These 4 Non-Profits Have Had Great Success With SMS–Now It’s Your Turn


October 6, 2014

These 4 Non-Profits Have Had Great Success With SMS–Now It’s Your Turn

Home > Blog > These 4 Non-Profits Have Had Great Success With SMS–Now It’s Your Turn

The question isn’t what can text messaging do for your organization, it’s what can’t text messaging do for your organization?

From setting up a simple automated survey to initiating more complex fundraising campaigns, SMS offers an abundance of possibilities. The best part, especially for organizations with limited financial and technology resources, is that it’s easy, far-reaching and inexpensive.

Over 90% of American adults have cell phones, and 81% use text messaging. (Plus you don’t have to have a smartphone to text!) With systems like OneReach, even those of us who can’t write code can still create custom voice and text flows. Even better, it costs under two cents to send and receive a text message.

Short Codes Can Come at a Cost

A lot of campaigns contact mobile users with a short code, a five to six digit phone number used to reach large groups of people. Unfortunately, short codes can cost up to $10,000 just to set up. While that number might be feasible for groups like The Red Cross, it’s a figure that’s out of reach for most non-profits. Short codes are also under strict regulation by the government to keep companies from spamming people with notifications.

Luckily, business are no longer limited to short codes. Companies like Twilio text-enable traditional 10-digit phone numbers, or “long codes.” One of the best parts about long codes is that they only cost $1-2 to set up, so they’re an affordable option for any organization.

Short codes also have pretty limited functionality; users can only perform one of a few predetermined actions. With OneReach, organizations can build more complicated text flows, creating different action paths based on what the users chooses to do. You can build personalized experiences almost as fast as you can think of them.

Texting for Non-Profits

Various non-profits have used texting for regularly scheduled tips and campaign donations, but that’s not all they’ve done. Check out some of the examples below:

  • Dosomething.orgThis organization has tackled causes ranging from fighting cancer to diversity in the media, but one of their most well-known campaigns was “The Bully Text.” Targeted at high school students, this 2012 campaign was set during an imaginary first day of school. Students who opted-in with their name and phone number received a text with a certain situation and two ways to respond. Depending on what option they chose, the rest of the texts they put them in situations as the bully, the bullied, or someone who stood up for them.
  • Text4baby—In 2010, the National Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies Coalition launched Text4baby, a free SMS service that provides pregnant women with educational tips about maternal and child health. The texts are sent during and after pregnancy and cover a variety of topics like prenatal care and nutrition; major medical associations and other non-profits review the texts for accuracy. A George Washington University study found that Text4baby participants were three times as likely to feel they were prepared to be new mothers.
  • ASPCA—The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has used SMS to inform pet owners and increase fundraising since 2008. Pet owners can opt-in to the service by sending the word CAT or DOG to 27222 and receive regular tips on pet care. A call-to-action at the bottom of each text asks users to give $5 to animals in need; all users have to do is text the word GIVE to donate. About five percent of SMS subscribers donate to the organization, raising thousands of additional dollars for animals each year.
  • The Red Cross—Back in early 2010, a massive earthquake rocked Haiti, killing over 100,000 people and displacing millions. The Red Cross immediately began collecting donations over SMS, asking Americans to donate $10 by texting Haiti to 90999 (each donor had the amount added to their phone bill). With promotion from the federal government and national media, the Red Cross and other organizations raised over $43 million with SMS.

Keep in mind these are all pretty big organizations with a lot of resources at their disposal. Most non-profits can’t afford to buy a short code, or hire a developer to create a voice and text system.

However, companies like Twilio and OneReach have programs to make things more affordable and accessible. OneReach helps you assemble a sophisticated system easily without knowing a thing about coding. Plus, the application is cloud-based, meaning you can quickly build, test, deploy and manage your applications from a browser.

If your non-profit had endless resources to create intelligent voice and SMS applications, would you turn to the most affordable system, or the most advanced system?

Why not both?

To learn more about text-enabling your existing phone number, professionally designed or do-it-yourself, visit

Photo courtesy of The U.S. Navy.

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