How Nonprofits Can Choose the Best Texting Service
Effective communication is vital for any nonprofit organization. Whatever the mission a nonprofit is working towards, it is important to keep their supporters and other stakeholders engaged and updated about what is happening—and also raise funds while doing so. A texting service can help nonprofits to do this in a simple and fast way, by contacting supporters directly on their mobile phones.
Text messaging helps nonprofit organizations communicate with their supporters simply and quickly over the native mobile phone messaging application. Using text messages, nonprofits can keep their supporters and other stakeholders updated with the activities and initiatives of the organization.
With most people very responsive to their phones, a text message is less likely to be ignored compared to other forms of messaging. This makes it a valuable, productive, and relatively low-effort way to connect with people.
Text Messaging for a Cause
Once a nonprofit has decided that they want to start using text messaging, where do they start?
- The first step is to find and compare text messaging service providers that can help nonprofits send out messages on a large scale.
- Once a service provider has been selected and the nonprofit has signed up with them, the next step is to set up text templates. With text templates in place, sending messages becomes easier and faster.
- The last step is to build an SMS opt-in list. This opt-in list allows the supporters to opt-in to receive messages from the nonprofit.
How to Create a Database of Mobile Phone Numbers
While it’s great to have a text messaging service, it’s useless without a large and growing list of numbers to send messages to. This is called an opt-in list. This is important because supporters must sign up for this, and there are legal frameworks that must be operated within. There are a few ways to build an opt-in list:
- Reaching out to existing supporters through social media and requesting them to opt-in for the service
- Adding an option to opt-in for the messages in emails sent to exiting supporters
- Creating sign-up forms that can be used when speaking to people in person at public places or events
- Adding an opt-in for SMS option on the website
- Advertising Text-to-Join, where people can text a keyword to an SMS short code to join the list.
Choosing the Best Texting Service for Nonprofits
Texting services are very beneficial for nonprofit organizations. They help in collecting data from their audience, having one-to-one conversations with the supporters, and running text campaigns. However, organizations need to put time and effort into finding the right service provider. Texting services require investment, and it is important that nonprofits consider various features that a service provider offers before choosing a texting service.
Nonprofit organizations should expect the following benefits by choosing a high quality texting provider.
High Likelihood of Being Read
People are highly attached to their phones. This means there are more chances of a text message being read by the recipient than many other forms of communication. Texts are short and the message has to be read in order for the notification to be removed, so as a result, text messages have a 98% read rate.
Easy Options to Opt-In and Opt-Out
Users want control over their phones and inboxes. Text messaging services have easy ways for people to opt in and out as required by simply typing in a keyword.
As text messages are easy to digest and respond to, they are likely to receive higher rates of engagement than email or direct mail. Text messages get around a 45% response rate, which is a lot higher than other forms of communication. Emails typically have a one to five percent response rate, for example.
Using texting services, nonprofits can send out bulk messages in one go, reaching a huge audience in a small amount of time. Instant communication is hugely helpful, especially with regard to a natural disaster or time sensitive situation.
Texting services are not as expensive as other marketing techniques since they often don’t require as many human resources as other activities like phone calls.
If a nonprofit wants to experience these benefits, there are some key factors to take into consideration before deciding on a provider.
Is the Platform Easy to Use?
It is important that a texting service is easy to use so that employees or volunteers don’t have to spend too much effort learning complicated features and losing valuable time. There is a need for cross-training in organizations, especially during texting campaigns, and confusing software can end up slowing down the process. An easy-to-use texting software allows the employees to focus on the core operations of the organization. Nonprofit teams should always look for a user-friendly interface that allows for efficient operation.
What Does Good Customer Support Look Like?
It is also crucial for texting software to have reliable customer support. Volunteers and employees can run into problems at any time while using the software, and it is important that the customer support team is easily accessible and available to resolve queries. The support team should be responsive, knowledgeable, and friendly. Check on the different channels of communication available for customer support, including calls, email, social media, and other platforms. Also ensure that the working hours of the support team match the working hours of your organization so that the issues can be resolved on time.
Do They Have a Strong Track Record?
When selecting a texting service, it is important to check the track record the service provider has with other nonprofits. This is important because the problems faced by nonprofits while using texting services are often different from the regular businesses as there are distinct regulations to adhere to. It is important that a service provider is aware of the challenges nonprofits face and knows how to overcome them. Ask the following questions before making a choice:
- Do they offer compliance with nonprofit texting guidelines and laws?
- Do they have opt-out options?
- Do they ensure the data is safe and secure?
What Are Their Delivery Rates?
It is true that no text message service provider can guarantee delivery of every single text message as there are many external factors at play. Things like invalid numbers, phones being switched off, or texts being blocked all create less than 100% delivery rates. However, it is important to choose a service provider that has smart routing algorithms so that the chances of message delivery are higher.
What Are the Costs?
It is the responsibility of nonprofits to spend money judiciously. Selecting a good texting solution that is also affordable is important. However, this does not mean that nonprofits should simply choose the cheapest solution available. Instead, it is important to consider if they are getting their money’s worth through the platform. It is always advisable to compare prices and features before finalizing the texting service.
