Text Messaging for Nonprofits: 42 Examples to Boost Engagement

Kevin D. Hendricks
Text Messaging for Nonprofits: 42 Examples to Boost Engagement

Text messaging is an incredibly effective way for nonprofits to connect with supporters. But what do you say?

Rally can help: We’ll explore 42 different examples of types of text messages your nonprofit can send.

Why read on: Sometimes it’s hard to get started, even scary. Changing your marketing strategy is a big step. We’ll show you how to reduce that fear factor and easily embrace text message marketing.

Why Text Messaging?

Short message service (SMS) text messaging has proven incredibly effective at breaking through the noise and connecting with people:

  • 98% open rate (compared to 25% for email, depending on the industry).
  • 48% response rate (compared to 2-4% for email, depending on the industry).
  • $135 average donation (compared to $45 for email; and we’ve seen much higher average donation amounts for texting).

With those numbers, it’s hard for your nonprofit marketing team to ignore SMS campaigns. Of all forms of communication, from direct mail to social media, texting campaigns deliver a powerful return on investment.

Nonprofit Text Messaging: Getting Started

OK, so SMS marketing works. How can my nonprofit organization get started? It’s easier than you think.

  1. Build a list: Use a custom keyword and short code combination to create an opt-in contact list. This can be as simple as “Text RALLY to 24365 to learn more.” You can also add an SMS text messaging checkbox to your contact forms and donation pages to capture donor info, get permission to text, and start adding to your customer relationship management (CRM) system.
  2. Start texting: Once you have a list, you’re ready to start texting.

Yes, it’s that easy.

But what do you actually say in an SMS message? The sky’s the limit. Let’s explore what nonprofit text messaging can look like.

42 Examples of Nonprofit Text Messaging

So yes, setting up SMS marketing is the easy part for any nonprofit organization. But what do you actually send? That’s where the fear factor comes in.

Remember how effective text messaging is? That’s because people carry their smartphones everywhere and we’re always using them. It’s a real-time way to connect. People signed up to hear from you because they care about your cause. They want to help. So show them how they can.

Here are 42 ways to connect with your supporters using text message marketing:

1. Mobile Giving

A fundraising campaign is the simplest way to start. You can use a text-to-give campaign to make it super easy for supporters to donate and help your nonprofit reach your fundraising goals. The donation process sends people to your website to make an online donation with their credit card right from their cell phone using your existing donation platform.

Try it: Text DONATE to 24365 to see an example of a mobile donation pitch via a text-to-donate campaign.

2. Interactive Fundraising Challenges

Take your fundraising event to the next level with a fundraising thermometer that can engage supporters. Make your fundraising strategy interactive. By showing a fundraising goal and creating friendly competition between donors, you can watch donations snowball.

Tip: Check out our fundraising thermometer to see it in action.

3. Urgent Funding Needs

When disaster strikes, text messaging is an instant way for nonprofits to raise support and help. It started after the Haiti earthquake with the Red Cross raising millions via text-2-give donations. Today’s technology allows for nonprofits to forge long-term connections and follow up with supporters while still quickly sharing that sense of urgency.

In action: “Donors react more when there’s a calamity or an emergency rather than the usual ask,” said Alma Magsombol with the ABS-CBN Foundation.

4. Fundraising Updates

Simply texting a follow up message to share how close you are to your goal can be an easy way to prompt more donations and boost your fundraising efforts.

In action: “We were raising money for our shoe die machines in Africa and we needed to raise $5,000,” said Darryl Carnley of My360Project. “Out of the three texts we did over a period of time we raised most of the money. And not from people who are normal givers.”

Fundraising update text message example from My360Project.

5. Give Options for Info

If your supporters have a lot of different questions—some want to learn more, some want to donate, some want to volunteer—you can use text messaging to connect and filter exactly what they need.

Try it: Text RALLY to 24365 to see an example of a branching text conversation that automatically gives answers and points people where they need to go.

6. Share the Basics

Texting can be an easy way to share the basics. Using just a QR code or a keyword/shortcode combination, someone can easily reach out and get basic answers automatically delivered via text message. It’s instant, easy, and automatic.

In action: “I was out at a pizza joint, sitting at the bar with a friend of mine,” said Carnley of My360Project. “This lady sees ‘My360Project’ on my shirt and asks about it. I said, ‘Hey, you want to know more? Text SHOES to 24365.’ About an hour later my phone buzzed. She had checked it out and donated $100.”

