Adding P2P Texting to Your Annual Giving Strategy
P2P texting can be a powerful addition to your school’s annual giving program. But like any new tool, it requires advance planning to maximize your impact. We’ve created this guide to help you think through the major aspects of your P2P texting program: deciding when and who to text, defining roles, training your team, managing your campaigns, and measuring success.
We recommend budgeting one month from when you start planning to when you launch your first texting campaign, though it’s certainly possible to move faster as schedules require. This guide is meant to be used in conjunction with the ThruText user guides, which provide detailed information about how the ThruText platform works.
Deciding Who And When To Text (Weeks 1-2)
If you’re reading this guide, you’ve probably already started thinking about who you plan to text, but here are some additional ideas that you may find helpful.
ThruText’s education clients have used texting for a number of purposes, including the following:
- Giving days/challenges
- Pledge chasing/donor follow up
- Engagement and acquisition of first-time donors
- Reunion, homecoming, and event recruitment
- Volunteer recruitment
- Parent giving
- Senior class gift
Given that over 97% of smartphone owners in the U.S. use text messaging weekly, ThruText can be a powerful tool to reach a wide array of alumni. That said, our clients have had the greatest success texting alumni of all ages who have already donated (both current and lapsed donors), as opposed to using texting for first-time donor acquisition. If you are considering texting non-donors, we recommend testing this approach first on younger alumni and expanding from there.
When To Send Your Texts
Whether your texting campaign is related to an established Day of Giving, a regularly scheduled event like Homecoming, or a satellite event for your alumni in a major city, you’ll need to decide what time of day you want to text them. We don’t yet have significant data yet on the best texting times, but here are some things to think about:
- Daytime texting: If you have an ongoing campaign or message senders who are available during the day, it is totally appropriate to text during the day, since most people have their phones with them all day long.
- Evening texting: Many of our clients have had success with evening campaigns that reach recipients when they are at home. However, you may be facing more competition for your recipients' attention during these hours.
- Be mindful of time zones: Set up your ThruText campaigns and upload your groups based on time zones/geographic location of recipients so you can be sure to target your recipients at the appropriate local time.
- Avoid Rush Hour: When planning your campaigns, try to send messages outside of rush hour as this can be a time of high distraction for your recipients.
- Skip Mondays: Unless your message is tied to something specifically happening on a Monday, try to avoid texting on this day. Mondays have the lowest response rate due to the high volume of messages people receive and the need to catch up after the weekend.
- Honor non-texting hours: We highly recommend that you do not text before 9:00 AM or after 9:00 PM so that your recipients do not receive messages too early or too late.
Identifying Your Lists
When planning your campaigns, it is good to give yourself one to two weeks to pull your lists to make sure you are targeting the right individuals. ThruText also has helpful targeting tools that you can use as you upload groups and develop your campaigns.
- Evaluating cell phone data: If you are uncertain about the quality of your phone number data, or have multiple fields (home phone, cell phone, other number) in your database, you can use ThruText to validate this information for you, and then update those fields in your system. Start by uploading the group you want to text with their cell phone numbers, and validate those. If you have multiple phone numbers for each record, you can then pull the same list with the home phone numbers and validate those. Then use both of those groups on your campaign to message your textable numbers.
On a Giving Day, you may want to target similar groups of individuals, but tweak the initial message depending on their giving history, designation preference, affinity, or class year. An easy way to this is to clone campaigns, upload different groups and then edit the initial message.
Team Up with Alumni Relations
If your annual giving department sits separately from Alumni Relations, or if you already work together closely, ThruText is a great way to engage alumni outside of giving. Before sending out your messages, check with your alumni affairs department to see if they have any upcoming events, workshops, or information that you can share with donors. If someone says no to giving, you may choose to send them a follow-up message inviting them to one of these events or letting them know about another opportunity so you can keep the conversation going.
Team Roles and Training (Weeks 1-2)
ThruText has an intuitive interface that makes it easy to get started quickly. We’ve found it takes about 45-60 minutes to train administrators, and 10-15 minutes to train message senders on the platform. Here’s some guidance on selecting roles and getting your team ready to text.
