How to Use Text Engagement in Your Fundraising Strategy

May 8, 2022
14 min

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take,"—timeless wisdom bestowed to us by Michael Scott by way of Wayne Gretzky. If you've been on the fence about incorporating a text-to-give solution into your fundraising strategy, it's finally time to take a shot. 

Text messaging for nonprofits is sort of a no-brainer. It’s how people communicate these days. How many times in the last few years have you heard someone say they don't talk on the phone, just text them! Or listened to a voicemail instructing you to text the person you're calling? And what other channels can you send a donation ask and get a 98% open rate? Email and direct mail don't even come close to that type of engagement.

We understand: adopting a new technology to reach donors is scary, but it doesn't have to be. When your Text Engagement solution is paired with nonprofit technology like Funraise's, you've got an easy way to text all your donors whenever you want—although timing is everything.

We want to help you live your best fundraising life, so after you've made the decision to say yes to the text, here’s how you can use Text Engagement to connect with your supporters.

Text Communication Tactics for Nonprofits

Text-to-give is the new way to communicate with donors and supporters. Text messaging has a great open and engagement rate, so it's natural that nonprofits want to get in on the text messaging. The key to texting with donors is balance: frequency and tone of your ask.

Donation asks

For decades, nonprofits have subscribed to the same tactics to ask donors for donations—snail mail, phone calls, in-person events—and all those are great, but the future has finally arrived. Texting your supporters is rising in popularity and is a terrific way to make the ask year-round. A text-to-give campaign can be paired with your annual appeal, a special project, or for one-off program funding. Basically, all the same reasons you've been asking for funds, but with more immediacy and brevity.

Get real example: "Jolene! Thank you for being such an amazing supporter. DollyWorld is in desperate need of repairs. Please donate and help bring back the magic: tiny.url/dfsdr"

Event communications

Planning is underway for your next fundraising event—communicating with attendees before, during and after the event is essential. Of course, you'll send event invites through your usual avenues, but what about other important event happenings? Before the event, use your text-to-give solution to message your event attendees with parking or venue details or changes. Or, text supporters a reminder to sign up for the silent auction ahead of time. Want to make it even more exciting? Plan your event at a secret location and text attendees the address the night before to build anticipation!

During the event, use Text Engagement to tell attendees you're close to meeting your fundraising goal and how their donation could move the progress bar forward. After the event, let attendees know how much you raised with their help and thank them for showing up. Even include a link to an update or impact page on your website showcasing how their donations are being put to work.

Get real example: "Hey Mario, see you at the anniversary dinner tonight! It's raining cats & dogs, so we're moving the event from the garden to the ballroom. See you soon!"
Illustrated group of people (two woman and one man) holding their mobile devices. Art by Sophie Cunningham

Peer-to-peer campaign alerts

Social fundraising is so in right now and nonprofits are reaping the benefits. If you're running a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, texting about your fundraiser is a must. Spread the word about your campaign to your supporters and ask them to share with their networks so you have an increased chance of meeting your goals.

Raising money to fix the roof at your community building? Text your supporters about how they can help. $1,000 away from reaching your goal? Text your supporters and ask them to share with their networks. Only 24 hours left to donate to your campaign? Text away!

Get real example: "Tell your friends, to tell their friends, to tell their friends! FriendsRUs is fundraising for our mentorship program. Help us spread the word! tiny.url/dfasfs"

Expired payment information

Since text engagement is directly connected to your nonprofit CRM with Funraise, you'll know exactly when your donor's payment information is expiring. It would be a shame to let those donations lapse. Segment your list by expiration date and send automatic texts to kindly remind your recurring donors to update their information. Unlike email that can easily be ignored, texts cut through the clutter so your message gets to supporters.

Get real example: "Here's a friendly card expiration reminder from CUREpilepsy for our favorite donor: Update your payment info now and never miss a donation. tiny.url/dfasfs"

Impact/success stories

Feel-good stories are the perfect way to utilize text engagement because 1) your donors won't expect it since they're so used to you asking them for money and 2) you'll put a smile on someone's face. A double whammy! Text your supporters what you did with all the funds raised from your peer-to-peer campaign. Or let them know about a specific person, place or thing that's benefitted from your recent fundraising efforts.

