5 tips for nonprofit SMS campaign success


What’s one of the best ways to reach international audiences of every demographic, cheaply, and with open rates of 98%? Impossible, right? It’s actually very possible with SMS marketing. This highly personal form of communication is an important marketing tool for nonprofits of all sizes because of its high engagement rates and straightforward messaging format. Yet only 15% of nonprofit organizations regularly reach out to supporters and donors through an SMS campaign. Read on for more reasons to launch an SMS campaign along with some examples and best practices. 

ocean conservancy Nonprofit SMS Campaign
ocean conservancy Nonprofit SMS Campaign

Two great broadcast texts from Ocean Conservancy

Benefits of running an SMS campaign for your organization

While other forms of marketing are still important, SMS marketing is paramount to driving action and raising funds in time-bound campaigns. Here are a few reasons why nonprofit SMS campaigns are so effective:

  1. SMS messages have a 45% response rate while email has just 8% 
  2. On average, SMS messages are read within 90 seconds of being received
  3. 48% of the world population owns smartphones
  4. Users are 4.5 times more likely to respond to a text than to an email

The Engaging Networks platform makes it simple and easy to manage an SMS campaign within your marketing automation journeys. And in the coming weeks, our new texting tools and messaging module will be released providing broadcast texting functionality.

Changes for SMS marketing

For years, cell phone providers have allowed organizations to send millions of SMS texts to their donor/supporter lists – without verifying they had opted-in. This practice has been very successful for organizations over the years (see the huge new voter registration numbers in the 2020 election). But it also resulted in an increase in consumer complaints about spam and the volume of texts they regularly receive from organizations. 

As of March 2022, many carriers now impose a fee and/or traffic limits for all unregistered SMS traffic. To avoid this surcharge, organizations will need to register their brand and 10-Digit Long Code (10 DLC) campaigns with The Campaign Registry. 10 DLCs are the phone numbers used by your organization to send texts to supporters. 

SMS best practices for nonprofits

There are two primary kinds of texting strategies found in nonprofit campaigns; peer-to-peer and broadcast texting. 

Peer-to-peer texting for nonprofits

For peer-to-peer texting, you’ll need a team or individual that can actively respond to text messages with your current, lapsed or new donors. You’ll want to make sure you first engage your donors with a question or actionable task along with some personalization (their name and state, etc) and your organization’s name. Only after they’ve responded, you should send a shortened URL and make the ask for the gift.

election Nonprofit SMS Campaign
A good example of a peer-to-peer text conversation.

Broadcast texting for nonprofits

Broadcast text is entirely different. This SMS strategy involves sending a short message about a particular call to action or deadline to a large group of people. You’ll first want to ensure that your donor/supporter list have all opted in to SMS from your organization. If possible, add an image, emojis (when appropriate) and separate text blocks into individual texts.

Not all SMS campaign strategies are the same, that being said, these best practices can be applied to most campaigns:

  1. Personalize and be genuine
    • Use the donor’s name and location information when possible and use a voice that is trustworthy and human.
  2. Tell a compelling story
    • Why does your campaign matter?
  3. Incentivized giving
    • Ok I care, but what’s in it for me? Consider attaching a gift incentive to their donation or support. This is not only fun for the donor/supporter but also a great branding opportunity.
  4. Don’t overdo it
    • Your opt-out numbers will increase if you aren’t selective in quantity and quality of the SMS messages you send.
  5. Use an image that pops
    • This will cost slightly more per text but images can often speak louder than words.

amnesty Nonprofit SMS Campaign
Amnesty International 
HRC Nonprofit SMS Campaign
Human Rights Campaign

Most of us love texting because we can communicate more directly and in a shorter amount of time – no phone calls or in-person conversations necessary (introverts assemble!) Organizations should take advantage of this golden age of texting in order to reach more donors where they are most comfortable. Not sure how to get your organization started with text messaging? Get in touch with our team and request a demo, we’ll show you how our tools work and how you can see open rates of 98% with texting! Or, sign up to be the first to know when our new release arrives!

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