartphones, which means that there’s a large population that can only be reached with a text or a call.
- People on the Move: People who move around a lot — especially the chronically homeless — often rely on their cell phones for all of their communications needs. This means that call minutes and data are precious and scarce. But there’s usually no limit to how many text messages they can send or receive. For many homeless or transient people, a text message is the only way to reach them.