Using SMS Text Marketing for Your Association or Nonprofit

SMS stands for “short message service,” most commonly referred to as “text messaging.” Are you using text messaging to promote your association, stay engaged with members, fundraise and more? SMS messages are a fantastic marketing tool and if you aren’t using them yet, it’s time to get on board, especially if you are trying to appeal to and attract a younger demographic.


Why text messaging?

Everyone’s email inboxes are overflowing, but texting from businesses and organizations is used much less frequently and therefore gets more attention and a better response. 90% of text messages are read within 3 minutes! Now that’s an effective way to ensure that your message gets noticed.

SMS marketing grew rapidly over the pandemic and it doesn’t look like it is going anywhere. Texting allows you to communicate with your constituents in real time and get quick results without much effort on your part. No wonder so many businesses have jumped on the SMS bandwagon.


Ideas for how to use text messaging to grow your organization:

Send a welcome message to new members or volunteers. Use it to invite them to join an email list or Facebook group, attend an upcoming event and more. Sending a text as soon as someone new joins or expresses interest sets the precedent that your organization is one that is up-to-date, responsive and will be using modern communication tools.

It’s perfect for last-minute appeals. Send reminders that your annual meeting is today or put out a call for volunteers if you have a sudden need. If you need a message to be seen and responded to NOW, email is not the way to go. Texting is timely.

Use it for donation drives. If you are having a big fundraiser, providing interested parties with a quick, easy way to make a donation via text can reap big dividends. If your organization and fundraiser is big enough, you can even invest in a dedicated shortcode so that people can simply text the word HUNGERFUND or whatever you choose, and then they will be prompted to donate. These types of campaigns tend to get small donations, but lots of them, so it can be quite effective.

Use it to sell merch. Got a new t-shirt design to show off? SMS messaging doesn’t have to be text only, you can send images too.

Send a Happy Birthday message. Show members that you remember them on their special day by sending a Happy Birthday message. (Don’t try to sell them anything in these types of texts, just make it about them.)

Send reminders when it is time to renew membership. Text reminders of important events or membership expiration are actually quite helpful and most people will welcome the reminder rather than consider it an intrusion.


How to craft great messages that work:

Be concise. Most text messages are limited to 160 characters, so you need to craft messages that get your point across succinctly.

Remember to identify yourself! The recipient isn’t going to automatically remember your number, so be sure to start off with something like, “Hello David, this is the American Booksellers Association.”

Include a Call-To-Action. Texts are most effective when they include a next step to get the reader to donate, renew their membership, register for an event and so on.

Use their name. Inserting the recipient’s first name is always good practice and any reputable texting service should allow you to incorporate names.

Don’t overuse it! Texting should be for only your most important and/or time-sensitive communications. Bombarding people with texts will only ensure that more and more people opt out or even leave your organization out of frustration.


Important Communication and Privacy Rules:

By law, you must have permission to text people. Be sure to include some verbiage in your signup forms that says that the user is giving permission for you to text message them at that number.

Texts also need to include a way to opt out, usually by the user texting STOP or clicking an unsubscribe link. Learn more about the legalities of texting customers here.


Sign up for an SMS texting service.

If you will be texting more than a few people at a time, you will want to partner with a professional SMS texting service that will make the process very easy and can help you understand and stay compliant with all privacy laws. This type of service will help you automate and schedule your texts and track the results. They also have packages to fit any size account, from a few dozen contacts to thousands. Zapier has compiled a list of 6 of the best and most popular texting apps that will make your text marketing easy and effective.


Happy texting!