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Texting for Donor Retention and Engagement – Strategies and Templates

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Published: Jul 9, 2021

The response rate for peer-to-peer mobile messages in 2020 was 9.8%. That means on average, one person took the time to reply for every ten messages sent.

Those are pretty good odds. And it’s just one of many reasons your nonprofit needs to start using text messages for your supporter engagement and retention efforts. It actually engages your supporters.

In order to retain supporters, you need to show them that you value their attention. 

What better way to do that than by adopting the same channel that is used by friends and family to communicate with each other.

Need to build a list of mobile numbers to get started? Don’t miss our article on list building for nonprofits

Pairing texting with other channels for supporter engagement

There are two things to take note of when it comes to supporter engagement outreach:

  • The frequency of your messaging – How often do you pop up on your supporters radar?
  • The variety of your messaging – What channels are you using to reach supporters?

Too much of the former can lead to inbox blindness, where your audience ignores your messages. Overcoming this problem doesn’t mean you need to overhaul your entire communication plan. It simply means that it’s not a good idea to limit your outreach to a single medium. Nonprofits often make this mistake, reaching people exclusively through emails, or social media (a follower is not necessarily a supporter.)

Even if you don’t adopt texting as your primary mode of communication, it’s still a great way to overcome the fatigue your supporters may face when you reach them through a single channel.

Here are a few low barrier ways to adopt text messaging:

  • Send a text follow-up when you make a call to a supporter (ex., When you thank a major donor for a donation, you can send an impact report via text.)
  • Schedule a text alert to go out whenever you send out an email newsletter.
  • Send a text alert to notify a donor that the receipt for their donation has been sent by mail.

Once you have gotten used to sending out text messages as an auxiliary to other channels (and start building a solid list of contacts), you can start using it as your primary mode of donor engagement and retention.

Adopting text messaging for nonprofits

Here are some considerations you might make when it comes to adopting texts for your organization. 

Budget

You only want to spend when you are sure of the returns you are getting. CallHub has a pay-as-you-go model, that costs absolutely nothing to get started. If you’re looking for more advanced features, you may want to go for a paid plan. But when you are just getting started with texting for supporter engagement, the basic plan should get you off to a great start (note: there are still charges for individual texts sent and calls made.)

Human resources

Two things that might give you a pause here:

What kind of expertise do my staff/volunteers need to start with a texting tool?

The answer is, almost none. If you’re a campaign manager, you might need some time to get up to speed on setting up a campaign (and some more time to explore all the features CallHub has to offer). Campaign volunteers such as texting agents need no time at all to start sending texts from your campaign. It’s an intuitive interface.

How many people do I need to dedicate to texting?

If you are sending a mass text, you just need a campaign manager to schedule that text to go out. A peer-to-peer texting campaign may need a varying number of texting agents depending on the size of your contact list.

Read Next: 50% of Donors Don’t Return – Donor Retention Strategies to Reduce Churn.

Messaging

What makes the content in a text message different from the content you might create for an email? It depends on the type of message you want to send (i.e. whether it’s conversational or informational.)

Text broadcasts or mass texts are generally informational since they involve scheduling a single text to go out to an entire contact list at once.

Peer-to-peer texting is conversational—texting agents have a back and forth with a supporter, thus having a higher likelihood of getting a response.

Let’s expand on how you can craft messaging for these different use cases.

What kind of text messaging helps for donor retention?

As mentioned above, text messages are highly visible, with supporters likely to notice they got a text within a few minutes of receiving one. Depending on the type of text you are sending, (ex. a peer-to-peer text) it’s also a more personal mode of outreach. Here’s how you can use texts for donor retention:

Thank you message (Informational mass text)

“Hey, Jamie. Thanks a ton for pitching in for the cause. We really appreciate it”

Thank you message (Conversational peer-to-peer texts)

“Hey Alicia, Mark from Hope society. Thank you so much for your recent donation. Let me know if you are interested in supporting us long-term through monthly giving.”
“Sure can. Let me know how”
“Awesome! Here’s the link to the page: hope.soc/give”

Impact report message (Informational mass text)

“Hi Joe, as a part of our transparency initiative, we’re sharing our fundraising report with all our donors: hope.soc/impact”

Impact report message (Conversational peer-to-peer texts)

“Hey Carla. Here’s the impact report I promised you last week: hope.soc/impact. Let me know if you have any feedback.”
“I’ll do that. Thanks for the help!”

Ready to put these messages to practice? Sign up for CallHub.

Since these messages are ones that your supporters will want to hear (hence why they help you retain them), a more personal channel like text messages will only compound the effect of your outreach.

Messaging that helps with supporter retention often happens near the end of an exchange with supporters. Read how you can get to that point by using texts for fundraising

Types of texting for donor retention

We briefly mentioned our main offerings for text messaging previously, namely text broadcasts and peer-to-peer texting (we also offer SMS opt-in, which is great for building your contact list and soliciting donations via text.)

Text broadcasts

Text broadcasts can be scheduled to go out to your entire contact list at once. (Of course, it’s a good practice to segment your list beforehand, so that your text only goes out to supporters to whom it is relevant.)

Setting up an SMS broadcast campaign is simple. Here’s the gist:

1. Create a campaign
Create a text broadcast campaign and choose your phonebook.
2. Draft message
Create your text message, personalizing it with custom fields (merge tags) like {{first-name}}.
3.Set a time to send
Schedule your text message to go out to contacts at a specified time.

Peer-to-peer texting

In CallHub, peer-to-peer texting involves onboarding texting agents onto your account and assigning them to a campaign. (Note: The campaign manager can be an agent on a campaign).

Here’s how you can get started:

1. Create a campaign
Create a text broadcast campaign and choose your phonebook.
2. Add your message + templates
Save frequently used responses as templates that agents can send.
3. Add surveys
Add survey fields that agents can fill based on the responses they get.
4. Add agents
Your texting agents handle conversations with contacts.
5. Set operating hoursAgents will not be able to send texts outside these hours.

Texting best practices

Here are some best practices to note when you send texts to your supporters:

Open up possibilities with MMS

One immediate advantage of MMS is the greatly expanded character limit (1600!). The other is the ability to attach images, videos and files to your messages.

Ex. You can attach your annual report to a text message that you send to your supporters.

Personalize with merge tags

Personalization is key to keeping your supporters engaged. Merge tags can be added to your text message scripts to personalize your text based on who it goes out to. This information (such as first name, and email address) is taken from the donor data in your contact list uploaded to CallHub.

Speed up the process with text templates

In peer-to-peer texting campaigns, you can add pre-filled templates that texting agents can send to the supporters they are reaching out to. They also have the option of editing these templates before sending them out. This saves time that might otherwise be spent reaching out to others in your list.

Stay compliant in your outreach

With the entry of organizations like nonprofits and political campaigns to personal texting being relatively recent, regulations are constantly evolving. Stay ahead by making sure the texts you send out are compliant in your region. ( ex. You may need to collect an opt-in from your contacts before texting them.)

We’ve compiled regulations you need to be aware of when it comes to texting compliance if you are based in the US.

Conclusion

The text message audience was one of the fastest-growing audiences in 2020, at 26% (for comparison’s sake, the same for emails was 3%.) 

Adopting texting software into your nonprofit’s array of communication tools is a foregone conclusion, be it slowly, or all at once. CallHub has the tools you need to make it happen.
We’re also here to make the adoption process easy for you. Take a look at our support hub for help on getting up and running with your texting campaigns.

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