HOW TO: Launch a Group Text Messaging Campaign for Your Nonprofit for Free
In my research of nonprofits using mobile technology, it’s clear that mobile technology has been slow to catch on in the nonprofit sector compared to the business and higher education sectors. Nonprofits were the absolute first to utilize social networking sites. They were getting creative and pioneering MySpace in 2005 and Facebook in 2006 long before corporate brands and universities, but that hasn’t been the case with mobile technology.
Mostly I think it’s because nonprofits think mobile technology tools are too expensive. That was true a year ago, but not today. Text-to-Give and custom smartphones App vendors are still relatively expensive, but there are many free or low-cost mobile website and group texting vendors out there today. Nonprofits might also think that the Mobile Web is a somewhat abstract concept that they need to focus on in a year or two, but as of today one in five Americans now access the mobile web daily. They also send 2.5 billion text messages each day with an open-rate that currently hovers at about 90%. The Mobile Web is not the Next Big Thing. It’s already here.
As a follow-up to my post on how to launch a mobile website for $8 a month, this post illuminates how you can launch a group text messaging campaign for free using TextMarks Lite (with ads) or FrontlineSMS (without ads):
TextMarks :: Free, Web-based, Ad-Supported, United States Only
1. You need a mobile phone number to create an account. It’s OK to use your personal mobile number because TextMarks Lite will not text or call you, but I am big believer that nonprofit communicators should be writing smartphones for key communications and development staff into to next year’s budget.
2. Once you create your account, grab your TextMark and craft your Text Mark Response. Your TextMark functions as a Short Code and should ideally match your website and social networking profile URLs. Your TextMark response should let subscribers know the frequency of texts sent and should also include a link to your mobile website including “http://” so that the website link is automatically hyperlinked. Example: www.textmarks.com/nonprofitorgs
3. Start building your mobile list and sending messages. Subscribe to my TextMark campaign to experience how it works and see my Mobile Technology Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations for detailed information about frequency of text messages, how to build your list, and other best practices. Please note that TextMarks Lite version only allows 105 characters instead of the full 160, and 40-character ads are placed at the bottom of each text message. Compared to other vendors, their rates for ad-free, 160-character full version are very affordable. Personally, the ads don’t bother me, but you can decide for yourself by experiencing my ad-supported TextMarks campaign [see image for example of ads]. Also, the market is becoming increasingly flooded with low-cost vendors and this trend will likely continue. You can download your mobile list from TextMarks if you every decide to move to another vendor.
FrontlineSMS :: Free for Nonprofits, Software, No Ads, Intermational
I am not a nonprofit so I can’t test FrontlineSMS myself, but the product comes highly recommended. It is especially popular with grassroots organizations in the developing world because it is free and does not require an Internet connection. FrontlineSMS is an award-winning free, open source software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a central communications hub. Once installed, the program enables users to send and receive text messages with groups of people through mobile phones. To learn more:
WATCH :: Introduction to FrontlineSMS
Finally, just to clarify, group text messaging is also known as Simple Messaging Service, or SMS for short. Also, two well-known mobile technology vendors that serve the nonprofit sector are Mobile Commons and Mobilecause. They are much more expensive, but have top notch tool sets. Many small to medium-sized nonprofits can not afford these vendors, but at least through tools like TextMarks and FrontlineSMS, they can at least be early adopters.
10 Nonprofit Group Text Messaging Campaigns
HOW TO: Launch a Mobile Website for $8 a Month
Mobile Technology Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations
Webinar :: How Nonprofits Can Successfully Utilize Group Texting, Mobile Websites, and Smartphone Apps
Mobile Technology for Nonprofit Organizations LinkedIn Group
2010 Nonprofit Text Messaging Benchmarks Report