My colleague Sarah R Moore reminded our students at our recent session on Storytelling Through Social Media – "Remember when email grew to be essential  and many nonprofits wished they had been collecting email addresses all along? This is the same with mobile numbers and texting. Even if you're not texting yet, you want to start collecting mobile numbers now."

Now is the time for all nonprofits to have mobile and texting on their radar. Smart-phone sales have outstripped PC sales and the number of visitors accessing websites from mobile devices is growing every week. The first step is to start including them in communications and technology plans.

There are a variety of interactions people can have with a nonprofit via mobile devices. They can donate, be directed to a web page via QR code, or receive and share information via text.

For donating via text, donations are still limited to $5 or $10, though that is supposed to be changing in the not too distant future. Unless you have the media reach of the recent disasters in Haiti or Japan – or you have access to large numbers of potential donors at a concert or sporting event – this is likely not worth pursuing for most nonprofits. By developing a mobile version of your website that includes the ability to donate you can accept any level of gift, just as you can on your website – but it does require an investment in programming. It is also possible to develop applications (apps) for mobile devices, but there needs to be a clear strategy and reason behind it as this too requires resources to develop.

QRcodereaderYou've likely seen QR codes in advertisements or other print materials. You can scan the code with your smartphone and it will take you to a website where you can learn more about the person/product/service/etc. The Nonprofit Technology Network has used them on conference badges where the code is linked to attendees profiles. One student at a recent workshop shared that she scanned a QR code on a restaurant menu to get nutritional information and she got sent a coupon for use towards that meal! Unfortunately another student reported being called after scanning a QR code – not a good practice.

Texting is where most nonprofits can start without a large investment. Texting can take several forms, such as occasional text messages to alert folks about events or actions or sharing of information, i.e., texting "BANANA" to a certain code could send back the nutritional information.

Here are some basic DOs and DON'Ts:

1. Include TEXT in Communication Preferences

Have a communication preference field in your database. Your constituents should have a choice to communicate with you via postal mail, email, phone or text. Track that choice and communicate with them via their preferred channel.

Collect the information and then ignore it.

2. Start Collecting Mobile Numbers

Ask folks for their mobile number and if they would like to receive texts from you. Always indicate how they can STOP the texts (usually by texting STOP to a specific code).

Start texting without asking or without warning


3. Start Texting Intelligently

Start with something small and specific, like an event. You might consider sending a text for Save the Date, one for Registration Open, one for Last Day for Early Bird rate, and maybe one with a link to directions the day before. Or for a protest, maybe one announcing it and one with details.

Start randomly texting – have a purpose, measure activity, learn, try again.
Text registration reminders to folks who already registered – it's annoying and you look uncoordinated. 


4. Track Text & Mobile Activity

Ask folks you text how they like what you text, if they would like other information, if they prefer a different frequency of contact, etc. Use that information to craft future texts campaigns. Try again, track, learn, try again. Repeat.

Through your website analytics program, track how many folks are visiting your site via mobile. Dig down to see what pages most of them access, to get a clue about which pages to incude on a mobile site, which is usually much smaller and more text-based than your full website.

Put effort into mobile or texting without tracking impact.


Here are some resources for further reading:MobileMedia Toolkit, includes an "mDirectory" for tools and case studies. – tips on how to create, share and deliver media to mobile

Mobile: The Next Frontier of Fundraising – socialbrite

Five Best Apps To Send Group Text Messages On The Cheap – lifehacker



  Category: Nonprofit Technology, Nonprofit Web Presence, Social Media/Web 2.0, Web/Tech


  3 Comment

3 Responses to “Text and Mobile Basics for Nonprofits: Do’s and Don’ts”

  1. Non Profit Consulting Services

    Providing non profit consulting services on mobile devices not only helps in developing a warm relationship with the client but also helps in reaching the clients faster and understanding and serving their needs over time. It seems a great way to be in contact with the clients and serving them.


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