It's not a secret that SMS text messaging and calling is the best way to get a hold of someone. Peer-to-peer communication is the best way to get people's attention and build meaningful relationships.
It’s also not a secret that fundraisers are always trying to do more with less. Raise more money, acquire more donors (and keep them!), and secure more donations. At the same time, it’s scary to come up against big goals while working with less—less budget, less certainty that traditional channels will yield results, and even less staff capacity. The good news is GetThru is here to help.
This strategy guide is for any fundraiser who’s ever been frustrated with fundraising technology that’s dated, expensive, or difficult to use. ThruText is the best-in-class solution that’s actually easy to use and won’t break the bank. Read on for tips on everything from getting your new texting program approved and budgeted, to strategy and messaging guidelines, use cases, reporting, and more.
How to get your new P2P program approved
Maybe you’re an experienced P2P user who’s just taken a new role at an institution that’s never used an SMS text messaging platform before, or perhaps you’ve done the research regarding the effectiveness of peer-to-peer tools and are looking to adopt this technology to reach your goals.
There’s just one challenge: you’ve got to get everyone on the same page and bought into the strategy. We can help! Having a data-driven approach bolstered by case studies and testimonials from schools similar to yours will go a long way to set you up for success. Below, we’ve provided an example of what a conversation like this could look like, in email format:
I’m reaching out to see if we can find time to discuss implementing a new software that will help us reach this year’s alumni fundraising goal. As you know, a key objective for our organization is to raise [$X] from [X] people, which will require that we make meaningful connections with alumni, and friends. I’d like us to consider using peer-to-peer SMS software to make those connections. From my research, the most compelling takeaways so far have been:
- Effectiveness: SMS Text messages have an open rate of 95% compared to 15% of emails and 5% of direct mail. Important to also note here that new privacy protections have effectively done away with open rate as a metric for email.
- Scalability: P2P is ideal for schools of any size, but particularly well-suited for those that need to scale up, so this is a tool that can and will grow as we grow! And right-sizing our outreach efforts with ThruText will also mean that we will only pay for the messages we send, which makes budgeting easy and transparent.
- Accountability: We’ll never have to wonder if our efforts are worth it with peer-to-peer tactics because we’ll have access to data and reporting that helps us establish and measure against benchmarks like response rates and fulfillment.
Schools like ours are already using these philanthropy tools for use cases like giving days, Giving Tuesday, engagement, general donation asks, and more, and it’s working for them. You can see examples here and here. With Giving Tuesday coming up soon immediately following Black Friday & Cyber Monday, I'd love to try to implement this for this year's campaign. I took a peek and it looks like we’re both free on [Y-date] at [Z-time]. If that works for you, I’ll send over an invite and I’m happy to answer any questions before then!
Good to know: Best practices for getting started
While ThruText does not presently integrate with fundraising software or CRMs, there is a way to ensure that you’re able to track data based on your constituent ID number. Simply create a Custom Field in ThruText for your constituent ID equivalent, and make sure that field is marked as exportable in ThruText. That way, your institution’s ID number for each person texted will show up on your reports—making contact reports, donation tracking, and more a breeze.
Engagement and stewardship:
You know the old adage—if you only text for solicitation, you’re not going to get any participation. (That is not an old adage: we made it up.) But it’s true! You’ll want to be sure that it's an authentic channel that your donors feel connected to.
Avoid worst practices:
We’re talking about best practices here, but you might also be wondering if there’s any bad habits you should avoid. For one, personalization is key. Also, you’ll want to leave that giving page link out of your initial message—text carriers are much more likely to flag initial messages if they include a link, especially a shortened one like a bit.ly. Instead, you should personalize your SMS text messages using ThruText custom fields & ask a question to prompt engagement.
Here’s an example: “Hi FIRST NAME! This is SENDER NAME from SCHOOL NAME. Thanks so much for your last contribution of AMOUNT to DESIGNATION! Can we count on you to renew your support today?”
