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Getting started with Opt-In Text Messaging

Published: Nov 26, 2017

If you’ve been to a campaign rally or event, there’s a good chance you’ve come across an opt-in text messaging campaign.

A signboard or flyer that says “Text “CHANGE” to 55555 for updates.” acts as the boarding point to get subscribers into your text messaging lists.

Opt-in text messaging gives political campaigns, advocacy groups, unions, and nonprofits a cost-effective and wide-reaching platform to engage their audience. This includes campaign updates, volunteer requests, fundraising requests and event invites which can be instantly sent out to thousands of subscribers using SMS marketing campaigns. Because of the regulations governing how campaigns reach out to people on their mobile phones, the opt-in process becomes mandatory for text messaging campaigns. Campaigns cannot simply go out and buy mobile lists and start texting the people on the list. They need to receive the permission of the contact before sending out text messages.

How to start an opt-in text messaging campaign

Your opt-in text messaging campaign needs to have its own keyword and a short code or long code to act as the Caller ID.

Eg. In “Text “CHANGE” to 242643 for updates.” the keyword is “CHANGE” and the shortcode is “242643”.

Long code — A unique 10-digit phone number that’s tied to an area code.(Eg. +1-315-683-3649)
Short code — A 5 to 6 digit number that can be used nationwide. (Eg. 242643 (CHANGE)

You can set the keyword of your choice when creating your opt-in text messaging campaign and rent a short code or long code from your text messaging service. Once you finish setting up your campaign, you can go ahead promoting your keyword and short code. When people text in your keyword to the number, they are automatically added to a contact list for subscribers.

Try it for free.

How to build your opt-in list

Your SMS opt-in keyword and shortcode should be promoted across all channels where you have an interested audience. Your social followers, email/newsletter subscribers, event attendees, and organization members are your most ardent audience and have the highest chance of subscribing to your to your opt-in campaign. Share call to actions to join your text messaging list across all these channels. You can ask the help of partner organizations who work in a similar space to promote your campaign and also include the CTA (Call to Action) on any print material (flyers, billboards).


A simple call to action may not always do the trick. Give people a significant reason to join your list. What exclusivity can you offer to your text messaging subscribers that is unavailable to others? The commonly used to terms to signal that exclusivity is “be the first to receive campaign updates”, “for latest volunteer opportunities”, or “be the first to receive event invites”.


Use simple language in your opt-in call to action. Keep your CTA short and to the point to ensure that people can see it and immediately absorb the information and the ask.

Text “VOLUNTEER” to 525252 to get updates on volunteer opportunities for Change Organization.

Features of an opt-in text messaging campaign

Data collection

Following the opt-in, you can immediately engage subscribers with follow up messages that collect relevant contact data through SMS texts. Send follow-up messages asking for their name, email, zip code or any other metrics that you want to collect. If you are hiring volunteers, you can have another follow-up text asking if they’d like to volunteer. Just remember to not overwhelm your subscribers with too many questions to avoid having them ignore your messages, or worse yet, unsubscribe from your campaign.

Personalized follow-ups

Use elements of the data collected in a previous question inside follow-up questions so that the message is more impactful. For eg: After asking for their name, use the name in follow-up message when asking for their email ID. You could also use their email ID and pass it on as a parameter to a link. The page can then be customized based on what was passed or just use it as a tracker.

Question 1: What is your first name?
Question 2: Thanks {First Name}! What is your email ID?
Question 3: You're the best! Follow this link to RSVP for tom's event. 


Software integrations ensure that your opt-in campaigns work seamlessly with your other software tools. Integrations with platforms like NationBuilder, Action Network, CiviCRM, and others ensure that opt-in data from your campaign is synced with your constituent and donor management software. Syncing your opt-in text messaging campaign with your CRM ensures that you can run multi-channel outreach campaigns. Subscribers who are interested in volunteering can be added to separate lists, contact data can be automatically added to your main database, you can assign tags to contacts, and multiple other functions that are afforded because of integrations.

Take for example, an SMS opt-in campaign that is integrated with NationBuilder or Action Network. The integration ensures that a new NationBuilder/Action Network profile is created for every person who opts in to your SMS campaign. If you’re running multiple campaigns at the same time, say one to recruit volunteers and another to identify supporters, simply set up a TAG when creating your SMS opt-in campaign, which will show up alongside the newly created profile. You can then use the tags to identify profiles and create segmented lists for future outreach.

nationbuilder action network sign up profile tag

For advocacy groups, political campaigns, and/or nonprofit organizations looking to expand your subscriber base, you can get started with opt-in text messaging, here.

For further information on how to get started with opt-in text messaging, check out our How to or reach out to us at [email protected].


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