SMS Campaigns for Nonprofits: Why They Rock!

How do nonprofits successfully garner the support of their community? They do so through effective communication. SMS or mass text message campaigns are one of the most effective channels of communication for nonprofits. SMS campaigns see the highest open and click through rates, the fastest response rates and are the preferred method of communication for most individuals. Many SMS campaign tools like Twilio integrate with nonprofit CRMs. This allows you to communicate with your audience via text message, through your CRM system. For these reasons, SMS campaigns are growing in popularity among nonprofit organizations. 

What are SMS Campaigns?

SMS campaigns are similar to mass emails in which you send a mass message to your subscribers. In this case, the message comes through via mobile phone as a normal text message would. A dedicated SMS tool will provide a phone number for your organization to use for these campaigns. And if a subscriber responds to your campaign, the message will come back into your system. 

SMS text message graphic

Why Should Nonprofits Use Text Messaging?

Nonprofit organizations should use text messaging for a number of reasons. With higher response, open, and click through rates, SMS campaigns are highly effective. They are also cost effective and a more personal way to connect with your donors.

Text Message (SMS) Campaigns Get a Fast Response

Often, your nonprofit will have an important message that needs an immediate response. Perhaps you need your supporters to take action on an urgent matter. Or you want to know you can count on them for their support in the coming days. Unfortunately, many important messages from nonprofits get lost in the shuffle. When you need an immediate response from your supporters, text messaging is your best option. According to research, it usually takes 90 seconds to get a response to a text, versus 90 minutes by email.

Text Message Campaigns are More Personal 

Email inboxes are flooded with promotional emails and impersonal messages. Text messages are more personal conversations. When a text message comes through our phone, it’s easier to assume a real person is on the other end.

According to research, 60% of donors value a personalized experience when interacting with nonprofits, but only 44% are satisfied with the level of personalization they currently receive. When running your SMS campaigns, make sure your message is relevant and specific to the person you are messaging. Pro Tip: You can use merge fields in DonorSnap to include their first name at the start of the text.

Text Message Campaigns Have High Open Rates

If you have a compelling message that will promote action, you want as many of your supporters to see it as possible. When you use text messages to communicate with your supporters, you can expect a 90% open rate. But just because SMS campaigns have high open rates doesn’t mean they should be your go-to communication method. Make sure you don’t abuse your text messaging privileges. Only send your most relevant and urgent messages via SMS. This allows you to reach your audience fast when you absolutely need to without risking an unsubscribe. 

Text Message Campaigns are Cost Effective

Although an SMS platform will require a subscription, text message campaigns are quite cost effective, especially in comparison to direct mail. Some platforms offer discounted pricing for nonprofit organizations. Pricing at Twilio runs about a penny per text, but with a special signup bonus, most nonprofits can enjoy free texting for months. 

Text Message Campaigns Are Easy to Set Up

Unlike email or direct mail campaigns, text message campaigns only consist of short text messages. Therefore, they require less time and effort to create. Although you need to be thoughtful about your messages, you don’t need to take the time to create a visual design and worry about fussy formatting. 

Did you know you can text enable your existing landline? This way you can easily use your existing phone number and quickly add the ability to receive and send text messages directly from it. With services like DialMyCalls it’s inexpensive and doesn’t interrupt your existing service provider.

Mobile is Here to Stay

More and more nonprofits are catching on to the benefits of text messaging. While it’s currently a way to stand out from the crowd, soon most organizations will be running some sort of SMS campaign. According to MR Benchmarks, nonprofit mobile audiences grew by 26% in 2020, compared to a 3% average increase in email list size. In addition, mobile message click-through rates were 6.3% for fundraising messages and 10% for advocacy messages. Comparatively, the average click through rate on email campaigns for nonprofits is 2.6%. With the increased usage, more and more nonprofits should take advantage of text messaging. 

Best Practices for SMS Fundraising Campaigns

Now that we know the benefits of using SMS, let’s take a look at some best practices that will get the best results when fundraising. Because text messages are more personal than emails, it’s important to be strategic about the messages you send. The following best practices will ensure you are set up for success when fundraising via text message. 

Segment Your SMS Lists

Segmentation is a powerful tool in fundraising. Text messages are a great way to engage with your supporters in a personal way, but every message you send out via SMS may not be relevant to your whole audience. That’s why it’s essential to segment your text message lists.