One of the best ways to ensure a successful program is to prioritize getting your team trained on ThruText. Scheduling an onboarding with our Client Success team will get you and your colleagues quickly up to speed on how to use the tool, best practices, and Hensuring your basic account settings are configured. ThruText accounts always come with unlimited technical and strategic support—reach out to our Support team at email@example.com for technical questions, or get in touch with your account manager to discuss strategy, messaging, and planning. Don’t know who your account manager is? Just write to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you to the right place.
Align with campus partners:
It never hurts to give campus partners a heads up when onboarding ThruText or any new tool. Consider notifying any public-facing departments so they can answer questions from alumni who might be receiving text messages from you for the first time. Additionally, if your campus has a central communications calendar, note your texting plans there just like you might for a direct mail, email, or phonathon. And on that note…if there are departments on your campus that might benefit from working with ThruText, let them know about the tool! If your campus is doing high-volume texting, you may benefit from volume discounts, especially if you can get together with one or more departments to split a pre-pay.
Be strategic in your outreach:
As you’re building out your texting program, think about the ways in which you can integrate ThruText into your existing fundraising plans beyond just major events like Giving Days and Giving Tuesday. For example, if you have a spring direct mail planned, consider sending a SMS text when your piece is scheduled to hit mailboxes, asking donors if they received their letter and if they have any questions about renewing their support.
Prep your texters with a strong script:
Beyond just writing a great initial message as discussed above, using ThruText’s recommended reply feature to build out your script will ensure that you and your texters can quickly respond.
Keep it fun, keep it authentic:
While you should always be professional and respectful, with a SMS software platform you have more room to speak to your donors as you might when in the room with them at an event.
Pro tip: if your senders are student workers, recruit them to help you write your scripts. And don’t forget to use emoji! Bonus points if you can use emoji that evokes your school’s mascot or colors.
Key Touch Points
Save the date:
Sending a save the date is a great way to help your audience get ready for Giving Day, and P2P outreach helps leverage other channels. (And in some cases, can prompt early alumni giving!)
Early giving push:
Want to get a giving day head start? Consider texting a communication to your university donors, asking them to make an early donation to help you reach your fundraising goals.
Day of solicitation:
DoG Thank you:
Initial message: Thank you so much for taking the time to support our campus community during our annual Day of Giving. We were able to raise [dollars] from to support [cause] thanks to alumni donors like you. Thank you so much for continuing to make [school] a brighter place. Go [mascot]!
Utilizing peer-to-peer outreach to say thank you will ensure a continued strong relationship with your supporters.
The more connected your alumni are to your institution, the more likely they are to stay involved. Plus even if someone doesn’t give – you still want them to stay engaged and be an advocate for your institution! Try sending an engagement text about chapter opportunities or upcoming events.
Solicitation or Pledge Reminder:
There’s no harm in following up with donors you have established rapport with and asking them if they are interested in making a gift to support your institution before the fiscal year ends.
Giving Tuesday Campaign
More than 30 million people will participate in Giving Tuesday, the global day of giving. Giving Tuesday happens annually, immediately after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With nearly 4,000 nonprofit organizations participating and flooding prospects' emails with hundreds of cases for support, P2P with ThruText can help your cause break through the Giving Tuesday noise. Depending on what you’re fundraising for on Giving Tuesday, you can tailor your messages to past athletes, clubs/organizations, and even current students.
- Example message: “Hi [name], it’s [sender] from the [sport] team at [school]. Today is Giving Tuesday and we’re reaching out to past athletes to ask for your support to the [insert fund]. Can we count on your support today?”
- Example message: “Hi [name], this year [school name] is celebrating our Giving Tuesday campaign by raising money to support [fund]. We hope that you’ll consider supporting our campus community in helping us to reach our goal of [x] donors. Can I send you more information about our campaign?”
- Example message: "Hi [name], it's [sender from [school name]. Can we count on you to make your first ever charitable donation for Giving Tuesday?
