If your organization is like most, you are dependent on email. For almost two decades, it has been the engine that powers advocacy, connecting supporters with causes.
But that engine is starting to wear out. Opens and clicks are increasingly harder to obtain. Organizations that want true rapid response, engaging and activating their audience on command, require better tools. Text messaging, along with custom keywords and shortcodes, can be a powerful solution.
Almost two thirds of those who access advocacy campaign websites now do so from a mobile device, according to the 2019 State of Advocacy report. That makes text the right medium to reach these advocates. A blast can deliver a simple action request right to their pocket. Using SMS keywords and shortcodes (“text INFO to 52886”) allows people to take action from anywhere.
More importantly, text performs the way email did in the early days. The National Parks Conservation Association, for example, started using text in its mission to support and defend national parks. Their four largest campaigns this year averaged a 24-percent click rate and 15-percent conversion.
As the State of Advocacy report observed, “organizations that are not utilizing SMS keywords and shortcodes for acquisition or SMS blasts for activating their lists are missing a major opportunity for growing their advocacy program.”
The Numbers Behind Text
Put simply, text messaging reaches people more reliably, allowing them to take action in a way that suits their lives. It’s a more intimate form of communication, that resonates with enthusiastic advocates, the people who want to take action for your cause. These are the people who drive rapid response campaigns.
Building a program may take some work. You need technology that supports text. You will have to collect mobile numbers from the people on your list and then ask them to opt in to receive text messages. But the results are enough to make most advocacy pros jealous.
- The open rate for text messaging is 99 percent, far above the average for advocacy email, which is stuck in the teens. When you send a text, most of your audience will see it.
- The average conversion rate for text is 6 percent to 8 percent, depending on the call to action, and can run as high as 25 percent or more on some campaigns. That’s a massive increase over the industry average for email, which is in the low single digits.
- Text works well at events like conferences and rallies, where a single call to action from the podium can result in thousands of new supporters and actions taken. International Justice Mission, a nonprofit dedicated to abolishing slavery worldwide, once gained 15,000 advocates in a single night.
- Among those who take action on a text message, 65 percent do so in the first hour after receiving it. That’s rapid response.
The Courage to Modernize
For many organizations, adopting text will require some modernization. But the efforts are worthwhile. International Justice Mission is a great example. The organization has a robust college audience, with chapters on 90 campuses nationwide. But until a few years ago, it was using a pen-and-paper process to recruit advocates and get them involved.
Moving to text was transformative. The organization still sends marketing materials to colleges, but now they contain a custom keyword that students can use to take action via text. When they do, they are automatically recorded in the organization’s database and the organization can work to engage them further. The result is that International Justice Mission now has tens of thousands of advocates who can be activated instantly and who can contact lawmakers easily using only their phones.
“Texting is the key differentiator for mobilizing college students across the country,” said Dan Mackett, the organization’s college mobilization manager. “Having a unique custom keyword at conferences or live calls to action has been a game-changer for acquiring and engaging with college students and beyond.”
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