[GUEST POST] Hold the LOLs: Texting Etiquette for Your Nonprofit

Over the past few years, more nonprofits have begun using SMS or text messaging in their communications toolbox, and for good reasons. While constituents without stable housing may lack a mailing address or reliable internet access, a mobile phone is always available. Organizations that work internationally find that in many parts of the world, communication infrastructure went straight from “landline” to mobile data, leap-frogging over broadband internet. And of course, texting is the preferred communication channel of millennials and the “young people.”

But how do you send text messages that are authentic and make sense for that channel? Here are a few tips for how to engage with your audience via SMS.

1. Have a specific interaction in mind

Broadcasting information alone isn’t good enough. Texting begs for interaction. If you send a message, have a next step in mind. Maybe it’s to call a representative. Maybe you build a survey to help you learn about your constituents. You can even ask for money. Just don’t interrupt someone’s life without a reason.

2. Don’t be anonymous

People don’t like to be interrupted by some rando trying to reach them out of the blue, especially since so many marketing or scam messages come in this way. Let your audience know who’s texting them and why, otherwise you’ll look like spam.

3. Avoid text speak

OMG, P911, TTYL. Maybe that sentence is fine for a friend, but to the average person it’s nonsensical and looks unprofessional. Excessive abbreviations or “hip” lingo might come across as overly familiar or trying too hard. That can lead to a lot of “STOP” replies and a shrinking list.

4. Give people a chance to opt out

Texting can be a personal method of communication to many people, and people might not want to see your texts in their personal space. Give people the chance to opt-out of your text messages. If you’re using a short code, this is easy. If not, provide a link or create some way that recipients can communicate that they no longer wish to receive messages.

5. Text during regular hours

This is one important way texting is not like email. You can send an email anytime and it will wait quietly in an inbox somewhere, but a text demands immediate attention, so a message at 3 AM better be an emergency (or an AMAZING party).

6. Keep it short

Texts should be quick, direct, and to the point. The “glance factor” is what people like about texting. If you require them to read on and on, they won’t.

7. Let people know how often you plan to text

People stopped opening and responding to email after they started getting more promotions and newsletters than they could keep up with. Keep that in mind when you start texting. Before they opt in, your recipients should have a fair idea about how frequently they’ll receive messages.

Learn more

Need information on how your organization can get started with text messaging? Download Idealware’s new report, Text Messaging for Nonprofit Program Delivery, for free. You can also get tips on mobile fundraising from a recent Cathexis Partners blog post, Capitalizing on Mobile Fundraising: 4 Strategies for Nonprofits.

by Kyle Andrei, Senior Researcher, Idealware
As Senior Researcher, Kyle is responsible for researching software through demos, interviews, and surveys, and using that information to create Idealware’s reports and articles. In addition, Kyle also draws on his broadcast experience to produce Idealware’s Ask Idealware videos. Outside of Idealware, Kyle volunteers with the Maine League of Young Voters as chair of the Civic Guide Committee, providing nonpartisan guides to the civic process in Portland. Kyle is a graduate of Indiana State University, where he studied broadcasting, managed the student radio station, and volunteered on local election campaigns.

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