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5 Ways Texting Can Help Nonprofits Engage Donors

If your nonprofit hasn't embraced SMS, it's time! Read on to learn five ways nonprofit texting can help you engage donors and raise more money.

5 Ways Texting Can Help Nonprofits Engage Donors

When your phone dings with an incoming text, what do you do? If you’re like most of us, you glance quickly at your phone (or leap over furniture to grab it). Text messages are quick, convey urgency, and usually get a response. Even “Can you please stop at the store and get broccoli?” gets an answer.

Well, good news for nonprofits, because your texts, too, can enjoy an average open rate of 98% and an average response rate of 45%.

Let’s back up the tiniest bit and do a terminology check. When you talk about texting, you’re talking about SMS, or Short Message Service. SMS messages are limited to 160 characters.  Longer messages are split into different parts. If you’re capitalizing on the quick and brief nature of texts, you stick to the 160-character limit.

How can nonprofits use text to engage donors? If your CRM is equipped with SMS capabilities, the possibilities are endless!

Here are five ways you can start using SMS today.

1. Send Real-Time Updates

How is your summer fundraising plan going?

Are donations to a food bank being used to buy more groceries? Did you save a dozen baby sea turtles, help veterans find jobs, or get FDA approval on a new treatment?

All of these are milestones that your donors want to hear about. They’re interested in where and how their donations are being used, and texts that make them feel good about supporting your nonprofit are an excellent way to engage your donors and keep that support coming.

What if you don’t have a milestone to report? Text smaller successes or great stories that will help donors connect even more with your mission.

Think of these texts as quick snippets of information. “Hey, great news! Because of your support, today we served 100 hot lunches to people. We just wanted to say thanks for helping to fill those bellies.”

Sending messages like this – no more than a few times a week – will help strengthen the donation-benefit connection and show donors that their support is critical to helping those depending on your nonprofit.

2. Increase Donations

You heard it right, SMS increases donations! If you send a text with a link to donate, there’s a greater chance donors will see your text and respond than if you had sent an email. You can also show personality in a text, like asking the first half of a riddle and placing the answer on your donation page.

This is multichannel outreach: you’re sending a text that directs people to a website’s donation form. You then, of course, can text a thank you.

And a good CRM will store all this information, giving you the ability to reach out to donors or prospective donors with personalized messaging. You can enroll them in future campaigns and promos and cultivate the relationship through different types of messages.

Remember that the easier it is for your donors to give, the more and the more often they’re likely to engage. So giving with a few clicks on a cell phone is easy and helps you request instant donations.

The Red Cross is not a CharityEngine client, but we see them using SMS quite effectively. Personally, I get reminders that they’re low on my blood type with a link to sign up to donate blood near my house. When disaster strikes, it’s almost impossible to resist the text that says, “Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to Red Cross Disaster Relief.” They effectively use texts to schedule appointments, offer instructions to claim recognition gifts, and communicate information about your donation. It works.

3. Look Beyond the Dollars

It’s wise to look at your donors holistically. We built CharityEngine for this very reason: so nonprofits can get a complete view of their donors and their interactions with your nonprofit, no matter how they engage.

And what you’ll often find is that there are people who can’t give a lot of money, but they are generous with their time. Find those donors and text them a thank you for the gift of themselves, whether it’s volunteering at an event, showing up to help at your offices, or raising their hand to participate in a peer-to-peer campaign.

What about event promotion? Or even campaign promotion? Texts are a great way to remind your donors of upcoming events. You can include a link so they can sign up to attend or help.

SMS messages are also a terrific way to ask for feedback and suggestions. Coincidentally, surveys and questions are an effective way to increase your response rate. Even a basic, short survey (Text the number 10 if you loved our event, 5 if you have suggestions, and 1 if it really stunk) will get answers, and both the 5s and the 1s probably won’t mind a follow-up text asking how you can improve.

4. Pinpoint Personalization

If you have a good CRM, you are collecting thousands of data points on every supporter who interacts with your nonprofit. You can easily pull reports that show you the best time to ask for a donation, how much to ask for, and what other ways this donor might get involved in a campaign.

But you also have information on when their birthday falls, or if they donate to your organization because they lost a spouse or visit the rainforest every year. As more data points are added to the CRM, your 360-degree donor profile gets more and more specific.

And this gives nonprofits an amazing opportunity for personalized outreach. Whether you’re wishing someone a happy birthday, good luck with surgery, or even a bon voyage as someone leaves on a long-anticipated trip, you’re showing them that you listen, you care, and you’re invested in them. That’s a recipe for engagement!

5. Amp Up End-of-Year Campaigns

For many of our clients, and we daresay almost all nonprofits, end-of-year giving is the most massive fundraising campaign they plan all year. And events are often a part of the plan, so there’s a great deal of outreach you need to think about.

For year-end campaigns, we urge our clients to focus on multichannel campaigns. When you’re reaching out to constituents via phone, text, email, and even social media, your year-end campaign will soar.

SMS can be a significant part of your efforts. If you set a goal for year-end giving and put a thermometer on your website, it’s highly effective to update your supporters via text. Want to launch a power hour of giving? Announce it via text. A simple tap on a link in the text will take them to your donation page.

The real-time benefits of text make it particularly suited for campaigns that run in a limited time. Whether you’re asking for more donations and/or updating supporters on your progress, you can create a sense of excitement and teamwork through text.

SMS Offers an Impressive ROI

We talked about the open rate and the response rate, but what’s the real ROI? Here are four benefits if your nonprofit uses SMS in a meaningful way:

  • More donations
  • Personalized communication for increased engagement
  • Enriched relationships, leading to higher donor lifetime value
  • Standing out from nonprofits that have not embraced SMS communications

There’s no question that more and more organizations are finding the value in using SMS for improved engagement. If you haven’t hopped on the bandwagon, it’s time! The CharityEngine CRM offers advanced SMS capabilities. We’d love to show you!