7. Recruit Volunteers

Boost your volunteer recruitment via text message. Share upcoming opportunities and engage potential volunteers. Share how their time and effort will make a difference and tell them how to sign up.

In action: It can be as easy as reaching out to a supporter who hasn’t responded in a while or a volunteer who hasn’t followed through. The HEADstrong Foundation sent a simple reminder to a volunteer and it worked: “Great reminder. Thank you. I’m going to register today.” 

8. Volunteer Appreciation

Nonprofits often run on volunteers, so it’s important to show your appreciation. Regularly send messages saying thanks. Acknowledge their hard work and dedication, reinforcing how important they are to your nonprofit organization’s work.

Example: Thanks so much for coming out this weekend to help with our polar plunge. We raised $50,000 to fight cancer, our biggest year ever. Your work made all the difference.

9. Tell Your Story!

Never overlook the power of storytelling for nonprofits. Share compelling stories and narratives about your nonprofit organization's mission, success stories, and the real impact of supporters' contributions.

Tip: What motivates you? It will likely motivate your supporters. “I get to interview the mom of the two-year-olds in the children’s hospital whose life was saved by some crazy treatment that they do at Robert Wood Johnson that they don’t do anywhere else,” said Stacy Buono at RWJBarnabas Health. “I’m hearing the stories of people in traumatic accidents who live to tell about it.”

10. Share Results

What impact is your nonprofit having? Share it directly and immediately with your supporters via text message. Talk about a feel good message people are likely to share with their friends.

In action: “One time we sent an image of a Shutterbug holding up a thermometer to show progress toward our goal,” said Breeana Gumpert of the Pablove Foundation. “That one was pretty well received because we got quite a few donations.”

11. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

You can increase engagement and connection by sharing pictures. They’ll bring your mission to life, especially when you focus on people and results.

In action: “Every time we send a text, we usually always put a graphic with it,” said Gumpert with the Pablove Foundation.

Text message from the Pablove Foundation with an image.

12. All the Video

From YouTube to TikTok, video is all the rage thanks to mobile devices that let us watch anywhere. You can send short videos directly in a text or link to an online video to make your message more in-depth and engaging. Make sure your video files meet the multimedia messaging service (MMS) guidelines. (You can also use GIFs and emojis!)

In action: RWJBarnabas Health used video to share a fun look at their new helipad and a state of the nation update from the CEO.

13. Educate Supporters

Share informative content related to your nonprofit's mission. Help your supporters better understand the work you do, why it’s important, and why they need to spread the word.

Example: Did you know homelessness increased 12% last year? This problem is only growing, which is why we’re so grateful for your support.

14. Exclusive Content

People love getting the inside story. Use text messaging to make it feel personal and exclusive. You can reward donors and supporters with exclusive content, such as behind-the-scenes updates or exclusive access.

Example: Here’s an exclusive update from our founder reflecting on the progress we’ve made since the beginning: [LINK]

15. Have Fun

Texting is very personal, so it works well to be personal and human. It doesn’t always have to be serious. You can tell a joke. You can use emojis to add levity.

In action: “Texting is usually a fun part of the day whenever it happens, because we can have a little bit more fun with it,” said Katelynn Howell with Special Olympics Virginia. “Whether it’s cold weather puns or silly responses. We find ourselves laughing when we are responding to texts. It’s a highlight.”

16. Sneak Peeks and Previews

Generate excitement by sending sneak peeks and previews of upcoming projects, events, or initiatives to build anticipation.

Example: We’re rolling out upcoming events next week, but here’s a sneak peek for our biggest supporters: [LINK/GRAPHIC]

17. Discounts or Offers

Everybody likes swag! Offer discounts or freebies through text messages, cementing that connection with supporters.

Example: Sign up for our Pints & Prairie fundraiser now and get your first drink on us: [sign up link]

18. Emergency Alerts

Urgent, timely information is best delivered in a medium where people check it instantly, not lost in an overflowing inbox or relegated to the spam folder. Text notifications are rarely ignored. Keep people informed with weather-related closures, cancellations, and more.

In action: The Salvation Army’s Kroc Center uses texting to send weather alerts, closures, and other updates.

Emergency alert text message example from the Kroc Center.

19. Mobilize People

Use texting to send immediate communication during emergencies, giving supporters critical information and clear instructions. This could be anything from basic updates in the immediate aftermath to a call to action to donate or volunteer.