Get real example: "Danny, thanks for your support of WorldNeedsLove! Because of your donation, Julie can now get the surgery she needs. Read her story: tiny.url/dfdfssdf"

Urgent/emergency response alerts

Need. Donations. Now. When there's a crisis, there is no better way to ask for help than a text message. You're probably familiar with large nonprofits using this tactic to bring awareness to natural disasters or humanitarian crises and solicit donations from their supporters with success. While the definition of what's urgent changes from nonprofit to nonprofit, this tactic can be a lifesaver when you're trying to achieve something huge in a short amount of time. With that said, you should use this tactic sparingly and only when very necessary, but when you do, expect the donations to come pouring in.

Get real example: "Hi, it's Flood Relief! El Nino's ravaged the Coast & families desperately need supplies. Donate $10 to provide a blanket & food for one: tiny.url/dfdrs"

Solidarity/rally attendance

What if you're a cause-based organization and need people to be somewhere at a certain time to support? Send a text! Planning a social justice rally to fight climate change? Send off a text to your supporters to attend.

Get real example: "Hey Rosie, we know you care about saving whales. WhaleWatchers is holding a rally Sat. Nov. 12 @ 2pm to stop poachers. Join us? RSVP here: tiny.url/dfdszgr"

Market research

Working on your five-year strategic fundraising plan and need input from your most active donors? Use Text Engagement to thank them for their unwavering support and ask that they take a short survey. This is a great way to gain insight into how your donors prefer to be contacted, helping you refine your overall fundraising strategy.

Get real example: "Hi Jay! Thanks for your support of Books for Bucks! We appreciate you & would love your input. Please help us by taking this short survey: tiny.url/gsdfge"

With so many many ways to use text engagement, it's no wonder organizations are clamoring to say yes to the text! We expect text-to-give to shine for years to come and want to make sure you're fully equipped to hop on this new frontier. The most important thing to remember is that just like any other fundraising strategy, having a plan of action will help you make the most out of this exciting technology. We're here for you.

Best Practices to Make Your Text-to-Give Campaign a Success

There are a few best practices for text messaging with your nonprofit's donors or using text-to-give. The first and most important is to respect donor privacy. The second is to identify your nonprofit, and the third is to be consistent but not overwhelming with the number of texts.

It's raining texts, hallelujah! By now, you understand the many ways in which text-to-give will add tremendous value to your fundraising efforts. And with Funraise's Text Engagement tool, that value is amplified with seamless integration into your nonprofits' donor CRM. Need a refresher on sending texts from your nonprofit donor CRM? We can only speak to Funraise, but here goes:

  • Decide on a message - in a perfect world, how would people respond? Do you need money, volunteers, or loud voices?
  • Segment your donors - use Funraise's handy donor CRM filters to reveal your recurring donors, most reliable volunteers, or peer-to-peer fundraisers.
  • Send the text - click, copy, paste, and send. Boom.
  • Follow up - don't forget about email. Send a follow-up to provide more detailed information to your text recipients.

That’s all there is to it! But you know what they say—with great power comes great responsibility. That's why understanding and adopting best practices in your Text Engagement strategy is oh-so-important. Don't get caught out in the rain without your handy-dandy best practices umbrella—here are the do's and don'ts of text-to-give. 

Get permission

Getting permission from your contacts before sending any type of communication is the rule these days. Also, it's the law now if you do any type of work outside of the U.S. Before you start sending your supporter's texts asking to support your newest peer-to-peer campaign, make sure they've opted in.

Just because you've collected a phone number from a contact form doesn't mean a person wants to receive texts from you. Once you send that text, always make sure to include an obvious “opt out” option in case they want to stop hearing from you (it's a bummer, but it happens).

Strike a balance

Sure, raking in the donations and ultimately realizing your organization's vision is endgame, but too much of any one thing can wear out even the most enthusiastic supporters. Make sure to balance your urgent donation asks with other relationship-building content so supporters feel engaged and appreciated, even when they're not giving you all the buckaroos. Try informing your supporters about a specific project that you completed or a success story about someone who's been impacted greatly by your work. Keep it clever, engaging, and concise, and watch those relationships blossom.

Set the tone

No one likes a pushy-pants, or a snooty-pants, and especially not a meany-pants. Make sure when you're writing your text messages, you have your audience in mind and you're writing your appeal to them. Build personas so you know exactly who your audience is and you'll hit the mark more often than not.

Illustrated woman holding an umbrella with message bubble rain falling down. Art by Sophie Cunningham.

Short and sweet

When sending text messages to your supporters, it's best to keep them short and sweet. The standard text message contains a maximum of 160 characters; take note of that limit and write all your communications within those parameters. Otherwise, you risk your messages getting cut off or split into two, resulting in misordered messages causing complete chaos (or at a minimum, opt-out of future communications).