Ensure the Features are Robust
It is often surprising to learn about the multiple things that can be done through text messaging. For this, the text service providers should offer a wide variety of features. Some of the key features that a texting platform should have include:
A top-tier service provider will offer integration options with customer relationship management systems, social media channels, and fundraising platforms. This way if a nonprofit has multiple systems, the messaging system can be integrated with them and all of these systems together can help run a cohesive texting campaign.
Having multiple templates can reduce the hassle of designing outreach messages. Customizable templates also allow nonprofits to tweak them to suit their needs, which can save a lot of time. These templates should:
- Keep the messages short and easily readable
- Include a clear call to action
- Engage receivers by providing them with relevant links like a donation page or blog post
- Ensure the tone of the messages is professional but still down-to-earth
The user interface or the dashboard is where nonprofits can monitor campaign data, traffic information, and designing of the campaigns. It is important that the dashboard is customizable, easy to work in, and intuitive so that all team members can be trained to use it.
Text donations are a feature that can help nonprofits acquire donations through text messaging. Options like text-to-give where the donation amount is added to the donor’s phone bill or text-to-donate where a link on a text message takes donors to the nonprofit’s donation page on the website are some features that can help nonprofits raise funds for their cause easily.
Personalizing text messages is fast becoming the norm in marketing. The ability to send the right text messages to the right people (for instance, those in a certain geographic area) or naming the recipient directly are both important features to consider.
How Will the Organization Communicate?
What will this platform be used for? Communication is very important, not just with the supporters but also within the team. It is important to select a texting platform that allows two-way communication with supporters where personalized messages can be sent to their phone numbers and if they respond to the messages the nonprofit can respond directly. At the same time, if the platform offers internal communication with the team through dashboards and notifications, this is an added benefit.
The general use cases of text messaging for non-profits include:
Nonprofits often organize events to connect with their supporters, arrange rallies or marches, or to encourage event attendance. Text messaging services can be used to send out promotions, reminders, and registration confirmation messages. Messages with the details of an upcoming event including date and time can be sent via text and reminders to block their calendar can increase the turnout rates.
If there are tickets for the event, a purchase link can be sent out through the messages as well so people can buy the ticket through their phone. Text messages can be sent for last-minute information about the event as well, like inclement weather, confirmation of new speakers, or location changes. Text messaging can also help increase event success by providing follow-up information like donation totals and thank you messages.
Donation and Pledge Requests
Text-to-donate or text-to-give services can be used for raising donations by nonprofits. In a text-to-donate system, a text message is sent out to a donor’s phone with a link to the donate page of the nonprofit’s website. In a text-to-give service, the donors can give by texting a keyword for a set amount to a short code, and the donation amount is added to the donor’s mobile phone bill.
Similarly, a web link for signing up for a pledge can be sent through text messages. Timed campaigns can be organized to meet specific fundraising goals. The nonprofits can use text messages to tell donors about the goals and usage of the funds. The text messages can be paired with emails to increase the effectiveness of both strategies. For example, a nonprofit could start a fundraising campaign via email and then follow up with text messages to remind the donor of the deadline and give an update on how close they are to the goal.
Once the donations or pledges are received and the campaign has stopped, text messages can be used by nonprofits to send out confirmation and acknowledgement messages thanking their supporters. This helps to assure the donor that their funds have reached the right place and will be used judiciously.
Communicating with Volunteers
Text messaging services are very useful for nonprofits when it comes to sharing time-sensitive information with volunteers who are working for the cause. It can be used for volunteer engagements to confirm schedules, find replacements, or recruit new volunteers. The use of text templates can help nonprofits to streamline their communication and ensure messages are professional and inspire action.
Emergency communication may include anything from seeking support during a crisis or informing people about the change in operation hours or office closure information. During the Haiti earthquake, the Red Cross launched a text-to-donate campaign and raised over $40 million just through mobile-based donations. This can be replicated by other nonprofits, especially when there is a need for a huge amount of funds for relief work in a very short duration of time, like in case of natural calamities like earthquakes or floods. Texting services can also be used to inform volunteers and donors about changes in working hours or notices about office closure in case of an emergency.
Nonprofits can use text messaging services to send out updates about ongoing projects or information about new initiatives to their donors. This helps in reassuring donors that their support is making an impact. This kind of communication helps keep the donor engaged with the cause.
How is Data Collected and Used?
Text messaging also helps nonprofits with data collection. It is important that the service provider offers the option to not just collect data but to also store it. This data can help the nonprofits update their supporters’ list by adding in new supporters and rooting out the nonfunctional phone numbers, thus keeping their list up to date.
Text Messaging is a Valuable Tool for Nonprofits
With high open rates, fast responses, and easy ways to opt in and out, text messaging is a vital tool for nonprofits. It provides flexibility in campaigns, and can be effectively used alongside emails, social media, and other forms of marketing.
Choosing the best provider will go a long way to helping campaigns be effective, economical, and well-received by supporters.