Tip: Our People Mobilizer lays out a simple marketing strategy from building a list to sending text messages.

20. Instant Event Updates

How do you update people in the middle of an event, especially if they’re spread out? Email and social media aren’t going to cut it. But text messaging can reach them where they are thanks to mobile phones. Send instant updates about weather updates, changes in schedule/location, or important announcements to ensure attendees are well-informed.

In action: There are all kinds of event updates you can send. See how Special Olympics Virginia sends a series of texts for an event:

Series of Polar Plunge text messages from Special Olympics Virginia.

21. Event Reminders

Life is busy, and it’s easy to forget. People appreciate a simple reminder. Maximize attendance and make the most of your event by making sure people show up.

Example: Our St. Paul Classic bike ride kicks off at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow. Get a good night’s sleep and we’ll see you in the morning!

22. Event Details

Not only is it easy to forget, but it’s easy to misplace the details. What time does it start? Where do we park? What am I supposed to bring? A well-timed text message can ease that anxiety and make for a better event experience.

Example: Ready for today’s parade? Don’t forget—the parade starts at 10 a.m., but we need everyone lined up by 9:30. Not sure where to go? Here’s a map showing where to park and where to find our float: [MAP]

23. Virtual Event Interaction

In the era of virtual events, text messaging can be a way to boost participation. You can send reminders, create interaction with surveys and prompts, share real-time results, and more.

Example: Heads up—the online auction ends at 4 p.m., so make sure your bids are in.

24. Polls and Surveys

You can use text messaging to create more interaction and engagement. Conduct quick polls and surveys to gather feedback, understand supporter preferences, and involve your audience in the decision-making process.

Example: We’re deciding between two photos for our ad campaign. Which do you like best? Reply with 1 for the food shelf or 2 for the smiling family. [GRAPHIC WITH TWO PICTURES]

25. Membership Renewal Reminders

Nonprofits that rely on membership can use texting to automate personalized reminders about membership renewals. This can be a helpful way to boost member retention and lose fewer members to attrition.

Example: Hey [Name], it’s time to renew your membership again so you can continue to crush it in the weight room.

26. Credit Card Updates

Member-driven nonprofits that rely on recurring credit card charges have to deal with repeated credit card declines. Every month cards are lost, stolen, or updated, and that means a number of members have to update their cards. A text reminder to people with declined cards can help boost that retention rate.

In action: “I can send out a text message to those 20, 30, 40, however many people,” said Carolyn Carpenter with Salvation Army Quincy. “We can download that list and then plug it in and send it and usually within a few hours they have people saying, ‘Oh my goodness, I got a new card, here's the new information.’ We can actually keep members through that which saves us on the back end.”

27. Advocacy

Mobilize supporters for advocacy efforts by sending a call to action. Encourage them to contact legislators, attend events, or share information on social media.

Example: Help! Funding for food shelves is on the chopping block in Washington. Call your senator today at [phone number] and tell them how vital that money is for our community.

28. Prayer Requests

For faith-based nonprofits, it might make sense to have a text-based prayer request list. Since texting is so immediate, you can have people instantly praying for urgent needs.

In Action: Anchor Point sends out prayer requests to a list of more than 850 people and they get a minimum of 70 replies from people saying they’re praying.

29. Get Donor Data

Using automated, two-way text messaging you can ask subscribers for additional personal details, such as donor name, age, and more. This additional data can help you personalize your communication going forward.

Try it: Text PROMPTS to 24365 to see it in action.

Cell phone showing PROMPTS in action.

30. Target Messages

Once you get that donor data, it’s easy to segment your audience to boost effectiveness. You can tailor targeted text messages for specific causes or campaigns, addressing the unique interests and concerns of different segments of your supporter base. Whether you’re reaching new donors, potential donors, volunteers, or some other group, segmentation is key.

In action: Special Olympics Virginia segments their audience as much as possible so they can reach specific people, whether it’s participants for a specific event, nearby college students, high-dollar donors, etc. “So what’s cool is that we can see them go through that process and move from bucket to bucket and the messaging changes,” said Howell.

31. Happy Birthday!

Your nonprofit organization can personalize interactions by sending birthday wishes to supporters. Make use of that donor data and make them feel valued.

Tip: You can automate these messages to go out every year.

32. Holiday and Seasonal Greetings

Use text messaging to send holiday greetings and seasonal messages, creating a festive and warm connection with supporters. You could even use it for Giving Tuesday to bypass the inboxes overflowing with donation requests.

