People keep telling you to add more text messaging to your communications strategy, right?
It’s a mobile world, and you need to reach people where they are. But how do you actually get people to opt in to text messages and grow your contact list?
Let’s explore five ways to get your supporters to consent to receiving texts.
It’s a Mobile World After All
You already have an inkling why your nonprofit needs to be texting. The stats are clear. People take their mobile phones everywhere, from the bathroom to the bedroom. So, if you want to reach people where they are, reach them on mobile.
The best way to do that? Text messaging.
Yes, it’s another channel to add to your marketing mix. But you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Do what you’re already doing, just add texting.
You can repurpose content for text messages and make what you’re already doing more effective.
Better Response Rate
Speaking of more effective, here’s what makes incorporating texting into your mix of strategies so powerful:
You don’t need thousands of cell phone numbers to get a meaningful bump in response.
Thanks to astoundingly better stats, texting is massively more effective than email, both in grabbing folks’ attention and in generating your desired response:
- Open Rates: 90-95% for texting vs. 30-35% for email.
- Response Rates: 40% for texting vs. 2-4% for email.
With those numbers, you can get the same or even better results with texting vs. email with a list a fraction of the size:
- 1,000-person email list: 350 opens, 14 responses.
- 100-person text list: 90 opens, 36 responses.
That’s more than double the response rate with a list one-tenth the size!
Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s move to the elephant in the room.
5 Ways to Get Text Message Opt-Ins
How does your nonprofit actually get people to hand over their cell phone numbers? There are five tried-and-true methods to build your text messaging list, and they all involve using your existing channels. You can do this!
1. Text-to-Give Donation Process
The best way to grow your text message contact list is to make texting a part of your donation process. Text-to-give is a simple and easy way to share your donate link and opt people in to text messages. It’s super useful at events, volunteer activities, performances and even as signage at your location.
- Direct and Easy: Not only is it a simple process, but you’re setting people up to communicate in your ideal channel—texting. Every other suggested opt-in process means going through another channel to get to texting. This way your donors are texting right from the start.
- Follow Up: Be sure to follow up every donation with a warm, prompt thank you. This shows donors you’re efficient and trustworthy. Plus, it sets an expectation they’ll hear from you via text.
Example: When the Pablove Foundation was going to be on the jumbotron in front of 30,000 people at a sporting event, they used text-to-give to share a simple message. They brought in donations and grew their list.
2. Website Traffic
Convert your existing website traffic to mobile opt-ins. You can do this with forms and pop-ups that ask for mobile phone numbers.
- Existing Forms: The easiest first step is to add mobile phone opt-in to your existing forms where you currently collect their email and mailing addresses. Moving forward, when people make a donation or sign up to volunteer, tack on text messaging as well.
- Specific Forms: Encourage people to sign up for text messaging with a specific form or pop up that’s easy and quick. It could be a simple opt-in form or a more detailed contact form.
Tip: You need to tell people why. Why should they sign up to get text messages from your nonprofit? Come up with a compelling reason: Stay in touch, be informed, get notifications, see results, etc.
3. Social Media
It’s hard to ignore social media these days, but it can be difficult to convert social followers to actual donors. A big reason why is social media sites want to keep people on their platform. They don’t want people to click over to your site.
So, it’s wise to be careful about how much effort you put into building a social media following. Remember, you don’t have their contact info. They’re not on your list and the social media platform can rescind your access to those followers anytime they see fit.
Social media followers may follow you, but you can’t follow up with them.
That’s why it’s smart to craft strategies to move people from social media platform followers to your subscriber list. Here’s what you can do:
- Ask for Donations: Point followers to your website donate form where they can provide contact info and also opt in to text messages.
- Use Tools: Use QR codes and texting a keyword to a shortcode to sign up. QR codes work well in images and video while the keyword/shortcode combo works well in spoken formats like podcasts and videos.
- Emphasize Action: Highlight an action followers can take — donate, volunteer, subscribe, sign a petition, add your voice, see the impact, attend an event, spread the word, etc. They’re likely viewing social media content on their phone, so give them a way to take action on their phone. Then reach back out to them, via text messaging, to gratefully acknowledge that action.
4. Email Messaging
While email open and response rates are notoriously lower than text messaging, it’s still a viable channel to reach people. Use it to push people toward texting.
- Just Ask: Using a simple link or form, ask them in the email to opt in to receiving texts.
- Emphasize the Benefit: Let them know why, sometimes, texting may be better than email. For example, you’ll reach them faster, and can provide last-minute alerts, convey urgent news, and reach those who rarely check their email in a timelier manner.
- Target by Using Segmentation: You can boost your conversion rate – from email to text — by aiming your messages at specific audiences. Volunteer activities and events are great examples of when it might be more helpful to participants to receive text messages. Point this out to them!
Example: Email is actually bigger than text for the Salvation Army Great Lakes Division, but they still see value from texting and view it as part of the larger marketing mix: “Anything we could do to help bring in more online donations was something we wanted to try,” said Christina Holman, their director of integrated marketing and mail.
5. Direct Mail Messaging
Yes, it’s a digital world, but we still use paper. Direct mail isn’t dead (yet). It can be an effective way to reach people who aren’t on social media.
- Existing Mailer: Add a pitch for your text message service in your existing mailer. Use QR codes to make it easy to subscribe. (Remember to emphasize why folks should get texts in the first place!)
- Postcard: If you have a specific text message marketing campaign, alert system, or event info notifications, it might be worth sending a special postcard encouraging folks to sign up for texts so they’re sure to receive the most up-to-date information.
- Promote Cost Savings: Let people know they can text their donation and forego the cost of a stamp. Their gift gets to work right away, and they don’t have to go to the post office.
Example: The Rock School for Dance Education put a QR code on their return envelope: “Place a stamp here or text to donate.”
Use Those Phone Numbers
Once you get people to opt in, you need to actually text them! Following up with a meaningful text as soon as you can sets the expectation they’ll be hearing from you this way. So, make sure what you send is something they’ll enjoy receiving.
- Send a warm thank you for a donation.
- Share a compelling video showcasing the outcomes their gift makes possible.
- Send a link to some useful content.
- Offer volunteer details when they sign up.
- Send parking particulars for an event.
Remember, roughly three texts are opened for every one email opened. So, using this strategy strategically from the get-go will boost future constituent engagement and ensure text messaging remains effective as you transition to your standard year-round texting plan.
Bottom Line: Building and using a mobile list doesn’t have to be vastly new territory or oodles of additional work. Build on what you’re already doing. Just add texting to the mix.
James Martin, guest contributor, is a three-time tech founder and servant leader with over two decades of experience. As the founder of Rally Corp, he helps charities and causes rally passionate supporters with a human-centered text messaging platform built exclusively for nonprofits.
Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay