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Text Message Marketing for Nonprofits: The Most Effective Use Cases

Published: Feb 1, 2022

Can nonprofits send text messages?
With the contact’s consent, yes.
15% of nonprofits worldwide regularly send text messages to donors and supporters. Among the different types of marketing, Nonprofit text message marketing stands out for multiple reasons.
Let’s see what they are.

Why use text message marketing for nonprofits?

The advantage of text message marketing for nonprofits is the relative simplicity with which personalized conversations can be held at scale. A texting service for nonprofits like CallHub offers merge tags that help you customize your message by adding dynamic fields like the first name, email address, phone number, address, or any details collected and added in the contacts for your campaign. This is hard to achieve with traditional media like email, direct mail, etc., due to the excessive time, effort and money required.
Another advantage of texting is that people are less likely to ignore it than other forms of outreach, and studies back this up.
Users are 4.5 times more likely to respond to text messages than emails.
With texting platforms for nonprofits evolving with more and more features, nonprofits are learning to incorporate different aspects of texting to maximize their gains while minimizing effort. On average, small nonprofits have 2,284 text message subscribers, medium ones have 17,076, and large ones have 22,299 subscribers. (Source: Global NGO Technology Report)
How do you ensure your communication strategy is the strongest with such fierce competition?
That’s where this article helps.
This guide shows how to use text message marketing for nonprofits to increase awareness among your supporters, uplift your supporter engagement, and mobilize the desired action.

How can you use it?

Text message marketing for nonprofits can mainly be in three ways:
  • Mass Texting: Reaching out to several people simultaneously.
  • SMS Opt-ins: People opt in to receive your messages by texting a predefined keyword to a number, referred to as the short code or long code (e.g., YES to 12345).
  • Collective (peer to peer) texting: A personalized and scalable form of one-to-one texting to build relations.
From recruiting volunteers to mobilizing supporters, text message marketing for nonprofits has several relevant and effective use cases.
To give you a better understanding, we’ll walk you through the most effective use cases of nonprofit text message marketing.

Engaging volunteers and supporters during events

For nonprofits, it is essential to keep volunteers in the loop when it comes to campaigns and events, for which texting plays a significant role.

Sending event information using text broadcasts

With broadcast texting, campaign managers can send texts to all volunteers and supporters in no time, informing them of
  • The timings of the events
  • The venue
  • Their responsibilities, and more.

Promoting upcoming events and sending reminders using broadcast texts

Broadcast texts can also inform people who aren’t volunteers. For instance, if you have a black-tie event or a lunch fundraiser for a cause coming up, by sending out texts, you can inform people about the event.
To ensure mass participation for your event, schedule follow-ups, alerts, and reminders.
Tip: Give people a preview of your event using images and videos. You can use an MMS for this. The character limit for an MMS is 1,600!

Collecting additional information and RSVPs using SMS Opt-ins, automated responses, and text broadcasts

It is even possible to collect additional information about people interested in attending your event and rally through automatic responses and data collection. With the help of CRMs, the details of the attendees are instantly updated and stored for later use, i.e., for future outreach.
You set up an SMS Opt-in campaign and publish the keyword and the phone number around your marketing channels. The keyword your audience sends triggers a question that leads your contact into sharing their details. Say the message in response to the keyword asks them for their name.
Now their name has been added to the CRM with an automatic merge tag such as {first_name, last_name}. Next, their name triggers the next text asking for their email id or another piece of information.
Plus, the following message refers to them by their name, so the personalization has already begun.
You can also create an RSVP campaign using a text broadcast where responses are immediately logged into your CRM. You can target potential attendees (who replied Yes) through follow-up messages and a formal event invite.
For instance, you’d first send out a text like: “We’re having a fundraiser on the 15th of this month at Stanley Park, and we’d love for you to attend! Please reply IN if you want to attend.”
People replying with IN are sent the following message: “You can make it, awesome! See you at the event”, and added to the attendees’ list.

Addressing queries through collective texting

Collective Texting creates a point of contact. If your supporters have any queries, they can text a number, and then you can address their concerns personally through a back and forth conversation.
Tip: Be strategic and thoughtful about when you send messages. Text people within appropriate hours and preferably in alignment with their time zone.

