5 Text Message Marketing Best Practices Every Fundraiser Needs to Know


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Do your donors want to give by text? Are you exploring text messaging as a way to communicate with donors? Text messaging is an unbelievably powerful tool—but you have to know how to do it right! These five text message marketing best practices will help you communicate with donors, raise more money by text, and give your donors a fantastic donation experience! 

Why are these text message marketing best practices so important? 

Text messages have an open rate around 98%—and that’s just in the first 5 minutes! That means texting is one of the most effective communication methods out there. But it also means that it’s very easy for text messaging to become intrusive and creepy. If you want your audiences to read (and act upon!) your messages, it’s important to send the right kind of messages in the right ways. These text message marketing best practices will make that happen!  

Keep your supporters engaged by following these guidelines! You’ll want to: 

  • Choose the perfect keyword 
  • Persuade constituents to opt into receiving messages 
  • Create targeted lists for outbound text messaging 
  • Send the right kinds of texts at the right times (psst: check out our text templates for nonprofits!) 
  • Let readers opt out of your text messages 

Read on for tips and strategies you can use to engage and inspire your supporters with text messages! 

5 Text Message Marketing Best Practices 

First, choose the perfect keyword 

The first step to successfully marketing your text giving campaign is creating a good keyword. Your audiences will have to opt into receiving text messages, and this keyword is how they’ll do so. That means the best keywords are short, easy to remember, and easy to type. Here’s how to choose the best-possible keyword: 

  • Keep it simple! Stick to a well-known acronym, brief words, and maybe a number 
  • Don’t pick two dictionary words (example: FoodPantry)—autocorrect will often add a space between two words, which can cause errors 
  • Pick something that’s easy to remember: “YMCA21” is easier to remember than “LKLDYMCA33813” 
“Pines” is easy to remember and easy to type. It’s a great keyword! 

How can you know if you’ve chosen the best keyword? Easy! Test your chosen keyword by recruiting a few people to type it out for you. If people have a hard time, choose something else. Remember to test on a variety of devices—an iPhone user and an Android user may have totally different experiences. 

Then, start building your lists 

But first: a quick note about opting into text message lists! 

For most text programs, your constituents will have to opt in to receive text messages. According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) guidelines for nonprofits, any texts that are sent via autodialer require recipients to opt into receiving those texts. And, although your text messaging service might not strike you as being an “autodialer,” the TCPA classifies anything that sends a message on your behalf as an autodialer. 

There are two instances in which your recipient does not need to opt into receiving text messages. The first instance is when they’re receiving a gift acknowledgement text. That means that any automated “thank you!” text you have associated with you text donations doesn’t require an opt-in… yet. The TCPA guidelines for nonprofits notes that the matter of automated gift acknowledgements hasn’t been definitively decided. 

The second instance that doesn’t require an opt-in is when a text message is being sent by you to an individual donor. If you’re using your personal phone to type an individual text message to a specific donor, that donor does not have to consent to receiving messages from you. But the minute you switch from your thumbs to another service (like Qgiv’s outbound messaging tool!), you’re using an “autodialer” and can only contact donors who have opted into hearing from you. 

Pilgrim Pines Conference Center plugged their keyword on social media in a video and in the post itself! 

So how do you get folks to opt in? 

You spread the word, of course! There are two steps to this process. 

How to get people to opt into receiving text messages 

First, make the case for people to opt into hearing from you. Try to answer: 

  • What kind of information will you send them? 
  • How often will they hear from you? 
  • Why should they want to get your messages? 

Then, make it easy for them to opt into those text messages. Think about where your donors and other supporters are likely to see your messaging and when they’ll be most likely to opt in. Try: 

  • Adding your keyword to your webpage 
  • Including a note in social posts about your texting program and how people can opt in 
  • Adding an opt-in box to your donation form 
  • Sharing your keyword at events 
  • Putting your keyword on brochures, signage, and even branded merchandise 

Spread your keyword everywhere and be sure supporters know how and why to opt in.  

Create targeted lists for different types of messages 

You probably know the benefits of segmenting your communications. Ensuring your supporters receive only the communications that are relevant to them is important! It’s more effective, for one: you wouldn’t want to send an update about an upcoming event to someone who isn’t registered, for example. It’s also better for donor relations! Sending relevant emails, letters, and other communications to donors makes them feel individually seen and appreciated.  

