How to Use Text-to-Engage to Increase Donor Engagement During a Crisis

How to Use Text-to-Engage to Increase Donor Engagement During a Crisis

Turns out, slow and steady still wins the race. Relative to donor engagement during a pandemic, that is. This fundraising strategy might surprise you!

Donor retention was already a challenge. For more than a decade, the average U.S. nonprofit has lost well over half its donor base each year due to a lack of connection. Add in the complexity of a global health pandemic? Donor engagement can feel downright impossible.

Interestingly, I see a trend of nonprofits hardly sleeping to secure new donors through this pandemic. Donor acquisition isn’t impossible right now, but it is complicated by limited staff and resources, especially for non-relief aid charities and small organizations.

However, we know that investing the majority of time and money on donor retention is the wiser investment. So, what is your nonprofit doing to engage donors through this crisis? Have you considered texting them?

The Power of Text Messaging to Engage Donors

Text messages have a 98 percent open rate within 90 seconds. (Yes, you read that right.) Compare that to 22 percent in 90-minutes for email – if it didn’t go to the spam folder – and just 1-2 percent for social media and physical mail. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, email and social open rates have plummeted even further due to an oversaturation of messaging about how organizations can help. Believe it or not, text is also one of the most inexpensive ways to communicate with your donors. 

So why aren’t more nonprofits utilizing texting as a valid mobile method of communication through this crisis? One report says only 10 percent of North American nonprofits regularly send text messages to supporters. Ultimately, communicating with your donors via mobile will help you create a more loyal support base, critical to sustained giving. More than ever, it is important to prioritize mobile engagement, not just mobile transactions.

Text-to-Engage gives nonprofits real-time connections with donors via text on an ongoing basis. With Text-to-Engage, you can strategically share:

  • Impact videos

  • Livestream links

  • Newsletters

  • Volunteer links

  • Event registrations

  • Donation links

  • Questions to poll your donors

  • And more!

Text-to-Engage Examples Relevant to Pandemic

Every hour, it’s as if life in crisis changes with the news cycle. This is why timely, bite-sized communication with donors is the right way to go. Social media is excellent for this but does not have as high of engagement as text messaging. With Text-to-Engage, your nonprofit can message its entire donor base, specific segments, and even individual donors and volunteers. Additionally, all of your communications can be easily synced with your CRM. Thus, strengthening your donor data. Given the sheer amount of time your donors spend on their phones, learning about their mobile engagement is genuinely priceless for future fundraising effectiveness.

Example 1: Livestream

Let’s say you have turned your annual fundraising event into a livestream event. You have a decent amount registered, but it’s not as high as you would have liked to see. Before you know it, it’s the morning of the livestream. You send one final email and social media push. A few more subscribers come in. Suddenly, the livestream starts in 5-minutes, so you send a quick text that says, “Going Live! Join me, and 500 others to celebrate our healthcare heroes. Watch NOW: (link)” Conservatively, you see double the number of last-minute attendees than you did from your morning email invite. Plus, you decide to use texting as a virtual pledge card during the event.

Example 2: Impact Updates

Or, say your nonprofit has traditionally relied on large face-to-face gatherings. During the pandemic, it is challenging to pivot both programming and fundraising. A few weeks in, your incredible team has rallied digital program solutions that have made a significant impact on one constituent in particular. With their permission, you text a picture with a few sentences to thank your supporters for making this possible because you know that the top reason donors trust charities are because of their accomplishments. As stories like this continue to roll in the next several weeks, you quickly and easily text your supporters, seeing more than the average 54 percent response rate.

Tips for Optimizing Text-to-Engage

Implementation and set-up. Make sure more than one person on your team

knows how to use your texting technology. (Psst, don’t forget to send a test to yourself!)

Clean your data. Before adding donors to Text-to-Engage, send them an email with a link to join and opt-in to your mobile community. Additionally, put your Text-to-Engage number and keyword ‘JOIN’ on socials to invite people to opt-in to texting. Viola! You have cleaned your supporter’s phone number data and you are ready to go. (When’s the last time you did that?)

Keep it simple. Focus your Text-to-Engage message on one topic at a time (e.g., impact videos) to avoid donor fatigue.

Include a clear call to action. Just like the ‘donate now’ button on your website, make sure your texts have a clear call-to-action attached (e.g., Donate Now, Click to Watch Our Video).

Track and improve your process over time. Monthly reports are crucial during the first few months of implementation. Check your progress along the way and pivot to optimize your mobile engagement experience. Don’t be afraid to reach out to engaged supporters and ask them for feedback on your text messages. 

Tricia Roseveare is the Chief Marketing Officer of ZGIVE, a mobile-fundraising company that helps nonprofits simplify fundraising and maximize giving. ZGIVE provides the latest in Text-to-Give, Scan-to-Give (QR code), Text-to-Engage, as well as online donations, campaign management, and 24/7 customer support. To learn more about ZGIVE’s mobile platform and Text-to-Engage feature, click here to watch a pre-recorded 15-minute webinar.