Adventures In Texting

A few months ago, I attended the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference and wrote a post about how several sessions discussed SMS marketing, or texting your constituents. I came back from the conference fresh and excited about the possibilities, and started a small texting campaign at my nonprofit around one of our upcoming annual events. Since I originally wrote about the hypotheticals of texting your constituents, I thought I should write a follow-up post on what we’ve learned so far (and so that you can learn from my mistakes!).

The Basics

First thing’s first – add yourself to the seed list so you can see the user experience, and catch any mistakes you might make, like a link that isn’t clickable (more on that later).



Similar to email campaigns, there are certain laws about letting people know that they can unsubscribe. When a new subscriber signs up, your “Welcome/Thank You For Signing Up” text should include the full phrase: Reply STOP to quit, HELP for info. Msg&DataRatesMayApply. Once you’ve started texting them normally, you don’t need to include that information in every single text broadcast that you send out, but you have to include it in at least one text per month, so the subscribers are reminded of how they can opt-out or unsubscribe if they so desire.


Each text is limited to 160 characters, so if you want to include a link in your text message you’re going to need to shorten the URL. In my very first text I realized this and went to my link shortening go to – Bitly. Later I realized that while Bitly got the job done, I then had to go to to look at the results. Apparently, most mobile texting vendors have their own way of shortening URLs, which allow you to not only shorten your link but also allow you to track everything in one place! For all of our recent texts, we’ve been using Mobile Commons’ link shortening tool (you basically put your link inside two squiggly brackets: {{insertlinkhere}}). Also, don’t put a period directly after your link - it removes the hyperlink, making the link un-clickable in the actual sent text.


Speaking of punctuation, when you text your constituents think about how you use punctuation in your normal (non-marketing related) texts. Punctuation in text messages usually denotes your tone, so the goal is to walk the fine line between sounding professional versus old and out of touch. Don’t use emoticons or multiple ??? or !!!, but on the other hand be careful with your use of excessive periods. (And please, just don’t use semi-colons. This is a text, not your thesis.) 

Our Results

Now to the main event – how did our texting campaign perform? As I mentioned above, the conference sessions mentioned that texting campaigns are good for events, so for our first campaign we decided to promote one of our upcoming annual events. Our main goal was engagement — people would text in to sign up for updates about our event, tips, and reminders. 

  • As a part of our opt-in path (the texts people receive when they first sign up), we asked subscribers to give us their email address and zip code so that they can start receiving email updates as well. Over 50% of our subscribers texted back their email – great lead acquisition for our email marketers!
  • We sent out nine text broadcasts over a two-month period leading up to the event, getting more frequent as the event drew nearer. On average, our click-through-rate was over 25%!
  • We tried an engagement ask in one text broadcast and asked people to share their favorite part of our event, but we got no responses. I recently read that making the text more personal helps boost responses, so we’ll probably try that next time (Hi, it’s Lauren at NWF. What was your favorite part of our event? Check out our top ten list: {{link}}).

Overall, we’re happy with the performance of our text campaign and how much we’ve learned. We will definitely look forward to expanding our SMS marketing efforts in the future.

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