Right About Now – Taking Advantage of the Texting Phenomenon

Posted on October 19, 2012

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Tifani GeierTifani Geier, Senior Director of Participant Acquisition at Event 360, is a strong proponent for testing communication channels to find the best ways to engage and support your event participants and donors. Tifani brings more than ten years of event fundraising and production experience to Event 360, and continually looks for ways to maximize fundraising results and participant engagement. Prior to joining Event 360, Tifani worked with a wide variety of non-profit organizations and government agencies while serving in AmeriCorps* NCCC as a team leader. Tifani resides in San Diego, CA with her fiancé. She loves to travel, cook and explore new places. Here, she weighs on the texting phenomenon…

Quick—what’s the best and most cost-effective way to keep your donors and participants up to speed with critical, need-to-know information? Website updates? Blog posts? Email? Yes, that’s the 21st century way to go! No more posters or snail mail. Even phones are hit and miss and require time and resources. Online is the latest and greatest way to communicate, right?

Well, have you considered that even those electronic methods are already becoming somewhat antiquated when it comes to speedy communication? It’s true—technology is developing so fast, with each generation ushering in a new paradigm of how we think and talk to each other, what was new just a few years ago is continuously being surpassed by more effective means of instantly getting “in touch.” Today, when you want to get something in front of someone right now, you should be thinking about an approach even more immediate than email: SMS—aka short messaging services, or texting.

This method of instant messaging has in fact been around for a couple decades. In recent years, however, as children born into a high-tech-saturated world have become adults, texting is now becoming the prime method of communication at large—and that includes your donors and event participants. (Even my 63-year-old mother is now a convert.)

The numbers are truly staggering—and growing. According to research, more than 89 percent of the U.S. population is subscribed to a mobile communication plan. On top of that, the average subscriber sends and receives 175 percent more texts than voice calls. Read rates for the former average about 15 minutes with responses at around 60. Emails (which some data suggest will be all but abandoned in about five years in favor of SMS) clock in with much longer turnaround times. Also important, spam is far less prominent in the texting world.

Our job in the event fundraising community is to use the best available communication channels to ensure our donors and participants get the information they need when they need it so we can raise the money required to support critical missions. Texting is now particularly relevant when it comes to the post-recruiting phase of communications. We’re talking about people who have already decided to have a relationship with your organization and now need to get updates, instructions, etc., via the method they’re using on the most moment-to-moment basis.

All this doesn’t mean, of course, that it’s time to stop using the phone, let your website die a slow death, or abandon the tried and true telephone. Email remains the primary form of cost-effective communication. It’s efficient and direct mail (email and otherwise) can still get the job done for certain forms of messaging, including promotion. And the “high-touch” of a human voice is indispensible; so don’t stop making those important phone calls.

But do consider the text-message option. Using it can push the envelope further to achieve greater engagement and better support from event participants. The best advice I can give is to pay close attention to trends in communication and take the time to understand your constituency. Ask them how they want to receive different kinds of information and monitor response rates. These days, I think you’ll find texting will definitely get their attention.

“Jim’s Tools of the Trade” blog posts are featured monthly. Vice President, Operations Jim Grohman provides our project teams and managers, as well as our IT group and customer service specialists, leadership and guidance to ensure flawless delivery. A former Major with the United States Marine Corps, Jim is a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and is certified as a PMI Project Management Professional.

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