Sending out a broadcast text to supporters, asking them to contribute to a new initiative might seem tempting. You could reach all the people in your contact list at once, and you wouldn’t need to worry about finding volunteers. The same goes for emails and social media updates.
But consider this –
Having a dialogue, rather than broadcasting a generic message makes all the difference in forming a relationship with supporters.
A relationship builds loyalty, and loyalty inspires action—in the form of donations and participation. Not only do you want people to read your messages, but you also want supporters to do something because of them.
And personalized communication is the key to building relationships.
Your supporters expect a real person on the other side of the screen, who values and understands their expectations from your organization.
That’s not to say mass texting doesn’t have its place in your communication strategy—when you want to broadcast a message that is purely informational, and you don’t expect supporters to reply or take action, at least not right away.
Communication en masse has its limitations
An automated message doesn’t leave much room for an engaging, personal conversation, which when considering the potential of text messaging, is a shame. The only plausible personalization is addressing the receiver by their name in your broadcast text.
In addition, it’s a chore to handle replies to mass texts if the software you are using is not built for that.
But if you have a limited staff and a huge list of people to contact, mass communication might seem the only option.
What’s the alternative?
Enter peer to peer texting (or collective texting).
Peer to peer texting lets your volunteers or staff participate in communicating with your supporters in one-on-one conversations.
Text messaging software providers that offer peer to peer texting services can assign contacts from your contact list to your volunteers automatically, letting them hold conversations with your supporters with the help of SMS templates. Volunteers can assign tags to segment each supporter based on their replies.
Another aspect of peer to peer texting, if you are so inclined, is that the people you text don’t require opting in to receive your messages—with each text being sent manually by volunteers and from a regular 10-digit phone number. But all things considered, you are probably going to get better responses from people that are already familiar with your cause.
Personalization trumps bulk texting
“55 percent of nonprofit donors would give or volunteer more in exchange for a more personalized experience”
The ability of texting to enable your organization and your supporters to connect on a personal level, cannot be understated.
Having one-on-one conversations is invaluable in building real relationships with your supporters, and that’s what peer to peer texting allows you to do with the help of volunteers.
And there lies the primary hurdle for nonprofits looking to use peer to peer texting:
You need the help of staff or volunteers
Scalability is the most obvious drawback of peer to peer texting.
There’s no limit to how many texts you can send out en masse, but if you want to have personal conversations with each of your supporters, that means you need a combination of people and time.
The advantage of using software to run a peer to peer texting campaign is that your volunteers can access all their conversations in one place, letting them start more than 2000 conversations in an hour. That’s still a significant number to begin with even with a very limited pool of helpers.
Best practices to follow
Avoiding sending cookie-cutter messages doesn’t mean you have to wing it. These peer to peer messaging best practices will help you get the most out of your campaigns:
Finding the best tone for your messages.
There is absolutely no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a tone for your text conversations. Most nonprofits will find that a friendlier, personable approach is more effective. For an urgent cause, a tone that matches that urgency will spur your supporters to action.
A simple solution is to initially segment your contact list into smaller test groups. This allows you to run campaigns with contrasting tones. Determine the most effective tone based on your responses and use that for the rest of your conversations.
Personalizing your initial message
Most people subconsciously ask themselves the following questions when they get a text message:
- Is it for me?
- Who is it from?
- Is it worth my time?
Making sure your first text provides answers to these questions is vital to starting your conversation off on the right foot.
Using templates to maintain context with replies
Most peer to peer texting software gives you the option of creating text message templates for your volunteers to fall back to when they need to send out more repetitive or wordy replies. This makes it easier for your volunteers to manage multiple conversations at the same time, and maintain a consistent tone no matter who is taking care of the conversation.
Where else can you use peer to peer texting?
The usefulness of peer to peer texting isn’t limited to just fundraising. Whenever you need your supporters to take some sort of action, a conversation is more likely to work than a one-off text message.
- Organizing an event, for example, you can use peer to peer texting to recruit volunteers for the event and keep them up to date on the venue, timings, and their responsibilities.
- Gathering feedback from supporters through a text conversation.
- Thanking donors, while not something that needs your donors to take action, means a lot more when it comes from a real person than an automated thank you message or email.
So there you have it,
Mass texts are great if:
- You want to send an informational message to the supporters in your contact list.
- You don’t need or expect replies or action from the people you send them to.
- You don’t have the capacity to run a peer to peer campaign.
You are better off with peer to peer texting if:
- You want to give supporters the opportunity to engage with your organization in a way that’s personal.
- You want to have a better shot at convincing supporters to take action.
- Volunteers are no barrier for your organization.
If you think peer to peer texting could work for you, read this guide on getting started.
Guest Author: Mukundan Sivaraj
Mukundan is a writer at CallHub, an outreach platform that connects nonprofits with their supporters through voice and text messages. Mukundan’s focus on nonprofit technology and communication helps him show organizations big and small, how technology can help elevate their cause.