Alumni Fundraising at CYE
Fall is typically an event-heavy semester for many universities between move-in weekend, homecoming, family weekend, reunions; the list goes on and on. It’s easy to clutter your prospect's inbox advertising for these events/opportunities. Sending a CYE text is a great way to disrupt your email cycle and grab your donor's attention. We recommend doing a soft ask here and sending it to donors, who typically make their gift before the end of the year.
Example message:“Hi [name]! Institutions rely on support to help provide the best education for the future [mascot]. We want to make sure you have all the information you need when considering to support [school name]. Can I send you information on your impact?”
Sending text messages about your events is a great way to stay engaged and build rapport. It’s also a great way to increase event attendance. You can have your leadership team or ambassadors send these messages. If the event is local, you’ll want to make sure that your segmenting data so it’s tailored.
Here are a few ideas:
- Chapter events
- Athletics (tailgate or game invitations)
- Family weekend
- Concert/cultural event invitations
- Education opportunities
- University fundraising events or galas
Here’s an initial message structure that you can tailor for your event outreach:
Hi [name] this is [sender name] from [school name]. I’m so excited to invite you to [fundraising event name] on [date]! Can I send you a link with more information and to register?
Some more ideas
Direct mail follow-up
This is a great way to follow up with higher ed donors who traditionally mail in their gifts to let them know there are other ways to stay engaged. This can be as simple as sending a thank you follow-up message.
Initial message: “Hi [name], [sender name] reaching out from the annual giving team at [school name]. I wanted to follow up with you to let you know we received your gift via mail. Thank you! You should receive your tax receipt in the upcoming days. Thanks again and have a great day! Phonathon pledge fulfillment/sorry we missed you…
With spam calls increasing, many philanthropy centers have seen a decrease in contact rates. Utilizing text messaging can be a great way to reach those you've tried calling a few times but have not picked up. We recommend taking a soft ask approach or event utilizing the message to just ask, what’s a good time to call? Example messages are listed below.
- Example message: “Hi [name], it’s [sender name] from [school name]. We’ve tried reaching out a few times but it looks like we’ve missed you. I wanted to reach out and see if we could schedule 10 minutes to connect about your experience!”
- Example message: “Hi [name], [sender name] from [school name] call center. We haven’t been able to get ahold of you, so I wanted to reach out to pass along a few resources: [link]. If you’re interested in connecting let me know and I’ll get something set up for us. I hope you have a great day!”
- Example Message: “Hi [name], [sender name] from the [school name] call center here. Thank you for chatting with me tonight, and for your pledge of [amount] to [designation]! Here’s a link where you can fulfill your pledge: [link]. Just let me know if you have any questions!”
Crowdfunding & Challenge Gifts
Having volunteers advocate for your philanthropy & crowdfunding campaigns is a great way to expand visibility and encourage support.
- Example message: “Hi [name], it’s [sender name] a volunteer from the class of [class year]. We’re raising money to help [school name] fund [cause]. Could I send you more information about our cause and how to donate?
- Example message: “Hi [name], it’s [sender name] a volunteer from the class of [class year]. You may have seen from social media that we’re [X] donors away from hitting our goal. We’re raising funds to support [cause]. I wanted to reach out and see if you’d be willing to help us hit our goal! Thanks for considering!”
Emergency campaigns—basic needs funds
Peer-to-peer text messaging with ThruText is a great communication channel to express urgent needs and deliver information about how to support students. It’s recommended to have your annual giving team or staff members providing relief to run these campaigns.
- Food Pantry: “Hi [name], it’s [sender name] from [department name] at [school name]. We run a student-led food pantry to help combat food insecurity for our students. A gift of [dollar amount] can help ensure our students have access to meet their basic needs. We’re reaching out to see if you’d consider donating.”
- Technology Funds: “Hi [name], it’s [sender name] from [department name] at [school name]. As a college graduate, you understand the need for access to basic technology to succeed in the classroom. On average [x]% of students come to college without a laptop. We’re looking to raise [dollar amount] to close this gap. Can I send you more information about how to get involved?”
