5 Ideas for Nonprofits to Use Text Messaging

Digital Fundraising

Text messaging can offer a new, and highly effective way to reach your stakeholders. We explain the basics and offer some concrete ideas to get started in this video. Whole Whale has also created an awesome guide to all of the low-cost SMS providers your nonprofit can use to build a messaging strategy.

On average it takes someone 90 seconds to read a text and there is a 99% open rate! Share on X

Five ways to use SMS

1. On-demand Value Texts or Lookup Service

Allow people to lookup information from a database via text message. No Kid Hungry started an on-demand way for parents to find free summer lunch programs for their kids via text message.

2. Alert Text

Think of it as a useful alarm or reminder about a major deadline that could help your audience. United We Dream created a text message reminder tool that reminds immigrants when major immigration deadlines are approaching. Another alert tool is All Good Text, a system that texts you key weekly metrics updates from your web and YouTube analytics.

3. Interactive Texts

Think about an interactive way you could create an experience on text message alone. This can be a survey, a game, a poll or some other fun way that someone can interact with your organization through an automated SMS messaging flow.
AFS-USA, an international student exchange program, created a text message quiz that helps students figure out where to travel based on fun questions.

4. Concierge Texts

This is a text interaction that requires a human to respond to each message. This is a very personalized and very labor intensive SMS program but can have the highest value to users. Planned Parenthood has a national text hotline for people that have health related questions.
Crisis Text Line is another organization that uses live text operators to respond to teens in crisis over text message.

5. Boring Push Notifications

“Hey everyone here is what I have to say. No need to reply just click this.” This is a one-to-many text that really doesn’t allow people to respond or engage on the SMS medium. Try to avoid these dead-end messages.

Providers and Cost

Here is a longer description of low-cost SMS providers to consider and a short list below:

  • Eztext – Low cost texting, simple web interface and self-serve.
  • Textmarks – Low cost texting, simple web interface and self-serve. Note they – by default- don’t allow people to respond to texts so you have to manually allow this.
  • Mobile Commons – Full service SMS platform, high price tier but can hand significant scale and functionality.
  • Mobile cause – Higher cost with a focus on text-to-give functionality.
  • Twilio – An open API that allows you to build SMS into your app or product.
  • @Pay: Focus on a seamless and efficient giving experience that lets donors give with two clicks, one to send a text with the donation amount and the other to confirm the payment.