Is Text Messaging Included in Your Nonprofit’s Communications?

textmessageAs a nonprofit, you have multiple channels of communication for your constituents and your community. Your channels may include traditional newsletters, emails, social media, and even in person speaking engagements. But there’s one communication channel that is effective, widespread, yet underutilized – and it’s text messaging, and it’s as direct as you can get, aside from a face-to-face conversation. As a communication channel, how does text messaging differ, and how does it fit in?

Social Media and Newsletters

Social media communications work great when multiple people are sharing or discussing your message. It’s a place for group discussion or just chiming in. However, with social media, it’s easy for people to miss a post or several. Social media streams are filled with a lot of daily posts, and they may never scroll far enough, or may not get online at the right moment to see your post. Getting your community see a specific post in social media is hit-or-miss, so you should choose what you share in social media accordingly.

Emails and newsletters are still essential for conveying a lot of information. You will always need to keep people informed about all the activities and concerns going on in your nonprofit, and this is the perfect vehicle when you need to deliver a lot of details. But remember that humans are creatures of efficiency; when a large amount of information is presented, people will scan and pick and choose, consuming just the information most pertinent to them. Even a physical newsletter can be kept as a permanent reference when details need to be reviewed or recalled later. You can even hang it on your fridge.

If your newsletter is delivered by email, recognize that it has a lot of competition for your reader’s attention. Inboxes are never empty and your message could be missed altogether. Or it may be “skipped” or “saved for later” because the reader is already overwhelmed by his or her inbox. When you’re at a party, ever notice how the smallest hors-d’oeuvres are enjoyed first? People are better at committing to smaller things. And as far as email is concerned, we’ve been conditioned to think of emails as not being small and consumable chunks. (That’s why we never reach Inbox Zero!)

So, how does text messaging fit in?
Let’s first highlight the single biggest strength and weakness of text messaging:

Pro: A text message has a very high probability of actually being read, and read IMMEDIATELY.

Con: A text message must be short, 160 characters or less.

As you can see, these two characteristics are inseparable. People actually read text messages because they are so short. But because they do get read, that makes text messaging a powerful communication tool that should be in your marketing and communications toolbox. However, you need to consider how to best use them.

Leveraging the power of a text message

So how should you utilize text? One way is to think of texts as “actionable instructions.” What behavior do you want from your message recipients? Do you want greater attendance for an event? Do you need people to remember to bring something? Call a certain number? Or be at a particular location at a particular time? Rally interest for a local cause? Or just have everyone be on the same page?

It turns out that 160 characters is more than just room for a headline. It’s plenty of space to communicate a particular subject plus details like times, dates, phone numbers, or web links. Just tell people what you’d like them to do and give them enough information to take action. Here are a couple of simple examples:

text example

You probably can’t say everything you want in this small space. You must pare down your message to the essentials, or maybe you will refer people with a link to a place where they can get more detailed information. But in the end, people will actually appreciate getting a concrete, just-tell-me-what-to-do message. It makes their life easier when you highlight the essential information and what steps they need to take.

So, to recap, when text messaging is used in combination with your existing communication channels, text messaging can have a big impact on special event attendance, engagement with your nonprofit, and brand awareness.

Check out some interesting cell phone statistics from Pew Research below.


By Broc Seib, CEO, SendTree, LLC
SendTree LLC is a text message service provider with online tools that help organizations send text messages to large groups. Online at

The views and opinions of authors expressed on NCM Network’s website do not necessarily reflect those of NCM Network. It is the intention of NCM Network to provide users with information to better understand PR, communications, social media, philanthropy, and more.

Image Credit: patrisyu via

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