The last few years have brought many challenges to nonprofits, and most of them have risen to the challenge. According to NonProfitsSource.com, nonprofit giving was up 4% in 2021. But as you plan your next fiscal year, you face a challenge: How to do it better.
In 2021, you pulled out all the stops. You sent email campaigns and direct mail, doubled the reach of your annual appeal, and arranged special events. Yet, despite your best efforts, each year, you lose about 55% of your donors, a harsh reality for nonprofits.
Adding SMS text-to-give messaging to your fundraising plan will not only infuse your list with new donors but also help you meet your fundraising goals. We’re here to help you better understand so you can start taking advantage of this powerful tool.
Your New Fundraising Tool: SMS Text-to-Give
SMS messaging (short messaging service) is the original technology cell phones used for sending and receiving text messages. SMS messages are limited to 160 characters and can include links but no graphic images or videos. MMS messaging (multimedia message service) allow up to 5,000 characters and can include photos, graphics, audio, and video.
Every time you send text messages, you’re using SMS or MMS technology. Smartphones include the technology in texting apps. SMS is the more widely used of the two, but both are popular marketing vehicles used by consumer brands, political campaigns, and nonprofits.
With SMS text-to-give fundraising, your nonprofit will have a jump on the competition. According to a Global NGO Technology Report, only 15% of nonprofits use text messaging, which means you’ll be one of the few forward-thinking fundraisers among your peers.
The Advantages of Text-to-Give Fundraising
SMS text-to-give fundraising has several advantages. The average open rate for email newsletters is just over 22%, and direct mail pieces usually go from the mailbox straight to the trash can. In contrast, SMS and MMS text messages boast far more impressive numbers. For example, text messages enjoy an open rate of about 99%, and more than 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of being received.
Text-message giving is also incredibly easy and immediate. An online donation via text message takes about 90 seconds to complete. Compare that to mailing in a donation, which requires so many steps and poses such an inconvenience these days that some people just won’t finish the task despite their best intentions. Bulk mail takes time to arrive. Factor in how long it takes a donor to read the piece (if they read it at all), write a check, find an envelope and a stamp, and get it into the mailbox. Once the donation is with the postal service, it will take some time to make its way to you.
The Reach of SMS Nonprofit Marketing
Enough can’t be said about the advantages of SMS text messaging for reaching potential donors. According to the Pew Research Center, about 97% of all adults in the United States own a cell phone. For people ages 18 to 30 and 31 to 49, cell phone ownership is a statistical 100%. The average cell phone owner checks their phone every ten minutes, and according to a recent poll, 78% of respondents stated that text messaging is the best way to reach them. Inarguably, SMS text messaging is a powerful tool for communication and fundraising, and having a plan in place will ensure your organization is taking full advantage of it.
The Secret for SMS Text-to-Give: Planning
We all know good planning is the first step in a solid marketing strategy, and this is especially true when you are adding something new. Be sure to follow the eight tips outlined below when planning for a successful year of SMS text-to-give fundraising.
1. Make a calendar of events.
It sounds simple, but it’s surprising how often this critical step is overlooked. Write down your plan, complete with a list of special holidays, volunteer events, and fundraising galas. Designate fundraising goals, then determine how much in donations you will need from each subscriber to hit (and surpass) those targets. Then, map out text messages to help you reach those goals and make the most of every single event you coordinate. Also schedule in time to review the results of your messaging campaigns, so you can identify what’s working, what you can adapt, and how you can hit your overarching annual fundraising targets.
2. Convey a sense of urgency.
There may be a misconception among your supporters that you are well-funded, especially if your nonprofit has a high profile in the community or region it serves. You can overcome this by appealing to the potential donor’s sense of urgency—this is particularly true in SMS text-to-give campaigns, where supporters typically respond within a minute of reading the text.
When the Red Cross launched a text-to-give campaign in 2010 in the wake of an earthquake in Haiti that left 250,000 people injured or displaced, people didn’t donate only to the Red Cross; by texting the word “Haiti” to 90999, they donated millions in relief efforts for the survivors. Likewise, people are less likely to text a donation to the Zoo Foundation but more likely to text a gift to build a polar bear nursery for the pregnant momma polar bear about to have twins.
3. Incorporate SMS for each event.
Look for ways to include text-to-give in your regular events. The Oregon Humane Society added peer-to-peer SMS for Doggie Dash, a walk/run pet festival that serves as their annual fundraising campaign. The effort yielded a 92% increase in registrations, a 121% increase in donations, and a 180% increase in participants.
4. Have fun with the campaign.
The Oregon Humane Society also added a little bit of humor to their campaign, livening up their SMS messages with animal characters. Text messages from a sassy feline shared information about the organization’s mission and impact. An enthusiastic dog character sent messages as a fundraising coach. Another dog, a hipster character, sent messages about all the fun gifts supporters could receive for participating.
5. Include multiple messages during each campaign.
Have a plan within your plan. Schedule multiple messages, each one building on the one before. Don’t hesitate to mix it up and change the plan midstream. Results might be excellent, and it’s good to play this up, coaxing people to help your nonprofit with its success by making more donations. The Tatango software shows you how much you receive in donations for every text message you send, so you can always send another message to break a fundraising record or make a last-minute push.
6. Ensure your website is set up for donors.
The link in your text should take donors to a landing page expressly set up for the text-to-give campaign you’re running. In addition to the landing page, every page on your website should include a text-to-give message. Let supporters know text-to-give is an option.
Also make sure your landing page is branded to align with the campaign. According to NonprofitsSource.com, a branding landing page that reflects your SMS text-to-give campaign will draw up to six times more donations than a page that isn’t branded to align with the campaign.
8. Understand your numbers to raise more donations.
The Tatango analytics dashboard can help you make sense of your data, including how much ROI you receive from every single text message you send. By keeping an eye on opens, replies, unsubscribes, and other important metrics, you can gradually improve your campaigns over time, let data inform which decisions you make, and increase donations.
Tatango: Experts in Nonprofit SMS Text Messaging
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed about selecting a text messaging partner, we understand. It’s a big decision, and there’s a lot to learn. One of the best things you can do is work with a knowledgeable text messaging partner. At Tatango, we’ve been in the business since 2006—longer than just about anybody. We’ve helped our clients send more than 10 billion text messages and are the experts in SMS fundraising. Contact us to get started today.