One of the biggest challenges philanthropy teams are facing is connecting with their constituents outside of making an ask. Remember most institutions have an alumni relations team and partnering up with your allies will only strengthen your relationships and increase your fundraising opportunities.
- Updating Contact Information: “Hi [name], it’s [sender name] from the [region] alumni chapter at [school name]. Just wanted to reach out and see if you’re staying up-to-date with alumni social and professional networking opportunities. Can I confirm your email address with you?”
- Joining a local/regional chapter: “Hi [name]. it’s [sender name] from the class of [ class year] at [school name]. We’re always looking to expand our alumni chapter here in [region]. Are you by any chance looking for professional and social networking opportunities? If so, I’d love to pass along chapter information!
- Alumni Weekend: “Hi [name], [sender name] here from the alumni outreach team at [school name]. Alumni weekend is coming up on [date]. I wanted to connect to see if you’re planning to attend. I’d love to send you more information if you’re okay with it?”
- Alumni Volunteers: “Hi [name], [sender name] here from the alumni outreach team at [school name]. We’re looking for volunteers for [event] in your area. I wanted to connect to see if you’d be willing to help out with the event. I’d love to send you more information about the event and how to get involved. Thanks for considering!”
ThruText offers the capability to embed MMS, or media messages, into your initial outgoing text message. MMS is an excellent way to add even further personalization to your texts. Here are some ideas for how to use it:
- Giving Tuesday: Include a visual representation of your donation goal for the day, and progress to goal.
- Giving Day: Include a photo of students on campus—extra points if you can make it giving day specific!
- Stewardship: Include an infographic that illustrates the impact of donor support.
- Peer asks: For alumni to alumni fundraising, include a photo sourced from your alumni from their time on campus.
Taking a data-driven approach
When bringing on a new tool, it’s important to be able to tell the story of its effectiveness—after all, how better to ensure that your texting budget will be renewed or even increased! Luckily, ThruText reports make it easy:
Survey exports produce a CSV of each recipient, all of your survey fields associated with each recipient, and the survey response data collected by texters.
Pro tip: include surveys tracking whether people will give, opt-out reason, and refusal reason to track more granular data on outcomes.
Message exports produce a CSV of every outgoing and incoming message, along with who sent it and the timestamp. This report can be used to create more detailed contact reports—an excellent tool for anyone building a pipeline.
Conversation exports produce a CSV of every conversation with outgoing/incoming message details as well as the assignee for each conversation.
While ThruText does not track clicks or fulfillment rates, tracking this data is a key way to know which strategies are yielding the best results. Making sure to have an exportable custom field for your constituent ID as discussed above will enable you to pull a list of those who gave and compare that list against who was texted. You can also use ThruText Surveys to track who said they would give and compare that list against fulfillment to make sure gifts come in.
But let’s say you really want to dig in the details to learn what types of strategy and messaging most resonate with your audience. Say it with us now…let’s do some A/B testing! Here are just a few examples:
- Direct mail: Text half your list ask a follow-up to your direct mail and see if those who also received a text gave at a higher rate
- Phonathon pledge fulfillment: Similar to the above, text half of your pledged donors (along with other pledge reminder outreach) and see if those who receive a text on top of other communications give at a higher rate
- By segment: What’s your best audience? You never know until you do some experimenting! Typically, we see LYBUNTs responding at the highest rate to text messages. However, with A/B testing, you can go deeper on various segmentation types (for example, LYBs, SYBs, graduates of the last decade, graduates with particular affinities, etc.) to see if any groups are more likely to give after receiving a text.
Are you convinced yet that P2P with ThruText is a new best practice for annual giving? If you’re ready to be a leader in your department (and industry-wide!) take the next step by checking out GetThru’s additional resources, or book a demo with our Sales team if you’re not yet a GetThru partner.