To start segmenting your lists, think about what kind of urgent messages your nonprofit will send out. Then build customized lists of people who will be most responsive to those messages. You can segment your mailing lists by offering multiple opt-ins and use that as a starting point. These opt-ins may look something like: advocacy notices, volunteer opportunities, event registrations, and so on. 

Craft a Powerful and Persuasive Call to Action

When using SMS for fundraising, less is always more. But one thing that should not be missing from an SMS message is a call to action. If you are sending a text message campaign, your goal is for your subscribers to take some sort of action. If it is to make a donation, highlight that clearly in the text with a link to your donation page.

According to Capital Business Solutions there are a number of things you can do to craft a powerful call to action. First, decide what action you want your supporters to take. Next, use strong verbs and comments like “act now!” And last, create a sense of urgency and inject emotion. It is also helpful to make your call to actions very specific. Donors tend to be more responsive when you are specific about how their donation will make a difference. Take time to think about an individual’s impact and work that into the call to action. 

Ensure Your Website and Donation Forms are Responsive

If your SMS campaign’s goal is to drive action on your website, when your supporters land there, everything should look good from their phone. This is why it is important to have a responsive website and donation forms. Responsive means that the webpage will adjust to display properly on a number of different devices such as smartphones and tablets. Nonprofit CRMs like DonorSnap provide responsive forms to collect online donations, event registrations, and more. All forms are designed to be responsive, so any form you link to an SMS campaign will display properly on a smartphone, tablet or desktop. 

Clever Ways to Use SMS Campaigns: Fundraising and Beyond

When it comes to SMS campaigns, try to think outside the box. While fundraising is an obvious goal, text message campaigns can also do more for your cause. Here are some clever and useful ways your nonprofit can use SMS.


SMS can be a great addition to your multichannel fundraising strategy. Think last-minute reminders at the end of your campaign with a link to your responsive giving page. Note that this is an example of the importance of segmenting your lists. In this instance, you would only text those who had not donated during the current giving period. 

Event Ticket Sales

Text messages can help boost event ticket sales for your organization. Let your supporters know when tickets go on sale for an event and create a sense of urgency. Your message could read: Get your tickets to our fundraising event before they sell out! Then include a link to your online form to purchase tickets. 

Advocacy: Take Urgent Action/Sign Petition

Because text messages get a fast response rate, sharing details on advocacy are best done through text messages. Depending on your industry, there may be a petition that needs to be signed, an urgent matter that is being voted on, or an event happening in your area. Save these urgent messages for texting and get a fast response rate that drives more action for your cause. 

Solicit Feedback Through Surveys

Like any business or industry, hearing from your supporters will help you improve your relationships with them. If you create a quick survey, send it as a short link on a text message. Users will be more likely to answer a few questions on their phone because it is easily accessible and can be done from anywhere. 

Say Thanks After an Event

As mentioned, donors crave more personalized experiences. Text messaging is a great way to follow up with supporters after an event. This can help keep you at the top of their mind and show that you valued their presence. Keep it conversational and try to spark a dialogue by asking about their experience at the event. 

Last-Minute Reminders or Changes

Because text messages have such a high open rate, last-minute updates can be relayed effectively via SMS. If an event was cancelled due to bad weather, a polling location changed, or a volunteer meeting was postponed, send those updates via text message. After all, SMS is one of the quickest ways to reach your audience.

Final Thoughts

SMS or text message campaigns are an effective way for nonprofits to communicate. Nonprofits should use SMS campaigns to see higher open and click through rates and get a speedy response. When it comes to fundraising with SMS, nonprofits also should segment their mailing lists, craft a powerful call to action, and ensure their online forms and websites are responsive. Beyond fundraising, nonprofits can use SMS for event ticket sales, advocacy, surveys, appreciation, and important reminders. 

Not sure where to start? There are a number of tools available on the market where nonprofits can run SMS campaigns directly from their CRMs. Because of the convenience and the benefits, text message campaigns for nonprofits will only continue to grow in popularity.


*This spotlighted blog post is courtesy of DonorSnap

Woman in red jacket texting on cell phone

Kelly Anderson

Kelly Anderson is the Digital Marketing Manager at DonorSnap. DonorSnap provides an affordable CRM solution for nonprofits. Kelly has 8 years of experience working in both digital marketing and nonprofit development. She has worked in the arts, higher education, and land conservation and loves helping nonprofits leverage digital tools to help carry out their missions.

January 6, 2022

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