3 Ways Texting Can Work for Your Members

At critical moments, your members might appreciate a text message notification over an email or phone call. Here’s how three associations are using texting for advocacy, customer service, and dues renewal.

Think about the last time you sent or received a text message. Was it in the last hour? Half-hour? Fifteen minutes?

It probably comes as no surprise that many of us are addicted to texting. Believe it or not, texting 25 years, but most nonprofits only scratch the surface when it comes to using this instant form of communication.

The short message service, or SMS, has changed the human lexicon. Even outside of our texting apps, we write in acronyms (OMG! LOL! BRB!), and we add emotional cues to our messages with expressive emojis.

(Fun fact: The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography recently developed its own set of emojis for members and the medical community. Its “sonomojis” can be added to a smartphone keyboard through a plug-in app.)

While texting may seem like fun and games, organizations are increasingly using it as a serious channel for communicating with their audiences. Here are three examples of how associations have used texting with positive results.

Instant advocacy. Celia Besore, CAE, vice president of membership and programs at the Monitoring Association, is using text messaging to reach a small group of highly engaged members involved in TMA’s on-the-ground advocacy work.

“We wanted to be sure to reach those members at a moment’s notice,” Besore says. “With email, there are spam filters and lag times when members don’t check their inbox. We wanted a way to connect and communicate immediately with members.”

Step one was to identify a small group of committed members (about 190) who opted for the text message service. “We only wanted members who were on the ground doing advocacy for our organization,” Besore says. “There was one vote that was really critical for us. We sent members a 15-minute warning, texting them the room number and location so they could be present.”

The strategy produced a favorable outcome on their issue, and TMA continues to use texting to stay in touch on advocacy messages and calls to action.

Dues reminder. Automated renewals have two problems: Payment methods can expire, and credit cards can get lost or stolen. When that happens, members might miss a renewal payment. At the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, a past-due notice comes with a text message alert about how to update an online payment method.

“Before this, we reached out to people by email or phone, explaining how payment information could be changed online,” says Nicole Hanson, an account executive with Big Voice Communications and a consultant for ADHA. “Now, it seems more people prefer the text notification. We’ve even received a few ‘thank you’ responses.”

On-demand help. Organizations are increasingly turning to instant forms of communication like chatbots to provide quick customer service. Texting can be another good option for answering members’ questions in real time.

The National Association of Sports Commissions uses an app, TextUs, to serve as a member helpline. The number is the same as NASC’s main telephone number. The advantage to this setup is that no opt-in is required because the member initiates the contact. When a text message is received, the phone number can be matched to the member database, allowing a staffer to see more background information about the person asking a question.

A few words of caution: Like any communication tool, text messaging can be abused. Don’t spam your members via text. Before you hit “send” on a text campaign, be sure to study up on federal law (specifically, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act) and best practices for mobile marketing campaigns (CTIA’s “Messaging Principles and Best Practices” [PDF] is a good primer).

Also, there are many mass-text-messaging services to choose from, so do your due diligence. Compare pricing and pick a subscription service that works best for your needs. As you would when you first use any new technology, it’s probably best to pilot a text-message campaign with a small or targeted group to see how it works and how your recipients react to it.

Are you texting your members? How do you use it, and what lessons have you learned? Post your comments below.

(vladwel/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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