Nonprofit Text Message (SMS) Campaign Best Practices

When your nonprofit has an important message, you can’t afford to have it ignored, missed, or deleted. That is where text message (or SMS) campaigns come in. Unlike email or direct mail, text message campaigns are the most effective way to share urgent messages with your audience. 

What are Nonprofit Text Message (SMS) Campaigns

SMS campaigns are mass communications you send to your audience via text message. There are many tools available for nonprofits to send mass text message campaigns. DonorSnap integrates with the SMS tool Twilio.

Once you follow the steps to sign up with Twilio, you can start sending SMS campaigns directly from our system. Twillio will provide you with a unique phone number. If a subscriber responds, the message will come back into DonorSnap and you can communicate directly from our system. 

Benefits of Using Text Message (SMS) For Nonprofits

Nonprofit SMS Open and Click-Through Rates are Higher Than Email

SMS makes a great addition to your nonprofit’s multichannel marketing strategy. Text messages have an open rate of 90%. For comparison, the average email open rate for nonprofits is 20.39%.  

You can also expect much higher click-through rates. SMS messages boast click-through rates of 6.3% for fundraising messages and 10% for advocacy messages. Email averages a click through rate of about 2.6% for nonprofits.

Nonprofit SMS Campaigns Save you Time

Setting up SMS campaigns is easy and fast. Once you are set up in DonorSnap it is as simple as building your mailing list, typing your message, and clicking send. While emails and direct mail pieces serve their own purpose in your fundraising strategy, they require design skills, extensive copy, and the ability to use certain programs.

Most people on your team should be able to set up an SMS campaign with ease and with little effort. You will need to put thought into your messaging and ensure it aligns with your goals. However, the process of building the campaign is quick and painless. 

Nonprofit SMS Campaigns Save you Money

In addition to saving time, text message campaigns are very affordable. Twilio.org has an Impact Access program that offers a $500 credit to nonprofits. 

Eligible organizations (registered 501(c)(3) organization or your domestic equivalent, or a B Corp or social enterprise committed to creating a positive social impact) will receive a $500 credit in their Twilio account. This value is equal to roughly 80,000 text messages. To get started visit https://twilio.org/application/ and follow the steps to create a twilio.com account and submit the necessary documents for your application.

Steps to Set up Successful SMS Campaigns for your Nonprofit

SMS text message best practices for nonprofits

Get Permission 

You may have a list of cell phone numbers in your database, but that doesn’t mean you can text them. First, you need to get permission to text your supporters. SMS is highly personal and effective, but you don’t want to abuse the privilege of having someone’s phone number. Make sure you have very clear opt-ins to your text message list. 

To do this, clearly outline what the person is signing up for when they opt-in to your text message list. If you are collecting phone numbers on your online or print forms, include a section with language like ABC Org uses text messaging for some of our communications, if you would like to receive text messages from us, please check here to be added to our list. 

What about supporters already in your database? You can run a campaign to collect permission with DonorSnap’s responsive forms. Let your audience know how you will be using SMS to communicate with them. Then provide them with a form where they can opt-in. From there, you can easily load the data into DonorSnap and watch your SMS list grow. 

Make it Easy to Opt-Out

Just like you want to establish a clear opt-in, make it easy for your users to opt-out. Clearly state this when you send a text message. With Twilio in DonorSnap users just need to text STOP to unsubscribe. Your users will not automatically know this, so you should include a line of text at the end of your messages that clearly states:  “To stop receiving messages from ABC Org, please reply STOP.”

When a contact unsubscribes, they will receive an automated message that reads: “You have successfully been unsubscribed. You will not receive any more messages from this number. Reply START to resubscribe.”

Segment your SMS Lists

Segmentation is a valuable practice in fundraising. With Text Message campaigns, you only want to be sending your most relevant and pressing pieces of information. However, what might be relevant to one person in your audience is not necessarily relevant to all of them. Therefore you need to segment your SMS lists.

You can easily build segmented SMS lists using DonorSnap’s DataMiner Platinum. Some examples of segmented lists most nonprofits might use are:

  • Major Donors
  • Volunteers
  • Lapsed Donors
  • Board Members
  • Recurring Donors
  • Advocacy Interest Group

Once you have determined your segments you can then plan thoughtful messages to each audience. These segments and your Text Message campaigns should all align with your overall fundraising and outreach goals. 

Speak in a Conversational Tone

Just like every communication element in your outreach strategy, SMS has its own unique considerations. Generally speaking, text messages are one of the more personal means of communication. 

To keep the tone conversational, tell the person who you are. Adding your name will make it feel more personal, the person may even know who you are. It can feel strange to receive a message without knowing who is on the other end, so this will help relax the conversation. 

Also, use their name! With merge fields in DonorSnap you can personalize your mass texts. This way, the message will feel like it was intended for the individual. 

Ask Questions to Spark a Dialogue

Text Messaging is a great way to send out system messages and alerts. These sorts of messages don’t warrant a response. But if your goal is to spark a conversation, include questions that can start a conversation. For example: “Hi Amy, thank you so much for attending last night’s fundraising event. I know you mentioned you were interested in volunteering. What areas of our organization interest you the most?” 

Make Sure Donation Forms are Mobile Friendly

If you are reaching out to users on their phones, you can only assume they are going to follow your links via mobile. Therefore, it is important to make sure the landing page on your website is responsive. Responsive means that your webpage or online form will display just as well on a mobile device as it does on your desktop.

Luckily all of DonorSnap’s online forms are responsive. So if you are running a fundraising campaign via SMS and directing supporters to your donation page, you can ensure it will display properly. Also, DonorSnap has built-in short links that will help keep your texts short and sweet! 


Text messages or SMS campaigns are an effective way to reach your supporters. Nonprofits should take advantage of the immediacy of text messaging and use it to share their most important messages. 

SMS tools like Twilio will provide nonprofits with a phone number they can text from. DonorSnap integrates with Twilio and DonorsSnap users can run SMS campaigns directly out of DonorSnap.

To learn more about sending text messages through DonorSnap visit: https://donorsnap.com/support/docs/text-messaging-campaigns-training-webinar/


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