Nonprofit SMS Marketing

The Complete Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview

Text message marketing is one of the most effective ways today’s top nonprofit organizations reach out to their supporters. The nonprofit text messaging experts at Tatango have partnered with numerous nonprofit organizations to create some of the most successful SMS marketing campaigns, helping these advocacy organizations increase donations, grassroots support, volunteers, and awareness of their mission.

We’ve created the Complete Guide to SMS Campaigns for Nonprofits to help your organization get started on building an engaging—and effective—text message campaign strategy.


Benefits of SMS for Nonprofit Organizations

If you’re reading this guide, either you’re already using SMS messaging and looking for the latest best practices, or you might not be using text messages as a marketing strategy for your nonprofit organization yet. Rest assured, this guide provides very useful information.

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview


Why Use SMS Messaging for Nonprofits? 

An effective SMS marketing campaign can address some of the most pressing issues nonprofit organizations face today, such as reaching fundraising goals and attracting volunteers. 

The data is clear: one of the biggest advantages of SMS marketing over other marketing channels is the open rate. Studies show that subscribers who receive text messages from organizations they support open them 99% of the time. That’s four times more than email marketing messages which are only opened 20% of the time. 

Another advantage of text message marketing is knowing that 90% of your supporters will open your messages within just three minutes of receiving them. Compare that to social media, where even your most loyal supporters may never see even your latest post due to the ever-changing algorithms or noise online. Text messaging is a direct line between you and your supporters—one they open, read, and engage with every few minutes.

Nonprofit organizations benefit from SMS marketing in several other ways. SMS marketing stands apart from other strategies thanks to its highly personal nature. Sending text messages builds and strengthens personal relationships with donors and volunteers. Nonprofits can use segmentation to create individual lists for volunteers, donors, and supporters to message people based on their location, interests, donations, and more. Time is money in the nonprofit world. SMS marketing helps nonprofits communicate faster so they can focus on pressing needs while raising funds to advance their cause.

These benefits are just a few reasons why some of the largest and most successful nonprofit organizations include text message marketing in their playbook.


How to Launch a Nonprofit SMS Marketing Campaign

Now that you know why SMS marketing provides such a unique advantage for nonprofit organizations, let’s dive into how to launch your nonprofit SMS marketing campaign.


Choose a Nonprofit SMS Marketing Partner

The first step nonprofit marketers should make to build a successful nonprofit SMS marketing campaign is to partner with a text message marketing software provider. There are many factors to consider, including:

To understand the key players in the space, and how they compare, read reviews about the top SMS marketing platforms for nonprofit organizations.


Select Your SMS Short Code and Keywords

Once you choose your SMS marketing platform, it’s time to choose your short code and keywords.


Short Codes

Short codes are five- or six-digit phone numbers that are easier to remember than the standard 10-digit phone numbers. 

There are different types of short codes. A vanity short code is specifically selected by the brand or organization. It’s generally leased to a brand for upwards of $1,000 a month. With a vanity short code, an organization can use numbers creatively to bring attention to the organization’s name. For instance, 7 Eleven’s vanity code is 711711. Not only is it easy to remember, but it’s also a callback to the brand.. In the realm of politics, Donald Trump uses the short code 88022, while President Joe Biden uses the short code 30330. Vanity short codes can be easier to remember and recognize, but it’s up to the organization to decide to use a custom number.

The other option for nonprofit organizations is a random dedicated short code, that is, a short code assigned randomly that still belongs to only the nonprofit organization. One of the benefits of partnering with Tatango is our nonprofit short code discount. To qualify for our nonprofit short code discount, your nonprofit organization must be:

When you partner with Tatango, your nonprofit organization can receive short code discounts with savings up to $600 for vanity short codes and $300 for random short codes. 



SMS keywords can be words or phrases that your subscribers text to the short code of your choice. For example, if you’re interested in increasing volunteers on your subscriber list, consider asking your supporters to text “VOLUNTEER” to the short code of your choosing. This gives people an easy, recognizable word to text in to join your SMS marketing program and stay informed by your organization.


Grow your Subscriber List

Once you’ve decided on the best short code and keywords for your campaign, you’re ready to grow your subscriber list. To do this, prominently display your short code and keywords everywhere you can. 

Think of all the ways supporters may encounter your information beyond text messages. Design captivating flyers and posters for your next event and create a QR code specifically for new supporters to opt in to receive text messages easily. Promoting your SMS keywords and short codes is a healthy habit for any successful SMS marketing campaign. It’s one of the best ways to gain consent and build a subscriber list.

