Text messages to mobile phones are going to become an increasingly important way for nonprofit organizations to reach out to their supporters, several speakers told participants here at the Nonprofit Technology Conference.
More than 1,100 charity technology officials, consultants, and company representatives are gathered here this week to discuss how charities can make the best use of technology in their work. The annual meeting is organized by the Nonprofit Technology Network, in Portland, Ore.
Text messaging has some real advantages over e-mail as a form of communication, said Dane R. Grams, online strategy director at the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington advocacy group that focuses on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues.
So far at least, mobile phones aren’t overrun with spam, he said, and while many people have multiple e-mail addresses — some of which they check infrequently — most only have one mobile number.
“We wanted to call on our most active supporters to act on a moment’s notice,” said Mr. Grams. “Most people have a single cellphone, and it’s always with them.”
The Human Rights Campaign has been experimenting with cellphone messages since August.
The organization sent advocacy messages encouraging members of the network to call their representatives in Congress to ask them to support the Matthew Shepard Act, which would strengthen federal hate-crime laws.
People who responded to the alert would first hear a message that suggested key points they should make in their conversations with Congressional staff members, and then they were connected to their representative’s office.
To date, the organization’s use of the medium for fund raising has been limited. At the end of January, as the group’s annual membership drive was coming to a close, it sent out text messages encouraging people to join or to renew their support.
But the Human Rights Campaign hopes to soon send out fund-raising appeals that would ask members of the mobile network that would connect people who want to make a gift to live operators who could take their information.
The Human Rights Campaign’s mobile network recently crossed the 10,000 subscriber threshold, and Mr. Grams said that has changed the way the organization thinks about cellphone campaigns.
“Nobody paid attention to this program before, and now people are starting to pay attention to it at HRC,” he said. “People are thinking about everything we do, every action we take, every program we run, how can we incorporate mobile.”