We talk to a lot of nonprofits and pitch text messaging. And we hear a lot of reasons why texting is not for them. We get it. Any new strategy requires focused investment, and some nonprofit organizations just aren’t ready for that. But some of these reasons are just excuses. Let’s dive into some of the rationale that might be holding your nonprofit back from what can be an incredibly effective messaging platform.
A Word About Excuses
Every nonprofit organization is different. You’re all going to have your own challenges, your own strengths and weaknesses, your own foibles.
Text messaging isn’t for every nonprofit.
But we strongly believe it can be incredibly effective. We’ve seen it be a game changer. If we didn’t believe in it, we’d go do something else.
We’re not dredging up these excuses to belittle anyone. These are honest reasons we hear from real nonprofits. Rather than ridicule anyone, our goal is to talk through some of these roadblocks and see how texting can work for your nonprofit.
10 Reasons for Not Rolling Out Text Messaging
Here are some of the common excuses that keep nonprofits from texting.
1. Scared to Text and Lose Donors
A frequent issue we hear is that nonprofits are afraid to text their supporters. They worry about turning people off, losing donors, or burning through their contact list.
Those are all valid concerns. But they’re also rooted in poor approaches to texting. Yes, if you spam your donors or send irrelevant messages then people will unsubscribe.
That’s why we’re always preaching best practices. We’re always educating our customers to help them understand how to be successful at texting.
Here’s the bottomline: What good is your nonprofit’s list if you never use it?
Yeah, it can be nerve wracking to send that first text (we felt that fear when we rolled out a new functionality). But if you’re following best practices and offering value, you’re going to come out ahead.
The alternative is to sit on that list and not contact your donors. Frankly, you’re just as likely to lose them that way as your list becomes old, stale, and useless.
Your donor list is only valuable if you use it.
2. It’s Too Expensive, We Need to Cut Costs
Money is scarce. We get it. Nonprofits are notoriously under-resourced with limited budgets. There’s a reason nonprofits like free tools.
Unfortunately, that kind of attitude can become short sighted. When it’s all about doing things as cheaply as possible and cutting costs, then nonprofits start to suffer. They don’t invest in the future. They try to protect what they have instead of grow, and the result is frequently losing even what you have.
Texting requires investment. There is a cost. But that’s OK, because the return on investment can be huge. Instead of always focusing on cost cutting, nonprofits need to see the value of bringing in new revenue.
Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. That’s a business mindset, but it works for nonprofits too.
3. Don’t Know Where to Start or What to Do
So many nonprofits don’t even know where to start. They have no idea what to do. Maybe mobile is new to them and they’re just not up to speed on best practices. Or maybe they’re a volunteer that hasn’t been trained. Or maybe they’re just too busy.
We understand. Nonprofit marketers are so overwhelmed. The idea of yet another channel can be a bit much.
That’s why we try to make getting started with Rally as easy as possible. We help with onboarding and we have free online training. Got questions? We’ve got office hours.
Don’t let a lack of knowledge or fear of how to get started stop you from launching SMS for your nonprofit.
4. Used to Turning Fundraising on and Off
The annual fundraising event is a standard nonprofit funding mechanism. Once a year they raise money, and the fundraising goes on and off like a light switch. It might not even be an event, but a general strategy that they only fundraise at a set time.
That’s an opportunity lost. Donors are ready to open their wallets all year long, so you should be fundraising all the time.
There’s nothing wrong with having a specific fundraising push for a set time. The public radio member drive is a tried and true approach. But don’t turn the fundraising off the rest of the year (public radio certainly doesn’t!).
You should always be fundraising. That always needs to be an easy-to-find option for potential donors. You have to keep making the ask. You might tone it down. You might do it less frequently. But you still need to follow up.
When you continually make the ask, supporters become familiar with the idea that this effort costs money. They start to internalize that somebody is donating, and eventually they’ll start to wonder why it’s not them.
The Rally platform even gives you ways to automatically schedule fundraising requests, so you can keep making the ask without interrupting your work.
5. Want a Quick Fix
A lot of nonprofits—and businesses too—are looking for a quick fix. They’re only going to try something a few times before quitting and moving on to the next thing.
Hear that notification chime? Looking for a quick fix is problematic for any marketing strategy.
If you’re going to find success with texting or anything else, you need to commit to it. You need a long-term strategy that allows you to transition from what you’re currently doing, warm up your list, start using it, make adjustments as you go, and get good at it. That all takes time.
