February 25, 2010

How are nonprofits using text messaging?

Organizations starting to use SMS as powerful tool for fund-raising

text-messagingKatrin VerclasWe’ve just released a new report, Nonprofit Text Messaging Benchmark Study, that offers the first-ever look at how organizations in the United States are using text messaging and how subscribers are responding. It shows that mobile phones are becoming increasingly popular as an advocacy and fund-raising tool by organizations, and it provides benchmarks and metrics by which nonprofit organizations can measure their success with text messaging.

Co-authored by myself and Michael Amoruso and Jessica Bosanko of M+R Strategic Services, the free report also illustrates the various ways in which organizations are using text messaging. The study was sponsored by Mobile Commons and mGive.

The earthquakes in Haiti earlier this year showed the power of SMS as a tool for fund-raising (raising millions in just a few days), and it’s now clear that there’s an opportunity for nonprofits to tap into the mobile market to engage their supporters. As the study reports, there are currently over 276 million wireless users in the U.S., and during the first half of 2009, users sent about 740 billion text messages. The report breaks down not only how nonprofits can use SMS to interact with supporters but also releases statistics on how specific organizations fared with their SMS campaigns.

You might be interested in learning:

  • How nonprofits engage supporters through text messaging
  • The advantages and limitations of text messaging as a tool for engagement
  • How to evaluate the performance of a text message

Continue reading

February 23, 2010

How to set up an SMS campaign system


Mobile advocacy basics, from keyword response to mobile data collection

Guest post by Melissa Loudon

S MS is everywhere, in an amazing diversity of applications. From enabling ‘instant protest’ in the Philippines, Spain and Albania, to election monitoring in Ghana, Lebanon, and Sierra Leone to HIV/AIDS education and support in Mexico and South Africa, we’ve seen that 160 characters can make a difference. This how-to covers the basics of setting up an SMS campaign system, looking at different approaches to suit your goals, budget and technical expertise.

What do you want the system to do?

Before you start, it’s important to have a clear vision of how you want to use the system, and who the target audience might be. You should also do a level-headed audit of the resources available, including funding as well as staff time and technical expertise. If this doesn’t look promising, take heart! Sometimes the most effective systems are the simplest, and you don’t need a big budget for many types of SMS campaigns.

3 types of SMS campaign systems

In a MobileActive Primer on Desktop SMS Campaign Tools, Ben Rigby and Katrin Verclas identify three ways to use SMS campaign systems: Text blasting (bulk messaging), keyword response and smart texting. We’ll summarize the three approaches here. Continue reading

February 22, 2010

An easy way to organize applications online

Applicant Manager Overview from WizeHive on Vimeo.

New software tool can help workflow for nonprofits, foundations & NGOs

JD LasicaProcessing applications and proposals from prospective employees, contestants or grant-seekers can be a hassle for nonprofits, foundations, NGOs and small businesses. Your email in-box quickly becomes cluttered and it becomes a daunting task to separate the wheat from the chaff — making managing those boatloads of bits a major hassle.

A new app that just came across our desk looks like it goes a long way toward solving those problems. It’s called Applicant Manager from WizeHive, and it simplifies the process of reviewing and ranking applications in a secure, cloud-based collaboration space that brings together all parties and provides deep reporting features.

“Applicant Manager is particularly suited to the needs of nonprofits, foundations and NGOs that process applications for scholarships, awards, contests, admissions and more,” says spokesperson Rebecca Reeve. Continue reading

February 18, 2010

Why your nonprofit should check out Google Buzz


John HaydonYou’re probably wondering (like I’ve been for the past week) if your non-profit should be using Buzz. And I’ll agree with you – it’s not an easy decision.

At first glance, Google Buzz seems like a cross between Twitter and Facebook.


You have followers and following like on Twitter, and you can “like” and “comment” on posts like on Facebook. It almost seems like Google is copying both networks and maybe even acting like a spoiled brat.

But there are at least three things that make Buzz different from Facebook and Twitter:

  1. User Base – Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Buzz has an instant user base (over 176 million in December according to ComScore)  right out of the gate.
  2. Groups – Unlike Twitter and Facebook, you can create custom private groups using Contact Groups within Gmail. This allows you to create your own private stream with family, co-workers, or friends.
  3. Inbox – This is probably the biggest difference between Buzz and Facebook / Twitter. Buzz happens right within Gmail. This, by the way, could be a blessing and a curse (sharing unsolicited news about your nonprofit could feel invasive)

Continue reading

February 17, 2010

Choose the best settings for your Facebook Page

John HaydonWhen you set up a Facebook Page, you want make sure you do it in a way that optimizes the Page for best results. For example, if you encourage fans to post photos, they will be more likely to return.

This video goes over all the setting in a Facebook administration panel, keeping strategy in mind.

For instance, you can upload video and photos to your page by enabling the mobile setting. And you want to enable “Post by Page and Fans” to have more of a conversation with your community.

If you’re interested, I’ll be conducting a webinar on Facebook with Charityhowto.com today at 1 pm EST/ 10 am PST.

February 16, 2010

Helping Haitians via mobile, crowdsourcing & social media

New platform revolutionizes the way emergency response takes place

Guest post by Katrina Heppler

Bravo to the thousands of volunteers worldwide who are assisting with translating Creole mobile text messages to help people in Haiti following the devastating 7.0M earthquake that struck the nation Jan. 12.

You may not have heard of Mission 4636, but this is where a lot of the most remarkable relief work is taking place. Mission 4636 is a short code emergency response communication system that enables earthquake victims in Haiti to get life-saving aid by sending a free mobile text message. It’s a joint-project of Ushahidi, FrontlineSMS, CrowdFlower and Samasource.

Mission 4636 — named for one of the SMS short codes for Haiti relief efforts — is an outstanding example of global collaboration and the power of human ingenuity to help people and save lives through technology. A huge “hats off” to them as well as to the many organizations that have also come together to make Mission 4636 successful: inSTEDD, DigiCel, local radio networks, local NGOs and the many emergency responders.

In the video interview above, Brian Herbert of Ushahidi, Robert Munro of FrontlineSMS, Lukas Biewald of CrowdFlower and Leila Janah of Samasource share background on how they came together with the support of other organizations on the ground in Haiti to deploy a critical emergency communications system to help save lives and provide emergency resources to people following the earthquake. This is a massive effort across multiple non-profit and for-profit companies and individual volunteers from around the country and globe (more than 14 countries have been involved in translation).


In the weeks after the tragedy, text messages to the dedicated Haiti emergency short code 4636 increased about 10 percent each day – with about one text a second coming through. Technology and people power are playing a critical role in getting information to military and aid workers on the ground. Beyond the immediate help for people in need in Haiti, the program will build computer centers so Haitian refugees can do valuable digital work, get paid, and bolster the economy around them. Continue reading