The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is a federal law that governs text message marketing among brands, retailers, politicians, and nonprofit organizations. In this blog post, we examine the role of the TCPA with nonprofit organizations specifically. Read on to find out what nonprofit organizations need to know about the TCPA for their text marketing campaigns in 2021.
What Is the TCPA?
The TCPA is a federal statute enacted in 1991, implemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). At the time, this federal law aimed to stop unwanted telemarketing phone calls to consumers. Now it applies to telemarketing calls, text messages, and robocalls. The TCPA governs telephone solicitations, including telephone, fax, and text messages solicitations.
On a basic level, the TCPA prohibits any company from contacting consumers unless it has “prior express consent” from the consumer. Types of consent may vary, depending on the technology, type of device, and message content. The TCPA’s penalties range from $500 to $1,500 per violation.
To this day, many companies are unaware of the TCPA’s requirements, while TCPA litigation has become the second most filed type of litigation in the U.S. federal court. Every year, Congress, the FTC, the FCC, and State Attorneys General receive consumer complaints about unauthorized sales calls and text messages. The FCC receives up to 100,000 complaints yearly, with an increase over the years. In 2017, for example, there were around 4,300 TCPA cases filed compared to 2007, in which only TCPA 14 cases were filed. In this article, our aim is to help you make sure that you are not one of these cases.
How Does the TCPA Affect Nonprofit Text Messaging?
As a nonprofit organization, you want to ensure that the people you text want to hear from you. That’s why, as a text message marketing provider, we always guide our clients through the foundations in how to get subscribers to legally opt in, and how to text them relevant messages that increase donations and support for your organization. It should feel like a win-win experience and the TCPA should help—not hinder—that process.
Broadly speaking, in nonprofit text message marketing, the TCPA regulates:
- Who a nonprofit can text
- How a nonprofit can text
- What a nonprofit can text
- When a nonprofit can text
How Can Nonprofits Ensure They’re Compliant with the TCPA?
At a glance, here are some ways nonprofits can ensure they’re not violating the TCPA:
Obtain the appropriate level of consumer consent.
Always make sure your opt-in method follows TCPA regulations.
Watch out for technical difficulties.
A technical error could cause a nonprofit’s marketing messaging system to improperly process opt-out requests, resulting in messages that still go out after a consumer has revoked their consent.
Train staff properly.
A frontline employee may not know they must honor a consumer’s oral opt-out request.
Update lists after number reassignment.
A nonprofit can make automated calls or send messages to a consenting subscriber’s phone number. However, if the phone number is reassigned to a new user who hasn’t provided consent, sending messages to that reassigned phone number is in violation of the TCPA.
Know exactly what is and is not allowed.
Some sectors, including nonprofit organizations, are exempted from various TCPA requirements.
Download the TCPA Survival Guide to learn more about TCPA Rules.
Examples of Nonprofit TCPA Compliance
Let’s take a closer look at top nonprofit organizations and how they approach TCPA guidelines.
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross—also known as the American National Red Cross—is a humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education in the United States.
The organization uses text messages to send blood donation appointment reminders, blood supply updates, information about local promotions, and important alerts from the Red Cross.
To opt in to their text message program, the American Red Cross invites supporters to fill out a form on their website. The form asks for full name and phone number, and optionally, an email, zip code, address for local information. The image below shows how the organization clearly informs website visitors that they are opting into an SMS program and providing their consent to receive text alerts.
Once someone opts into the American Red Cross SMS marketing program, they receive a text back confirming they wish to opt in. This is called a double opt-in, and is always a smart move to ensure someone meant to sign up for your mobile alerts. If a TCPA lawsuit arises, it’s much easier to prove that someone knew they were opting into your SMS marketing campaign if you have a record that they confirmed it through a double opt-in, as shown below.
Goodwill is an American nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides job training, employment placement services, and other community-based programs to help people facing barriers that prevent them from obtaining employment.
The organization uses its text marketing program to share special promotions with subscribers. Most Goodwill text messages include a link to encourage online browsing.
To sign up for the Goodwill Keystone Area text message program, a supporter must text the keyword “GOODWILL” to the 6-digit shortcode 797979. On their website, the nonprofit clarifies how someone can opt out. Again, so much of TCPA compliance is about being clear with your intentions to text someone, and how they can easily opt in or out of your campaign when desired.
As you can see in the text below, unlike the American Red Cross, in this instance Goodwill doesn’t use a double opt-in to confirm someone intends to opt-in to their SMS marketing program. While a double opt-in isn’t required, it’s always the safest route to go.
The Humane Society
The Humane Society of the United States is a nonprofit organization working to end suffering for all animals. The organization was founded in 1954 and cares for more than 100,000 animals each year through wildlife centers, rescue teams, and sanctuaries.
The organization uses text message marketing to send news, invitations to special events, call-to-give messages, and information on how supporters can help protect animals. To opt in to their text message program, the Humane Society invites supporters to fill out a form on their website. The form asks for full name and phone number and an optional email. Once you fill out your phone number, The Humane Society explains what kind of mobile alerts you can expect from them.
Additionally, the image below shows how The Humane Society uses a double opt-in, similar to American Red Cross, to verify that supporters are interested in receiving their text messages. They even include a fun welcome image and action step to make supporters feel good about their decision in signing up for their text marketing program so they can help support animals.
Create Your Nonprofit SMS Marketing Campaign Today
Tatango’s text message marketing experts can help you effectively engage with your supporters while staying TCPA compliant. Schedule a time to talk with an SMS marketing expert to strategize how text messaging can help your nonprofit organization rapidly increase donations and supporters.