Use Text Messaging for Donor Stewardship

Text messaging is an important — and largely underused — donor stewardship tool. 

Advanced fundraisers have been slow to fully embrace text (aka SMS) messaging largely out of fear that they are intruding on their donors. But as texting has become the primary form of communication for many of us, it’s time to move past that fear and embrace texting as a central piece of your larger donor communications strategy. 

Text marketing has an incredible 98% open rate — and most messages are read within the first 30 minutes of delivery. The average American sends more than 40 texts per day and is increasingly comfortable with receiving messages from companies, political campaigns, and nonprofits. 

With these stats in mind, it’s clear texting helps extend your reach and gets your message heard in a noisy direct marketing environment. It’s also very easy to use and inexpensive to operate. 

Better still, a growing number of services can help you automate your outreach and watch your nonprofit grow as you focus on mission-critical activities. 

Here are some strategies for getting started.  

Sending Thank-You Texts 

One easy way to use texting as a stewardship tool is by sending your supporters short, gracious messages of appreciation. 

These messages are especially powerful around holidays such as the day before Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day. 

The message can be simple and heartfelt: “We’re thinking of you this Thanksgiving and giving thanks for your support. Without you, we could not do our work! Thank you.” 

Encouraging Donors to Attend Events 

One of the easiest — and most fruitful — ways to leverage text is as a tool for connecting with past participants who have not yet registered for an upcoming event. 

Personalized peer-to-peer text messaging tools — such as Hustle — can help make the process simple. 

Such tools allow you to import a list of donor contacts who have provided their cellphone numbers and create text-based campaigns that target donors on that list. 

You can then compose a message to kick off the campaign and create customizable follow-up messages based on how the recipient responds to your initial text.  

For example, you can frame your initial message as a question that prompts an answer of yes or no and then have preprogrammed responses based on the person’s answer. This creates a text conversation with your donor that offers a personalized experience. It can also provide valuable insights that can help you as you manage your campaigns. 

If the person answers yes, for example, you can follow up right away with a registration link and then provide a thank-you message and confirmation via text once they register. 

Meanwhile, some participants who indicate “no” will actually share additional information with you voluntarily — indicating why they can’t participate. Some participants might volunteer, for example, that they are pregnant, attending to a sick relative, or experiencing another life change. 

Once you receive this information, you can suppress these individuals from receiving additional invitations. Even better, you can follow up with more personal messages later that offer congratulations or support. 

Raising Money During Events 

Nearly every person who attends your events — whether they are being held in person or virtually — is carrying their phone. 

As a result, you should make sure you provide a text-to-give option at each event and take several steps to promote the option. 

This includes providing the information in confirmation emails, as part of the event packet, and during pop-ups throughout the event when you can reinforce the message on a slide. 

At virtual events, we like to use text-to-give platforms such as givingbee.com and Hopin.com. Network for Good also has this function. 

Making an Urgent Appeal 

Texting can also be a highly valuable tool for fundraising for urgent causes to known donors. 

You can’t make much of a case or provide much detail in a text, but you sure can sound the urgency bell. 

It’s important not to overuse text campaigns. But if you use them judiciously, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. 

What’s been your experience? Please let us know below, and please forward this blog post to a colleague who may find it useful.  

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