If you’re a monthly donor and receive an email asking for a monthly gift, you may feel as though that organization doesn’t value your existing monthly donation. If you’re a major donor and get the same receipt for a $20,000 donation as you did when you gave $20, you’ll feel like your donation wasn’t appreciated. 

This is even more important when you’re sending texts for two reasons. 

Segmenting your lists will reduce opt-outs 

You worked hard to build your text message marketing lists. Keep them! People are usually happy when they receive relevant information, but they’ll quickly lose patience if they get lots of messages that don’t apply to them. If you want to keep folks on your text message lists, only send them relevant information. Getting important event updates is wonderful if I’m registered to attend that event. But getting event updates for an event I’m not attending is a surefire way to get me to opt out of receiving messages from you. 

Segmenting your lists can save you money 

Most text communication services give you a set limit of messages you can send per month, then give you the option to pay for additional messages. Sending smaller, targeted messages to a specific group of people is more economical than sending mass texts to everyone!  

Washburn Center set up a keyword specifically for folks who wanted updates about their virtual fundraising event 
How to segment your text messages 

If you want to send targeted messages to specific groups of people, you’ll need to create separate lists. That means you’ll need to create different opt-in keywords for different lists! You may want to consider setting up different keywords for things like: 

  • General updates and fundraising: think of this as your catchall list. This is who you’d contact with periodic updates and urgent appeals, Giving Tuesday updates, etc. 
  • Event-specific updates: this is ideal for updates related directly to your event. This is who you’d contact if you had a venue change, need to send an alert when the event is ending, etc. 
  • Volunteers: texting is a valuable way to send updates to your volunteers! This is who you’d contact if you’ve updated your COVID-19 safety protocols, need to fill a volunteer slot, or coordinate volunteer schedules. 
  • Advocates: if your organization is involved in advocacy, policy change, politics, etc., this is a great list for you to build. This is who you’d contact if you wanted advocates to sign petitions, call their senators, or coordinate marches and other community events. 

If I’m interested in volunteering and advocacy, I can opt into those lists and get information that’s relevant to me and my interests! 

Send the right kinds of texts (at the right times!) 

Text messages have an open rate of 98% within the first five minutes of receipt, and the average response (if you’re asking for people to take an action) is around 90 seconds. Texts are very personal to us: we read them immediately, act on them immediately, and watch them closely. They’re powerful, but that makes them easy to misuse. 

Think of text communications like spices in cooking: used wisely and sparingly, they’re wonderful! But, if you use them too much, they quickly become overwhelming and irritating. Your best bet is to send text messages that: 

  • Include information about an urgent or time-sensitive need
  • Share timely information about something specific (ex: venue changes for an event, program cancelations, etc.) 
  • Ask readers to do something specific (ex: make a donation, sign up to volunteer, sign a petition, etc.) 
  • Would be more effective than other methods like email and phone calls 

After you’ve crafted your message, it’s time to send it. Be considerate about the timing! Remember: texts are usually received and opened almost immediately. We don’t let them sit in our inboxes until a convenient time like we do with emails! Avoid sending texts very early in the day and very late at night. Few things will make someone unsubscribe like waking them up or disrupting family time. 

Looking for inspiration? Check out our text messaging templates for nonprofits! 

Make it easy to opt out of receiving text messages 

You’re required to let people opt out of receiving your emails, and the same applies to text messages! That doesn’t mean you have to include opt-out language in every text message you send—instead, try including it in the first text you send each list. You may also want to include opt-out information in occasional subsequent messages, especially if you’re addressing a list that’s been around a long time and contains lots of numbers. 

Whether you’re raising money by text or using texts to communicate with donors, these best practices will help you make your campaign a success. 

Remember These Text Message Marketing Best Practices! 

These five text message marketing best practices are simple, and keeping these guidelines in place will help you run a successful campaign! Create a great keyword, make the case for opting in, and make it easy for donors to opt in. When communicating with your audience, make sure your texts are timely, actionable, and easy to act upon! Those guidelines will help you send messages your supporters will enjoy receiving, but make sure they know how to opt out—just in case! 

Learn More about Qgiv’s Text Message Tools

If you’re reading an article about text message marketing best practices, you’re probably thinking of launching an outbound text messaging campaign. We can help! Qgiv’s Mobile Suite includes text-to-donate tools, outbound text messaging, and other handy tools you can use to reach and inspire your donors. Learn more about our Mobile Suite online or contact us for a personalized tour of our text fundraising tools! 

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