Text Messaging in Non-Profits

With the wide use of mobile phones in New Zealand, something like 90% of us have them, it would make sense for charities to be tapping more into the use of mobiles to communicate with donors; but this has to be done gently or it could backfire.

Backfire? Yes, I subscribed to an online poll a while back and could select certain charities I wanted to learn more about; within days I was being inundated with calls and messages thanking me for my support (I hadn’t given any, I’d only shown an interest), these calls and text messages turned me off so much that I requested being removed from their databases.

Where mobile can work tremendously is with Text to Donate campaigns, we see these almost weekly in some shape or form, they are a quick and easy way for people to make a donation, they can do it anywhere at any time.

When people do a text-to-donate they can expect to get a call from the organisation thanking them for their support and asking if they would like to become a regular giver. Nothing wrong with this, unless the people doing the calling are from an agency and don’t know all the ins and outs of what the charity is doing.

So, if you are doing text-to-donate campaigns and using an agency, ensure they know the key information, brief them on it and don’t expect them to have the time or possibly the inclination to search for the information themselves. Some key information I would suggest they know is what your campaign dates generally are, when you are holding a special event etc; I’ve seen first hand where an agency didn’t know that they were calling people on the annual appeal day – this, in my mind was a wasted opportunity; how many donors were lost because of this lack of information?

If you do text-to-donate campaigns, remember that this opens up another opportunity for you to stay in contact with your donors/supporters; you can quickly send a broadcast text to your database with an urgent call to action, or you can use texting to send brief updates about your campaign, about a planned event and more; but do respect that recipients have the right (and you the obligation) to be removed from your system. Don’t delay with removal requests, failure to do them in a timely manner could result in damage to your organisation by disgruntled supporters talking about you in a negative way on their social media platforms.

If you want to know others are saying about texting supporters etc, this article from Nonprofit Quarterly is well worth a read.

Are you adapting ?

Often seeing organisations doing the same thing day in day out to gain funding can be frustrating. especially when you know they could do better and more if they adapted their fundraising activities.

For instance; if you used to only communicate with donors through mail and change to email, have you taken into consideration how you will communicate with those who do not have, or don’t want to be contacted through, email?

Will you be prepared to split your database so those without email are updated on your activities, achievements through information supplied with receipts? Or, do you, will you be like others and “forget” about this group and suffer through a drop in donations?

It used to be that organizations would only be known by those it supports and, by those who supported it. Simply due to lack of resources, skills and money; now though any organization, no matter its size can with the right skills can communicate with anyone, anywhere and virtually at anytime.

If your organization hasn’t or isn’t looking to adapt you can’t expect to keep growing. It’s that simple.

There’s more “competition” for the charity dollar than there was 10, 5, even two years ago.

No that organizations and, individuals have the ability to set up online fundraising campaigns, those not doing so need to at the very least look at how these platforms can work for them. If they don’t they will run the serious risk of being left behind.

Online fundraising will only continue to grow, either through organizations making use of the various tools, or by individuals doing it themselves.

Can your organisation afford to be left behind?

If you don’t want to be left behind, what will you do to change?

Have you changed the way you give charitable donations, are you giving more directly, or are you giving to organizations who have a higher presence in your social channels?

See also:

Online Fundraising, Impact on Traditional Fundraising

Does Profile Matter?

What’s Happening – are You Watching?

Who holds the keys to change?

It’s not Horses for Courses

Donor communications, is it horses for courses? Does the same message, the same language work for all donors?

I’ve talked about donor communication before, but I’m still seeing and hearing from people about the quality, content and language being used in donor communications.

If you haven’t previously seen some of what I’ve said, here’s a few links that may be of interest:

Supporter Communications
Who’s Centre of Attention – You or Your Donor

Often regular donors only want to know that what they are doing is making a difference, whereas business donors want to see their return on investment; it’s much the same, but businesses may use more “business speak” to justify support.

General donors are typically happy to know they are making a difference, so talking to them about the successes they have helped you achieve may suffice. Businesses on the other hand may want to see this as investment versus return.

Do you split the information you share, are you using the same “speak” for each, what is the reaction?

Are you even monitoring and adapting based on the feedback from those receiving your updates?

If you are monitoring and adapting, if not, why not?

Stop the Emails

I’ve said before that an email doesn’t always cut it, and I stand by this, what some don’t understand is that an email at the wrong time, with the wrong message can have a truly negative response.

Not only could the acceptance, click through rate be low, but it could also result in lower giving by those who take “action”.

It is important to truly understand how your donors want to be communicated with.

For some, a personal phone call may be what works, for others an email may suffice, however, it’s important that you understand what works for who.

If you communicate with the one group in the wrong manner you could do more harm than good, you could alienate donors.

Ask donors how they like to be communicated with, acknowledge and respect; it could mean a make or break with a campaign.

See also

Email v Direct Mail

An email Doesn’t Always Cut It

Email, Direct or Social Media

Communication – Email Management

An email Doesn’t Always Cut It

Q: Are we relying too much on emails to communicate with our donors?

A: Yes

What I hear you say.

Simply put sometimes an email isn’t the best form of communication, yet many organisations are relying on email as a quick way to communicate, but often something is lost in translation and, true communication can be lost.

As a way to keep supporters aware of what your organisation has been doing, there’s quite often no better way, especially when cost is taken into account, but a personalised message can mean a lot more to your supporters than something that can be perceived as mass produced, something for the masses.

Every donor is different some are happy to receive no updates; others have higher expectations.

Some organisations have a rule that they make a personal call to donors who contribute above a certain amount, this is great, it can show to the donor that their support is appreciated.

Other organisations are quite content to stay with what they have been doing for years … post or email a receipt that gives some updates, but nothing that show that if it weren’t for Mrs Brown, they wouldn’t have been able to do what they have done.

By personalising messages, donor retention has more certainty, picking up the phone and calling the Mrs Browns who support will have the potential further grow support.

It’s a known fact in business that were there is personal interaction customers come back; it should be no different in the charity sector.

A recent post on 101Fundrasing had some great pointers from the “business world” that are easily adapted to the non-profit/charity sector.

“I am calling you, because …” 10 reasons to give your donor a call

Is well worth a read … perhaps you’ll see how you can better engage with donors and keep them as not only donors, but as advocates for your organisation.

How often are you communicating with your donors?

Do you have a communication strategy that shows when and how you communicate with supporters?

What have you learned from picking up the phone and speaking with supporters?