We get it—you’ve got limited resources and you need a win today. And we’ll do everything we can to streamline the process and help you get those wins quickly. We can help with on boarding and we’ve got pre-written text message templates. But it’s still going to take some time.
6. Focused on Social Media
Social media is where it’s at these days. GIFs, video, and multimedia galore. There’s no shortage of viral success stories. It’s no wonder many nonprofits are focused on social media instead of texting.
But that can be a mistake.
All it takes is one algorithm change and your thriving social media channel is nothing but crickets. That’s one of the dangers of investing in a platform you don’t own.
Text messaging, on the other hand, is a channel where you own the contact list. You’re building an audience and you can’t be held hostage by the whims of Meta, Google, Apple, or anyone else.
Don’t get us wrong—there’s a place for social media. You need a channel where people can discover you. Social media is great for that and you shouldn’t ignore it.
But you have to find the right balance. Investing in an owned channel like SMS can give your marketing strategy the right balance.
7. Don’t Understand Compliance
The laws and regulations surrounding texting can be daunting. With million dollar fines in real time, nonprofits are wise to think twice about legal issues. You can’t just spam phone numbers.
That’s why Rally is here to help. We get that legal compliance for texting can be overwhelming. That’s why we built the Rally platform with compliance included. We’re here to help your organization stay within the legal guardrails, whether that’s through opt-in sign ups, confirmation messages, or required information.
8. Stakeholders Are Not on Board
A typical texting challenge for nonprofit marketers is that their leadership is not on board. You have an eager marketing or communication team ready to roll it out, but stakeholders aren’t sure about it.
This is fair. Rolling out SMS marketing is an investment, and your nonprofit has to be fully committed. If you go in halfway, you’re going to fail. You have to hit the mark.
So how do you get your board on board?
- Point to all the stats touting the effectiveness of texting.
- Show them how SMS works for other nonprofits. Sometimes it helps to see examples of how nonprofits actually text.
- Put together a solid plan to make the case that this is a well-thought-out strategy with a solid return on investment, not chasing the latest marketing fad. We even have a template for a letter you can send to your board.
- If you’ve tried all that and you still can’t get your leadership on board, let’s talk. Seriously, let’s get on a voice call. Sometimes a stakeholder to stakeholder conversation is what’s needed.
9. Texts Are Seen as Marketing Blasts
Some people have the perception of bulk texting as a marketing blast that goes to thousands or even millions of people. They’ve received one of these text message marketing blasts and were instantly turned off.
Couldn’t agree more. That’s mass texting gone wrong.
Texting needs to be personal. You need to have targeted lists and send custom messages to specific supporters. You can even do two-way texting or drop a ringless voicemail and get a phone call back. That kind of targeted marketing can be incredibly effective.
That’s how we encourage nonprofits to use the Rally platform. You need to get permission, you need to warm up your list, you need to segment your audience, and you need to send tailored messages.
When you approach it that way it’s not an impersonal blast that nobody wants, it’s a personalized message your supporters are grateful to receive.
10. Texting Is Seen as Optional
A lot of nonprofit organizations dismiss SMS marketing as an optional channel. They’re busy juggling a million other things. We get it.
The problem is they’re missing out on an opportunity.
Texting probably is optional these days. Not a lot of nonprofits text. You likely won’t have supporters chastising you for not texting.
But that kind of thinking is just going with the flow and doing what everybody else does. That’s not a good way to stand out from the crowd. It’s coasting. It’s relying on a landline when there’s a shift to mobile apps, whatsapp, or whatever else is next.
If you want to innovate, you have to try something new and different. You have to explore a different marketing campaign and break new ground.
This is where a lot of nonprofits see risk. But there’s also opportunity. You can be one of the early adopters who get this right and reap the reward. [Insert cheering emoji.]
Reasons for Nonprofits to Text
So there are 10 reasons why nonprofits don’t use SMS text messaging. Sometimes it’s fear, sometimes it’s misunderstanding, sometimes it’s other priorities.
But how about one big reason your nonprofit should start texting? Text messaging is an opportunity for your nonprofit.
It’s a chance to innovate. It’s an incredibly personal and effective means of communication.
And it works. You can’t argue with the data.
Learn more about how Rally can help your nonprofit do texting right by booking a demo today. We’ve got workflows, FAQs, and more to improve your customer experience. We can talk pricing, integrating with your CRM, setting up a short code, and how to use our text messaging service. We’re here to help.