Roles and Responsibilities
Whether you are working with staff, alumni volunteers, or student workers to run your texting we have 3 account permissions that you can assign your team depending on the role they will play in your program.
- Admins can do it all -- load groups, launch campaigns, and send messages.
- Moderators are like admins without some account-level permissions (like creating custom fields or doing account level exports.
- Message Senders can only access the message sending side of ThruText.
Here’s how these roles may map to the various segments of your alumni relations/development community:
- Staff: It is usually appropriate for staff to be Administrators, the highest level of account privilege in ThruText. This allows them to create target groups, launch campaigns, add users, and do everything else that makes P2P texting possible.
- Alumni Volunteers: If you have access to class agents or a network of alumni volunteers, texting is an easy, intuitive experience that can fit into their lives and can be managed remotely. Most ThruText clients use alumni volunteers as Message Senders, with staff setting up the campaigns for volunteers to send out. But some schools give alumni volunteers Moderator status, meaning they can set up their own campaigns and send messages. This can be an especially good fit if your class agents know the recipients on their lists and want to customize their own initial message.
- Student Workers: The student voice can be a powerful component of a P2P texting program. Students can connect with donors on a personal level by sharing their experience, and can provide much-needed capacity to manage large numbers of conversations. Your student workers may need more background training to answer the questions that come up, but as an admin, you will always be able to check in on their threads using the conversations view. Your student workers will likely fall into the Message Sender account permission, though sometimes graduate assistants or very experienced student workers can act as Moderators.
Training Your Team
ThruText may be a new technology for many users, and you want to make sure they know what they’re doing. Having well-trained users will drastically cut down on the support you need to offer once they get started.
- Kick-Off Call With ThruText: We strongly encourage you to take advantage of a kick-off call with us. We will walk your team through all of the components of the ThruText platform and make sure everyone has a chance to ask questions.
After the kick-off call, you may want to provide additional trainings internally and/or provide your team access to ThruText’s extensive online documentation to help your team get familiar with the platform. Here’s a link to our documentation which includes both written user guides and videos:
- Guide for Admins
- Guide for Message Senders
- Technical Support: If you or any of your message senders are experiencing technical difficulties or just need some additional guidance, the best way to get help is to email firstname.lastname@example.org. We respond to every support request, usually within minutes! Users can also request help using this support form.
Scheduling Texting Shifts
In order to have your team send texts, you need to know when they are available. We recommend creating “shifts” that are between 200 and 500 messages, and letting message senders know that a “shift” takes place over the course of about 48 hours -- which is how long it takes for replies to come in and conversations to run their course. It’s important to make clear that a shift is not complete once they send out their initial messages. The real work is in responding to replies and collecting data using survey questions.
- Sweeping: We realize that your texters may not be able to stick with an assignment over 48 hours. If a regular student worker shift is 3-4 hours long, we recommend you still assign that student between 200-500 messages, but have a staff person assigned as ‘sweeper.’ Once the student worker shifts are over, an Admin can answer incomplete threads themselves through the conversations view, or reassign the messages to the sweeper, who can make sure all open threads get closed out.
Campaign Preparation (Weeks 2-4)
Once you’ve decided who you want to text and gotten your team set up and trained, here are a few more things to consider as you get ready to launch your campaigns.
Evaluating Your Database
Before launching your texting program, it is worth evaluating the systems you have in place to keep track of your program.
- “Gave through Text” field: Whether you are going to use a custom link to track gifts made through a texting campaign or want to see data for recipients who received a text and also made a gift, we recommend adding an appeal code to your giving link and payment processor to track gifts coming in via text in advance of your campaign
- “Do Not Text”/ “Reason for Opt-Out” field: While it is easy to opt-out users and export that information in ThruText, you will likely want to keep a record of that in your database. We recommend setting up a global survey question that you can access across your ThruText campaigns to track ‘Reason for Opt-Out’ (wrong number, doesn’t want to receive texts, etc), so that you know 1) Who has opted out, and 2) The reason why.
ThruText allows you to easily insert custom fields with your initial messages and recommended replies, so you can include things like graduation year, last gift amount, athletic affiliation, and more.
We strongly encourage creating a custom field for the unique ID of your master database when you upload your lists. This isn’t information you would use in a text, but can be helpful for tracking information back into your database.
