Text Message Marketing for Nonprofits

August 21, 2018 - 19 minutes read

Communications for nonprofits is a huge part of how they are run. Whether the nonprofit focuses on education, wildlife, or any other area, communication for supporter engagement is an essential aspect which can’t be taken lightly. In today’s world of digital media and smartphones, several nonprofits are making use of text message marketing for varied purposes and to great effect.

The advantage that text message marketing provides is the relative simplicity with which large-scale personalized conversations can be held, which sometimes is harder with other media without spending more time, effort and money. From recruiting volunteers to mobilizing supporters for a campaign, text message marketing for nonprofits has several relevant and effective use cases.

The main advantage of texting is that it people are less likely to ignore it as compared to other forms of outreach; even if your texts aren’t interesting, there’s a good chance people still end up opening them and reading the message which gives your nonprofit visibility.

With text message services evolving to include more and more features, nonprofits are learning to incorporate different aspects of texting to maximize their gains while minimizing effort with browser-based texting and analytics.

Nonprofits use text message marketing mainly in three ways, through:

In this article, let’s understand how nonprofits can use texting in different ways to increase their supporter outreach and mobilize their campaigns.

Engaging Volunteers 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 big role. With broadcast texting, campaign managers can send texts to all volunteers and supporters in no time, informing them of the timings, venue, and other details of the event. You can do this with the simple click of a button from a browser when you’re logged into the app.

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. Here, you can create an RSVP campaign where responses such as Yes or No are immediately logged into your CRM and you can target potential attendees (the people who replied Yes) through follow up messages and a formal event invite.

Collective Texting also creates a point of contact. If volunteers or supporters have any queries, they can text back to a number, and then you can address their concerns personally through a back and forth conversation. With the help of CRM’s the details of the attendees are instantly updated and stored for later use i.e for future outreach. Through texting, you ensure mass participation for an event, as follow-ups, alerts, and reminder campaigns are scheduled and sent in advance so that people don’t forget to attend.

It is even possible to collect additional information about people interested in attending your event and rally through automatic responses and data collection. For instance, you’d first sent 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 with an IN if you want to attend and an OUT if you can’t make it.”

People replying with an OUT are immediately taken out of the loop whereas those sending an IN are sent the following message:

“You can make it, awesome! It would great if you could send your name so that we can add you to our list!”

Now their name has been added to the CRM with an automatic merge tag such as {first_name, last_name}, and now their name serves as a trigger for the next text asking for their email id or another metric. Plus, the next message refers to them by their name so the personalization has already begun to take place and you don’t put data collection off for later when they might be less keen to submit details.

Creating Awareness

Say you want to hold a rally next Monday for your ‘Save Trees’ 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 wide scope of personalization.

As mentioned in the previous point, you can use text batches to create awareness of an issue among several people and through automatic responses, obtain their details.

You can also post about the event on your website and social media handle while including a short code. This short code then becomes the point of contact wherein users can text to this number which means they have opted-in to your campaign or rally. With the RSVP received, you can obtain other information about the people opting in by asking more questions and these details are immediately synced into the CRM such as NationBuilder or NGP Van. Using this information, volunteer databases are created wherein target segments for future outreach are identified.

With p2p texting, it also becomes possible for the volunteers who are texting multiple people to identify them manually via tags in surveys. For instance, if a volunteer is texting 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’d provide it for you!”

Reply: “Yes, I’d be okay with that”

Now, the volunteer marks Mateo with a {Yard_Sign} tag to identify him and later on, it becomes possible to segment all the yard sign holders to figure out how many of them you actually have.

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 priority number one. You can’t rely on making calls during crises as they may not go through quickly enough. Texting becomes important in such situations for different purposes.

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, not only to the people affected but also to mobilize volunteers to carry out relief operations with the necessary procedures they should follow. You can send out text such as “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.

With automatic responses, you can then 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. All of this data syncs in your CRM so in the future, if the same area is affected, your list of volunteers is ready for mobilization.


While you can recruit volunteers for your nonprofit via email (through 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 signups works to your advantage during recruitment: you put up a keyword on your nonprofit’s homepage or social media handle…something which goes like this:

“For all you people looking to make a difference, here’s your chance. Text IN to 4567 to show us that you’re interested, and you can become a volunteer for our nonprofit!”– an inviting post like this is sure to garner attention and doesn’t ask for much in the beginning; 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(their contact number), and then can ease into the recruitment process (or conversation) by using automatic replies to get all the necessary details.

If you’re holding an interview process or just a meet session for potential recruits, Collective Texting makes conversations personalized and welcoming. Something to the tune of:

“Hey Rachel, all the new recruits are meeting up at Central Park on the 5th of this month at 5 pm. It’s going to be a fun and light session for everyone to get to know each other. You in? :D”

To which they reply their confirmation and the volunteers texting them mark them on a survey form with a {attending_candidate} tag which automatically gets updated in the CRM and can now be filtered according to your needs. If time is of the essence and you need new volunteers as soon as possible, sending out broadcast texts is ideal; large outreach attained in minimal time with the click of a button.

CallHub also has a feature of filtering out contacts who haven’t necessarily answered with a particular keyword. For example, if you send: “If you’re interested in being a volunteer please reply with a YES, and if you’re not, reply with a NO”. For people who reply with an “I’m in” even though they should have said Yes, CallHub automatically reads this as a Yes, and the person is added to the appropriate segment in the CRM.


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. Fundraising via text messaging can be done in two ways: either giving an opt-in code for donors to join in a campaign and donate, or by personally asking them through peer to peer texting.

Collective Texting can be used in different ways when it comes to fundraising for nonprofits. It can be used to ask for donations in a more intimate manner as opposed to say a generic email or text; 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}...”

When you send out several texts with the same initial ask, CallHub provides templated texts to send which you can personalize for every contact according to custom fields; typing the same thing over and over albeit with different target names can get overwhelming, especially if you’re reaching out to many people. Also, if you’re busy during the intended time of the campaign, have no worry; CallHub lets you schedule your SMS campaigns in advance so that you’re still sticking to your schedule.

You can build a relationship with the donor before asking for funds. 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 with an approximate 10% to 30% response rate.

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 at that point in time.

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 which is out of state. Even to thank your donors from time to time, you can employ Collective Texting- a simple personalized text shows the donors that you appreciate and remember their contribution.


For any nonprofit, in addition to the goals and missions accomplished, another important yardstick is feedback. Whether it’s from volunteers, donor, or supporters, gathering feedback through surveys and forms helps in figuring 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 trusted volunteer, we’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”

To which the volunteer responds and the other questions are automatically sent depending upon the type of response. While this is one form of a survey, sign up campaigns can also be run, where volunteers are required to opt in to the survey and a similar pattern is created where questions are based upon user replies.

Based on their replies (eg: 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 and understand why they gave a particular feedback about your nonprofit.

With all the data that you collect and segregate response wise, you have a solid database of information to work upon and can figure how popular your initiatives are, and where work is required.

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