Creating awareness and collecting information

Say you want to hold a rally next Monday for your ‘Clean Energy’ campaign, and want as many people to attend it to show support.
While you can use other channels to get people to attend, texting is the most convenient tool in your arsenal for its broad scope of personalization.
As mentioned in the previous point, you can use text blasts to create awareness of an issue among several people and, through automatic responses, obtain their details.

Recording information using tags

With P2P texting, it’s possible for the volunteers who are texting multiple people to identify them manually via tags. For instance, if a volunteer texts someone who opted into a campaign, they can pose different questions and categorize the recipient.
Sent Text: “Hey Mateo, while you’re at the rally, would you be open to holding a yard sign as a sign of protest? You won’t have to make it yourself. We’ll provide it for you!”
Reply: “Yes, I’d be okay with that.”
Now, the volunteer marks Mateo with a {Yard_Sign} tag, and later on, it becomes possible to segment all the yard sign holders.

Mobilizing action during times of emergency

During calamities, time is of the utmost importance; every second makes a difference. For nonprofits specializing in disaster relief, mobilizing people for rescue during such times is a priority.
You can’t rely on making calls during crises as they may not go through quickly enough. Texting becomes essential in such situations for different purposes.

Alerting people using broadcast texts

If a tornado or a wildfire is approaching a nearby area, text batches can be immediately sent out informing people of impending emergencies and the necessary evacuation procedures to follow.
With broadcast texting, you can immediately send out those messages to the people affected and mobilize volunteers to carry out relief operations with the necessary procedures they should follow. The text can be like, “Please reply with an SOS if you are in immediate trouble,”– and from their responses, you can identify the areas and people in need of immediate assistance.

Sending out instructions using automated responses

With automatic responses, you can send out the procedure they should follow to safeguard themselves. Also, by getting their location with the help of their zip code, you can direct your rescue missions towards that area.
Opt-in keywords are put out on your site and social media for people who want to volunteer during such circumstances. They text in their interest with the keyword, and automatically standard procedures are sent for them to follow.


While you can recruit volunteers for your nonprofit via email through the sign-up forms or social media by putting out links leading to sign-up pages, texting is the simplest way of going about it.
Using text-based sign-ups works to your advantage during recruitment because promoting your job post becomes a one-time effort.
Here’s how:
You put up a keyword on your nonprofit’s home page or social media handles, which looks like this:
For all you people looking to make a difference, here’s your chance. Text IN to 45678 to show us that you’re interested, and you can become a volunteer for our nonprofit!
An inviting post like this garners attention from people who come across your website or social media and doesn’t ask for much initially: just a simple keyword sent to a short code.
This method doesn’t deter people by asking them to provide too much information at once, and the low barrier ask is simple enough to consent to.
After they send the text, you have their initial information, i.e., their contact number. Now, you can ease into the recruitment process by using automatic replies to get all the necessary details.
Later on, when you’re holding an interview process or a meet-up with potential recruits, Collective Texting makes conversations personalized and welcoming.
For example,
Hey Rachel, all the shortlisted candidates are meeting up at Central Park on the 5th of this month at 5 pm. It’s going to be fun to get to know each other. You in?

Segmenting candidates using keywords

Say, to the previous message you sent out, they reply with their confirmation, and they are tagged with a {attending_candidate} tag. This automatically gets updated in the CRM and can now be filtered according to your needs.
To take this up a notch, you can ask your candidates to reply with the job role they are applying for. For instance, all candidates applying for the role of a social media manager can reply with SOCIAL, and they would be added to a separate list accordingly.


While fundraising, it is essential that you maintain a personal touch. If you blast out texts urging people to donate to your cause, the chances of them replying are pretty slim.
You can do fundraising via text messaging in two ways:
  1. Giving an opt-in code for donors to join in a campaign and donate.
  2. By personally asking them through peer-to-peer texting.

Fundraising using an opt-in code

Text-to-donate is a popular fundraising method that uses an opt-in code and a keyword. Your supporters send the keyword to your defined number to indicate their interest in donating. In response to this keyword, the link to your donation page is sent to the donor automatically.
With CallHub, this is quite easy. You can set up the keyword, rent a number, and add the automated response along with the donation page link. CallHub also offers a Link Shortener and Tracker with which you can send mobile-friendly links that can be shortened, customized, and tracked.
Tip: Add a compelling CTA with a sense of urgency.