Example: This year we’re grateful that so many families can have a Thanksgiving thanks to your support. High five! We wish you and your family a joyous Thanksgiving.

New Year text message example from Anchor Point.

33. Text-Based Contests

Engage supporters with text-based contests, encouraging participation and providing an entertaining way to interact.

Tip: Ask questions. Offer up prizes for the first response or the best answer.

34. Replies

Bulk text messaging isn’t the only way to go. You can reply and have a conversation via text. Two-way texting is an ideal way to engage supporters and go beyond mass texting. Unlike some mass texting services, at Rally we offer peer-to-peer texting.

Tip: Keep replies from becoming overwhelming with filtering powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

35. Ask a Question

Emphasize the need for taking action by asking a question.

In action: “A big push for us this year was ending things with a question,” said Howell with Special Olympics Virginia.

36. QR Codes to Connect

Your nonprofit can use QR codes to build your list or for text-to-donate. It’s a streamlined way to connect with people at in-person events (think fliers, table tents, or business cards) or make that transition from print pitch to online engagement. Use texting to automate a response and welcome those new supporters to your cause.

In action: The Rock School of Dance Education converted their support from direct mail to digital: “On return envelopes we put ‘place a stamp here or text to donate.’”

37. Daily/Weekly Content

Nonprofits can forge an ongoing relationship with supporters by sharing consistent content. These daily or weekly updates could be an encouraging message, an inspiring quote, a Bible verse for faith-based organizations or churches, or more. Since these updates aren’t usually timely, you could create and schedule the entire year at once.

Tip: If your nonprofit organization has a lot of good photos, consider sending a weekly Friday photo.

38. Ringless Voicemail

A new way to connect with people is ringless voicemail. It’s a voicemail that shows up on someone’s cell phone without an interrupting ring. You can pair it with a text message to share a clear call to action or next step.

In action: Listen to five real world examples of ringless voicemails.

Text message from Special Olympics Virginia following a ringless voicemail: "Hey it's Emily, I just left you a message. I wanted to make sure you had my number in case there's anything that I can do to help you reach your goal!"

39. Email Marketing

You can supplement your email efforts with texting. Emails often get lost in the inbox, so a reminder and a teaser can be a helpful way to make sure they see that content.

In action: The HEADstrong Foundation texted a reminder about a detailed email that recently went out with a direct link to the email: “If somebody was really busy or maybe it got lost in the sauce in their inbox, they can catch that email and get it right on their phone,” said Jeff Baxter.

40. Integrated Strategy

Text messaging can be part of a larger marketing strategy to increase touchpoints and prompt action. Coordinate text messages with email, social media, direct mail, and more to increase the likelihood of response.

In action: “I think of retailers that I get texts from, if I see them on Instagram, and then I get a promotional email, and then I get a text, I'm much more likely to interact with them by that third touch point than if it just comes out of nowhere,” said Anna Davenport with Salvation Army Great Lakes.

41. Experiment

Sometimes you just have to try it and see what works. It’s OK to experiment.

In action: “Is it lame to put up a social media post asking people to sign up for text?” asked Alexxa Gagner with the Denver Rescue Mission. “I’m older, so I was asking the younger folk about that and they said, ‘Well, let’s try it.’”

42. Give Gratitude

Say thanks! Express gratitude to donors, volunteers, and supporters with personalized thank you text messages, fostering a sense of appreciation and recognition.

Tip: Our Thank You Time Machine can be an easy way to re-engage lapsed donors and say thank you.

Example of a text message saying thank you.

SMS Marketing for Nonprofits

Whew. OK, so there are a lot of ways you can use text messaging to share your cause and connect with donors, volunteers, and supporters.

With Rally, we’re here to help you get results:

  • Tools: We offer integrations with your preferred fundraising platform, CRM, donation form, and more. We also have pre-written text message templates for when you’re not sure what to say. Our functionality and workflows can boost donor engagement, encourage peer fundraising, increase recurring donations, and in general make your mobile fundraising more effective.
  • Support: We care about customer experience. We’ve got multiple options for help from FAQs to webinars. Plus, we’re happy to get on a phone call and talk through any issues. Read our case studies to see how nonprofits rave about our support and user-friendly system.
  • Not sure: If you’re still not sure, we’re happy to show you a demo, walk through strategy, and talk pricing options. We can also help you get your nonprofit leadership on board.

Get started: Check out a demo to learn more about Rally and start texting now.

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