Text messaging volume by nonprofits grew by 14 percent overall last year, with the growth of audiences far outpacing social media or email.
Nonprofits are investing in their mobile audiences through new lead generation and acquiring SMS opt-ins from existing supporters in other channels. “It’s a sign that users are incredibly comfortable using mobile devices as their primary means of staying in touch with the causes they care about,” according to authors of the 2020 M+R Benchmarks Report.
Nonprofit text messaging audiences grew by 26 percent in 2019, more than six times the 4 percent that Facebook audiences grew while email list sizes actually declined 2 percent. The growth rate might have far outpaced other channels but nonprofits had only 72 mobile subscribers for every 1,000 email addresses. By comparison, nonprofits had an average of 496 Facebook fans, 221 Twitter followers, and 83 Instagram followers.
The annual report by the digital communications agency that works with progressive causes analyzed more than 8.7 million gifts, totaling $476 million raised online. The 2020 M+R Benchmarks Report included 201 nonprofit participants, the largest pool in the 14 years of the study. In addition to text messaging, the study examined response and open rates of emails, both focused on advocacy and fundraising, across a variety of nonprofit subsectors and categories.
Peer-to-peer message recipients received 1.4 messages per month in 2019 and responded 14 percent of the time. The monthly opt-out rate, defined as the percentage of individuals who opt out each month, was 2 percent.
Mobile fundraising saw a Click-Through Rate CTR) of 4.2 percent, down 9.5 percent over the previous year. The unsubscribe rate for mobile fundraising was 0.7 percent, up 54 percent over 2018.
How effective text messages were at driving response is difficult to say, according to the study. “Limited integration between mobile messaging and donation processing platforms means that we are not able to provide a reliable response rate for fundraising efforts.” CTR for fundraising messaging was 4.2 percent — an order of magnitude greater than the 0.56 percent CTR for email funding messages.
Mobile advocacy text messages saw a higher CTR of 9.8 percent, which was also down from 2018, by 27 percent. The unsubscribe rate was 0.4 percent, an increase of about 19 percent.
The response rate for mobile advocacy call messages registered at 3.1 percent, down about 22 percent from 2018.The unsubscribe rate was also 0.4 percent, which was an increase over 2018 of 39 percent.
“Your mobile phone is powerful because it allows you to connect with other people, to influence them, to move them. And nonprofits are taking advantage of the potential of mobile messaging like never before,” the report’s authors stated. “It’s too soon to determine exactly how much potential energy exists in the mobile messaging space but it’s clear that more nonprofits are reaching more users with more messages — and for now, at least, those users are paying attention.”