Fundraising using Peer-To-Peer Texting

Collective Texting can be used in different ways to fundraising for nonprofits. You can use it to ask for donations in a more intimate manner than, say, a generic email or text.
On CallHub, when volunteers type out messages, they can include the name of the recipient by simply adding the merge tag for their name- “Hey {first_name}…” CallHub also lets you add templated texts which you can personalize for every contact according to custom fields.
Volunteers can manage thousands of conversations with your contacts for greater outreach.
Initially, they just have to hit send to forward all the texts, and once the replies start coming in, they can engage in personalized conversations with the donor. Approximately 71% of donors feel more involved when the messages they receive are personalized.
Best practice: Personalize the text messages using the data available in your CRM. See how you can personalize conversations on CallHub.

Segmenting supporters with tags

Additionally, you can categorize your contacts based on their replies and tag them. For instance, donors who have pledged a high amount make up one segment, those who pledge lower amounts make up another segment, and those who don’t want to donate again can be safely ignored the next time you run a fundraising campaign. You can also follow up and retarget contacts who didn’t reply or were unable to donate then.
Also, with CallHub, it is possible to rent local numbers and improve your chances of engaging with leads; a local number is far more trustworthy than one out of state. Even to thank your donors from time to time, you can employ Collective Texting- a simple personalized text that shows the donors that you appreciate and remember their contribution.
Important reminder: Never jump to a fundraising ask without building a relationship with your audience and nurturing them.

Following up with donors

You’ve made your ask.
Now, it’s time to follow up with your donor to make sure you receive that gift or donation.
After your ask, there are three possible answers: ‘Yes’, ‘No’, and ‘Maybe’. Let’s see how to follow up in all 3 cases.
Following up after a ‘Yes’:
  1. First, thank them.
  2. Ask them when and how they would like to contribute. Make the necessary arrangements for the same.
Following up after a ‘No’:
  1. Figure out the reason behind ‘No’.
  2. See if it’s something in your control or if there’s a workaround and work on it.
Following up after a ‘Maybe’:
  1. Ask them what help they need to make a decision and do the needful.
  2. Give them time to decide and take confirmation on when you can follow up next.


For any nonprofit, besides the goals and missions accomplished, another important yardstick is feedback.
Whether it’s from volunteers, donors, or supporters, gathering feedback through surveys and forms helps figure out your strengths and weaknesses as an organization; again, using text messaging is convenient for nonprofits to use for this purpose.
An example of a text message-based survey would be:
“Hey Linda, as a volunteer, I’d love to get some feedback from you in the form of a short survey! Type Y if you’re interested, N if you’re not”
A ‘Y’ reply would trigger the survey question:
“How well do you think our nonprofit is being managed with respect to achieving our goals, on a scale 1 to 5? 1 being poorly run, 5 being we’re doing things right.”
The volunteer responds, and the other questions are automatically sent depending upon the type of response.
While this is one form of a survey, you can also run sign-up campaigns, where volunteers are required to opt into the survey, and a similar pattern is created where questions are based upon user replies.
Based on their replies (e.g., a rating they give), they get segmented in the CRM, and you can then target each segment separately; that way, it becomes possible to quantify donor experience.
With all the data you collect and segregate response-wise, you have a solid database of information to work upon and can figure out how popular your initiatives are and where work is required.

How to choose the right texting service for nonprofits

  1. You need tools to collect data from your audience, schedule broadcasts, and have one-to-one conversations.
  2. If you use a CRM, you need a texting service that can integrate with it and have the data flow both ways so that you can automate and personalize your text messages to a great extent.
  3. The number of volunteers you need for a campaign may vary each time. Consider a service that doesn’t charge for these volunteer seats.
  4. Trying out the tools before you make a purchase is essential for the efficient use of your budget. Consider services that offer a free trial.
Not sure which nonprofit text message marketing software to use for your nonprofit?
Try out CallHub to implement text message marketing for nonprofits.
Featured image: Photo by Blue Bird from Pexels
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