Timing is everything

Everyone has that one friend—you know the one—who sends wayyyy too many text messages when a simple phone call would suffice. Or the one who sends texts at the most inappropriate hours of the day—early morning, late at night, during cosplay yoga. Don't be that friend. 

Matt Scott, CEO of CauseMic, suggests respecting timezones and sleep patterns as the most obvious thing to consider when texting supporters, but you should also consider things like rush hour, holidays, and whether the text is urgent enough to need an immediate response. With Text Engagement, you can send texts at any time, so your message is always on time.

Measure success

The golden rule for all marketing campaigns also stands true for text-to-give campaigns—tracking your links so you can measure engagement. Use your friendly analytics tools to create tracking links in your text messages: when you can track donors landing on your mobile-friendly donation pages, you'll know how well your campaign is performing.

Once your campaign ends, you'll have valuable data, including open rates, click-through-rates, and the number of donations. This is data that'll help guide your future text-to-give campaigns so you can maximize your communications.

Now that you've learned all the do's and don't's of text-to-give, you're ready to try it out in the real world. Onto the examples!

Text-to-Give: Messages To Make 'Em Donate Now

A repeating vertical zig-zag pattern with orange, blue, and teal zig-zags outlined in red

There're lots of reasons to join in the text-to-give revolution. Embracing text-to-give for nonprofits is easy when you think of it as texting a friend. Following that thought, we've got example texts that will have your supporters telling all their friends about the nonprofit that's serving up text magic.

Texts that make you feel good

The good news: we found the cutest puppy in the world! The bad news: He needs surgery. Donate $10 to make these sad eyes happy again.
What's better than treating yo' self? Treating someone else unexpectedly. $10 will fill a belly & put a smile on a child's face.
You don't need a reason to make someone's day. Donate $10 to a just cause... just because. *{nonprofit} waves & laughs nervously* 

Texts that make you think twice

Imagine being 50 mi away from freedom and needing $10 to get there. Kim is so close to a new life: Donate $10 toward her escape. 
Did you cut off another driver during your commute this AM? If you need to rebalance your karma, {nonprofit} is accepting donations.
Ready for your 2PM latte? That $5 goes farther than you'd imagine in {nonprofit}'s hands. Donate now and head home early for a nap. 

Texts that make you go hmmm?

Did you know that joy is contagious? Donate now & feel {nonprofit}'s immediate gratitude for your own instant gratification.
If you add things to your to-do list just so you can cross 'em off, here's something you can do right now: Donate $10 to {nonprofit}.
Found an article you'll like! tl;dr: {nonprofit} is rad and you can increase the radness. Donate $10 to moar rad, life-changing work.
Would you rather loan your car to a stranger or donate $10 to {nonprofit}? That donation's sounding pretty good about now, isn't it? 

Sharing is caring: Texts to share

Texts for one-time or small-dollar donors may feel like shouting into an echo chamber, but when you let up on the donation guilt and ask for something they instinctively understand—like a share or retweet—you may be surprised at the result. It's worth a try, anyway!

Want to donate to {nonprofit} but need to eat? Share/retweet our social media ask. Changing the world is easy when everyone helps.
Woof. woof. Dying puppies need your help. Donate $10 or share this text to bring puppies back to life. Do it for the zombie puppies.
What if we said... DON'T donate $10 to {nonprofit}? $5+sharing/tweeting this text would make all the difference & be cheaper for you!"

Note: we've only tested these on our friends, who instantly donated to deserving nonprofits on our behalf. But hey, whatever works!

If your supporters are anything like our friends (and they're probably even more awesome), these text messages will get lightning-fast clicks and lots of laughs. Try them out with Text Engagement

Congratulations! You’re now a bonafide texting expert (is that a thing? It is now!). But seriously, we know it can be scary navigating through the world of online and mobile fundraising. Don’t worry: Funraise has your back. Text ya later!

Nonprofit Text Messaging: Key Takeaways

  • Nearly everyone has a phone these days. With more and more people using mobile devices, text engagement should be a key component of every nonprofit’s fundraising strategy.
  • In addition to asking for donations, text messaging campaigns are great for communicating about events, sending out surveys, sharing success stories, and notifying donors when their credit card is expiring.
  • Always ask permission before sending texts—and include a clear “opt-out” option in case they want to stop hearing from you.
  • Keep messages short: that’s 160 characters or less.
  • Also, keep ‘em sweet: don’t be overly pushy or text too frequently.
  • Stick to working hours. No one wants their dinner interrupted with a donation ask.
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