Originally published by TechSoup at https://blog.techsoup.org on September 18, 2020.

Building a Modern SMS Communication Strategy at Your Nonprofit

Due to the pandemic and the lack of in-person engagement, organizations of all types and sizes are accelerating their digital transformation efforts. There’s never been a better (or more relevant) time to optimize your digital presence and reach supporters where they’re at — starting in the palms of their hands.

1. Define Your Audience

User-driven marketing can be defined as reaching users on their preferred platform, with their preferred message, at their preferred time.

  • Monthly recurring donors
  • Lapsed donors (have not made a gift within the last 12 months)
  • Volunteers
  • Fundraisers
  • Advocates
  • Event attendees
  • Corporate sponsors or partners
  • Newsletter or email subscribers

2. Identify What Motivates Your Audience to Take Action

Once you’ve defined your audience, encouraging each segment to take action will depend on why they are motivated to get involved with your organization. This is a necessary but often overlooked step in the quest to personalize your message to drive conversions and engagement.

3. Define Your Value Proposition

A strong value proposition communicates the mission and focus of the organization in roughly four to seven sentences. Your value proposition is the place to address your donors directly to communicate that their gift to your organization translates into positive outcomes. You likely won’t be texting your value proposition verbatim to supporters, but it’s important to keep your core offering in mind as you build the story arc for each campaign or initiative.

  • Keep it simple. No need for superfluous language or jargon here.
  • Define the challenge you’re working to solve. What challenges are you facing as an organization? When you’re up front about how donor support can help impact your story, there is a greater sense of urgency.

4. Get Permission

Opt-in for text messaging communications is required by local laws and carrier industry guidelines. It also builds trust with your audience and helps prevent your messages from getting flagged as spam. There are two common ways to obtain opt-in: SMS-based and non-SMS-based.

5. Prepare for Scale

One of the benefits of text messaging is that you can reach a large audience quickly. But keep in mind that when you send a text, some people will text back, so it’s important to make sure you’re ready to respond to inbound messages. If you don’t have enough staff to manage inbound inquiries, you can automate responses with an SMS bot or route people to on-demand resources, such as your website.

6. Deploy A/B Tests and Measure Outcomes

It’s tough to know exactly what message will resonate, but if you’ve taken the time to understand your audience’s needs and motivations, you have an excellent starting point. If a message isn’t performing in the way that you expected, have a backup solution ready to fire at a moment’s notice. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that things can change at the drop of a hat, and the news cycle can feel impossible to break through. Having variants ready to go is a great way to counteract a message that may have fallen flat!

Time to Get Texting

We hope these best practices help get your organization on a roll as you build your messaging strategy and start engaging your supporters. Our last piece of advice is to remember that SMS is just one piece of your engagement and communications arsenal. While some people prefer mobile messaging, others respond best to email, voice, or direct mail.

Additional Resources

Connecting mission-based & community-based organizations to mission-critical tech resources, knowledge & community for change-makers. #nonprofits | techsoup.org

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