Nonprofits that focus on growing their subscriber list are often the most successful organizations. Surveys show that 45% of consumers have referred a friend to a product or service due to interacting with an engaging text message. Consider crafting captivating opt-In messages. For example:

  • Be the first to know about our next donor gala. Text SIGNUP to 54321.
  • Receive exclusive photos of dogs you’ve helped. Text PUPS to 54321 to sign up for automated alerts.
  • Be one of the first 20 volunteers to sign up for our next event to receive limited-edition merch. Text VOLUNTEER to 54321.
  • Become an advocate. Become a JDRF Advocate by texting ACT to 53731.

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview

Nonprofit SMS Messaging Best Practices

Once you have your nonprofit SMS marketing software, short code, and keyword(s) set up, you’re ready to start text messaging your subscribers. The following tips will help you drive a higher ROI with every message you send.


Use A Call To Action

Clear and concise messaging is a sure way to get the most benefit from your SMS text message campaign. Your subscribers want to know about your pressing issues and how best to support you. Use a call to action (CTA) in every text message to guide your subscribers where you want them. 

For example, if you need volunteers for an event, tell subscribers to sign up and provide a link to the volunteer sign-up page. If you’re seeking funds, ask individual donors to send a specific amount and tell them exactly where to donate. 

Creating a sense of urgency is a key element of a compelling CTA. Phrases like “donate now,” “make a difference,” and “show your support” not only create a sense of urgency but also use plain language that guides your subscribers toward specific ways they can support you.

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview

Use Eye-Catching Images

Humans are visual creatures. Why not use this to your advantage? Eye-catching images in your messages are a great way to grab your subscribers’ attention or even communicate a message best conveyed with a photo. 

For instance, capture your supporters’ hearts by showcasing exactly how your organization’s recipients benefit. If your nonprofit’s mission is to help children, include images that show the benefits children have received thanks to your supporters. Nonprofit giants like PETA, Humane Society, and Habitat for Humanity expertly show and tell their supporters about the work they do.

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview

If you’re not sure where to start, the nonprofit text messaging experts at Tatango can help you select the right image for each message you send.


Personalize Your SMS Messages

Nonprofit organizations that start strategic SMS marketing campaigns focusing on personalized messages are sure to meet their annual fiscal goals, gain an active list of volunteers, and keep their supporters informed. The Tatango platform allows you to send up to 100,000 text messages per minute. With Tatango’s functionality, you can personalize each message to increase opens, engagement, and donations.

Use merge tags to group your subscribers by different characteristics. Depending on the opt-in information requested, you can segment subscribers by zip code, volunteer status, or previous donation amount. With this detailed information, your campaign can send targeted messages that address your organization’s current needs.

Personalized messages are a must for keeping your supporters engaged. Make it a habit to send a thank-you message to every volunteer after they provide their time and effort to help organize and facilitate events. Send notes of gratitude to donors regardless of the amount they give. Show supporters how much you care by using their names in every message you send them. The simple act of addressing your subscribers by name helps them feel connected to your cause. 

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview

Determine the Right SMS Message Frequency

When thinking about how often your nonprofit should be messaging your subscribers, always lean toward communicating hot-button issues. Your subscribers want to know when and how to support you. If you desperately need volunteers for an upcoming event, reach out and let supporters know when and where to show up. If you need funds to support a promising project, contact your most faithful donors as soon as possible. The keys to finding the right SMS messaging frequency for your campaign are prioritizing important information and producing high-quality content. 

Most organizations have a sweet spot where most of their list continues to open their messages; if you start seeing lower engagement or more unsubscribe requests, dial back your frequency. It’s not always about sending more messages; it’s about making the most of every message you do send. Remember the people on your SMS marketing list want to support your cause. So, in most cases, they welcome your messages. They want to hear from you and know how they can make a difference with your organization.


Track Your Results

Tatango messaging reports help our partners monitor key components of every text message they send to subscribers. Our software platform makes it easy to keep track of your subscribers’ interests and engagement levels. 

Compare the open rate with the click-through rate to measure the interest level of links containing time-sensitive information. Pay attention to fluctuations in your subscriber list each time you send a message. Identify potential out-of-service phone numbers to avoid TCPA violations (more on this in a moment). Track the number of donors along with the total and average amount of donations received.

Messaging analytics allow you to measure and strategically increase the number of donations, volunteers, shares, and support you receive for every text message sent.

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview


Nonprofit SMS Messaging Examples

Now that you’ve read through the essential components of an effective nonprofit text message, let’s take a look at a few nonprofit SMS messaging examples to learn how some well-known nonprofits use text message marketing for fundraising and engaging with supporters.

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview

Humane Society of America is a nonprofit organization on a mission to end suffering for all animals. Humane Society cares for more than 100,000 animals yearly through rescue teams, wildlife centers, and sanctuaries. Through its text message program, supporters receive invitations to special events, information on how to help protect animals, call-to-give messages like the example above, and more.

The example shows how the organization sends a clear, time-sensitive text message to supporters, inviting them to activate their membership through a direct link. Humane Society combines personalized messages and charming images to capture its donors’ hearts.

Supporters who receive this text message are greeted with a sweet pup’s face, the words “LAST CHANCE” in an image, and a goal of 7,000 members the organization has yet to meet. Nonprofits that use MMS messages to send eye-catching images before text-only explanation have the advantage of the image popping up on the subscriber’s notification bar. This means the subscriber didn’t even need to click on the notification to see the hot-button issue. 

We can almost certainly conclude most subscribers wouldn’t be able to resist the opportunity to see a close-up of the puppy and would open the message. Once opened, Humane Society uses several SMS features. The text message is personalized using the individual recipient’s first name, Brea. A sand timer emoji and multiple CTAs quickly establish a sense of urgency for the recipient to click the link provided. Lastly, at the end of the message, there’s a way for the recipient to opt out of text messages with the keyword STOP2End.

Next up, is Pawz:

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview

Pawz is a nonprofit organization that raises funds for raising euthanasia awareness and saving animals by selling T-shirts. Pawz usually sends text messages to its subscribers every week. The text messages share exclusive offers with pictures of products and direct links to purchase them. 

Through clever messages with MMS content, like the one in the example, the organization makes supporters feel part of the cause, inviting them to take action. A text message including colorful pictures will capture more of your subscribers’ attention compared to text-only messages.

Paws mentioned its brand and important information right off the bat. Upon opening the text message, supporters receive a 20% off incentive and an HTML link showing supporters a photo of the new arrivals.

But don’t be afraid to mix it up. Below is another example from Pawz in a different style:

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview

Similar to the previous example, Pawz entices its supporters with a photo. The organization incentivizes the recipient with the words “Free Mystery Mask” and provides a CTA, keyword, and short code. Include these key components to encourage subscribers to act in your favor even if they decide not to open your text message and read it in full.

Last is an example from Goodwill:

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview

Goodwill is an American nonprofit organization that offers job training, employment placement services, and other community-based programs to help people facing barriers that prevent them from obtaining employment. 

Goodwill uses text message marketing to notify users about special promotions. Most of the organization’s text messages include a direct link to encourage online browsing.

In the example above, Goodwill shares exclusive offers for VIP members who have previously donated. Time-sensitive messages invite subscribers to act quickly, but adding appealing media content could help Goodwill duplicate donations.


Nonprofit Legal Guidelines and TCPA Compliance 

Lastly, nonprofit organizations should always be mindful of industry best practices. The Telephone Consumer Protection (TCPA) was established in 1991 by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to protect consumers from unsolicited communications. With its enactment, organizations must gain consent from people to send them text messages. Violations could result in fines from $500 to $1,500.

Tatango’s text message marketing case studies show countless unfortunate circumstances of unsuspecting businesses and organizations unable to prove their efforts to comply with TCPA regulations. Remember, when in court, the burden of proof falls on your organization. Keep detailed records of each user’s experience from the beginning, opt-in stage through the opt-out process.  

To avoid costly mistakes, download a free TCPA Survival Guide. Be sure all staff members are aware of what qualifies as consent to avoid costly lawsuits. Knowing exactly what is and isn’t allowed for nonprofit organizations with regard to TCPA requirements will save you from becoming the defendant of a class-action lawsuit.

Guide to SMS Campaigns For Nonprofits Overview

Partner with Tatango for Nonprofit Text Messaging

Tatango has more than a decade of experience partnering with nonprofit organizations to provide the most competitive text message marketing software. We can’t wait to hear more about your organization’s SMS marketing campaign goals. Our experts are ready to help you build an effective marketing strategy that will address your most pressing issues. 

Contact us and let our experts lend a hand to create a text message strategy that increases donations and builds long-lasting relationships.

Jump to Content