There is no limit to the number of custom fields you can have in ThruText, but you need to add the custom fields in advance to be able to map them in later.
Drafting Your Initial Message
90% of texts get read, so even if your recipients don’t respond to your initial message, the likelihood that they will see the message is very high. With that in mind, it is good to think in advance about what sort of information you want to include in that first text. You can reference this guide for initial message examples.
Emojis are a fun way to connect with recipients, but you may notice they aren’t available when drafting an initial message. That’s because emojis generally use up to 70 characters, meaning it is much more likely your message will split into 2 segments. But you are always welcome to copy and paste an emoji into an initial message if you want.
Recommended replies serve as canned responses for your senders as they engage in conversation. It is a way for you to make sure that recipients will always get the right link to a giving page, time or location of an event, or contact information for follow-up purposes. A few things to remember about recommended replies:
- Global opt-out message: We recommend that you create a global opt-out message so your senders can easily acknowledge a recipient’s request if they choose to opt-out.
- Saved Replies: Your senders can create their own saved replies, which can help your message senders add a personal touch to their conversations. For example, if someone asks “How do I know you are a real person?” your message sender can create a saved reply that says: “Thanks for asking! I am a junior studying political science and Spanish. I’m also on a scholarship and the first in my family to attend college, so I know how big of an impact gifts to the annual fund can have.”
There is no limit to the number of recommended replies you can create and you can always add recommended replies after a campaign has launched.
Adding Survey Questions
ThruText’s survey questions allow senders to track data based on what recipients say. Survey questions give you easy snapshots into campaign success, and can help you to target follow-up messages.
- Example Survey Question: If you are soliciting donations, you’ll want to add a survey question titled “Plans to give” or something similar. Any recipient who says they plan to give would be recorded as a Yes. Then, after the campaign is over you can match your actual donation data with the list of alumni who said they planned to give. If any of your “Yeses” did not actually give, you can send them a reminder text -- but only if you recorded their intent with a survey question the first time around!
Add a global ‘freeform’ survey question to all of your campaigns for Notes/Updated Contact information. This can help your senders capture valuable information they want to pull out of their exchanges.
Following Up With Your Recipients
Follow-up messages let you send an additional message to some or all of the people in a campaign. For example, you could send a follow-up message to everyone who RSVP'd yes for an event reminding them of the event’s time and location. It is a good practice to think in advance about whether you plan to use a follow-up so you budget time during your campaign to roll it out, especially if you are on a Giving Day deadline. You can learn more about how follow-ups work here.
Developing Campaign Naming Conventions
Deciding on a naming convention can be a helpful way for you to easily find and manage your active campaigns. You may want to start each campaign off with a group signifier and end with unique information like class years. Example: LYBUNTS_2000-2005.
If you are done with a campaign and know that you do not need to send any more messages from those phone numbers, you can archive it. This is permanent and cannot be undone. It will turn off the campaign so no more messages can be sent or received, and will also turn the campaign off for billing purposes.
Measuring Success (After Campaign Launch)
As with any outreach tool, it’s important that you are prepared to collect and analyze your data to measure the success of your ThruText campaigns.
Collecting Your Data
At the end of a campaign, you can export your data based on full message history or survey responses. You can also access account-level exports and see data from across your campaigns.
It is common for recipients to receive a text message and then use their computer to make a gift through your website. At the end of a campaign, you can run a list of who gave next to who received a text to get an overall picture of texting and whether it increased likelihood of making a gift. You may even want to run an A/B test in this area, so please read on to the next section for more information on support we offer for testing.
High Level What To Expect
While gift rates vary widely from institution to institution, we can offer some general feedback on response rates that our clients have seen so far for different groups of alumni. Response rates mean the % of recipients who respond to a text message.
- Average LYBUNTS response rate: 25-30%
- Average Giving Day response rate: 10-15%
- Average alumni engagement (i.e., non-fundraising asks) response rate: 40-50%
- Average opt-out rate: 2-3%
Peer-to-peer texting is a relatively new tool for higher education, and we are excited to work with our clients to learn more about what does and doesn’t work with texting and annual giving. If you are interested in working together to set up measurable tests of different texting tactics, please email email@example.com.