Traditionally fundraising meant convincing a candidate to spend hours on the phone calling potential donors. While call time is still an important way to raise money, the growth of online fundraising through tactics like texting and digital ads has allowed campaigns to reach potential donors, especially small dollar donors, more efficiently and scalably. Texting is an appealing way to raise money: it’s much faster than individually making calls and allows your staff to still have conversations with potential donors.
For all of its appeal, texting is also daunting. In this blog post I’ll break down how to set up a texting campaign. I’m going to walk through who you should text in a fundraising campaign and how to pull targeted lists, what vendors you can use, and how to write a fundraising script. I’ll also cover some logistics, how to track your success, and finally some general tips. This blog post is adapted from a training and you can view the full recording here.
To start off I wanted to share a success stories from Deck users. Jason Crow’s campaign for Congress texted Deck’s fundraising list. Their campaign had around 4,600 textable phone numbers for likely donors. With their first round of texting they generated 156 opt-ins and raised $728. Only 130 people opted out of the first pass so they made additional passes of the list to generate more opt-ins. They spent $94 to send these texts for a return of over 700% plus generating new opt-ins for their broadcast texting program.
Your campaign can text a Deck fundraising list directly asking for contributions, but this list can also be used in other creative ways like building attendance for fundraisers and events. Jason Crow’s campaign narrowed their list of textable potential donors to people 35 and younger to invite them to a young professionals fundraiser. They raised $540 from 18 young voters in their district and grew their supporters.
Jason Crows campaign shows us that using texting to fundraise is an effective way to reach potential donors and build support. It’s a time and cost effective way to raise money and engage new supporters.
How to Pull a Texting List
Deck creates fundraising lists for your campaign. Deck’s fundraising list is based on a combination of our contributor likelihood score, support likelihood score, and income. We analyze the distribution of scores in your district to develop a list of your likely supporters who are also likely to donate to your campaign and are in the top 50% of incomes in your district. Remember, these are not your individual fundraising lists; the people in your fundraising universe may not have heard of your campaign.
To pull fundraising lists in Deck for texting, start by first selecting ‘Text” as your tactic and “Large” as your list size. This will give you a large fundraising list in your district filtered to people who are more likely to have a textable phone number. You can then export this list to VoteBuilder through our VoteBuilder integration and then finally export to your texting vendor.
These texting lists are a great place to start because they will contain the people most likely to donate and be your supporters. You can also expand the list to include people who are less likely to support you, less likely to make a donation, or are lower income. Simply drag the sliders on each score under the “Show Filters” section. You can also filter Deck’s fundraising lists by demographics to appeal to specific groups.
How to select a vendor
Now that you’ve put together a list, it’s time to figure out how you are going to text these potential donors. The vast majority of campaigns will use peer-to-peer texting tools to text voters. Peer to peer texting is where you have a staff member or volunteer physically press send to send each text message. This allows campaigns to comply with government regulation stipulation which stipulate that people must opt in explicitly to be texted or called by a robot.
Peer- to- peer texting is also conversational: it allows potential donors to respond to the texts you send and then initiate a conversation for your texters to respond to. When people respond they’ll be directed back to your texter who can answer questions, provide context, and engage your donors in conversation to build relationships.
Many campaigns also once they have voters opt in to receive texts will also create a separate broadcast texting program once they have voters opt in to receive texts . Because broadcast texting is essentially a robocall, potential voters have to explicitly opt in to the process. Broadcast texting is when you can automatically send messages to everyone on a texting list and don’t have to dedicate time to individually pressing send. Broadcast texting also allows you to write longer messages and include images and videos. If your campaign can develop a list of 1 to 2 thousand opt-ins, using broadcast texting can increase the efficiency of your fundraising texting program. To develop a list of opt-ins this size, you’ll probably have to text between 10,000 and 20,000 people. Broadcast texting is good for making fundraising asks, but also for rapid response. Because sending your list a text is so easy, you can share positive news coverage, respond to current events, and direct supporter energy into donations and engagement.
There are lots of peer- to- peer texting vendors in the Democratic political space. A few favorites of the team at Deck include Politics Rewired, Scale to Win, Switchboard, and Hustle. When selecting a peer- to- peer texting program, it’s important to ask these questions:
- What is your deliverability? People aren’t going to donate if they never get your texts! So it’s important to ask how reliable the platform is at delivering texts, reporting errors, and working around text messages flagged as spam.
- How conversational is your program? You’ll want texters to be able to use scripted replies while also coming up with their own organic conversations.
- What support is available to your campaign once you sign up for the program?. Are there trainings or support libraries?
- How does your product integrate with platforms that track and manage donations like NGP VAN and ActBlue?
- What reporting mechanisms exist to understand your program’s successes and room for growth?
How to write a script
Now that we’ve gone through how to export a texting list and you’ve chosen a vendor, it’s time to write a script. It’s important to keep your text scripts short when creating peer-to-peer messages. One reason is that your cost per text will be determined by how long the text is and most peer-to-peer texting services have character limits per text. To keep peer-to-peer texting cost efficient, make sure your text can be sent in one SMS segment which is typically around 160 characters. Aim for a message that people can read most of when it pops up on their phone. Peer-to-peer texting also works to replicate the types of conversations you have with people you know to develop relationships between your campaign and potential donors. Most people don’t send, receive, and read paragraph-long texts, so your campaign should try to replicate a more authentic texting experience.
To craft the content of your script, you’ll want to condense your campaign’s message into a few snappy lines with a specific ask about how you want potential donors to engage with your campaign. Although you will be specifically targeting people within your district using the Deck list, you’ll want to first identify who your candidate is, explain that you are running to be a potential donor’s representative, and finally highlight what makes your candidate stand out. Not everyone you text will be familiar with your campaign; by specifying that you’re running to be their representative, you help make the ask relevant to the potential donor. Often you can condense language that’s already proven effective in your email outreach, over the phone, or in door-to-door canvassing.
You’ll also want to include a specific ask for potential donors. One best practice is to first direct these people to a signup page like the one provided by most CRMs. This signup page should include an opinion for potential donors to input their information, opt into text messages and emails, and finally share notes. After a potential donor adds their information, redirect them to an ActBlue donation page. You can also experiment with your asks to potential donors: try linking them directly to a donation page or to your website as well and see what works best.
Finally, you’re also legally required to identify the specific campaign or committee you are texting from. It’s also good practice to identify the texter’s name to make the texts feel more authentic and cut through some of the inherent spamminess of political texting. Make sure your potential donors know a real person is texting them and they can have an authentic conversation with campaign staff.
After you send texts, it’s important to track who you’ve texted and their giving history through your chosen CRM platform, whether that is NGP or ActionNetwork. Make sure you integrate your fundraising texting program into your other reporting practices.
In this post I’ve covered why to fundraise over text, how to pull a targeted fundraising list, what to say, and how to pick a texting vendor. But remember that you can contact these people through multiple methods; texting will only be part of your fundraising program. You can use Deck’s fundraising universe not only to text, but also to launch digital ads, send mail, and even call some prospective donors.
Deck access is now free to campaigns with VoteBuilder that are running in an uncontested Democratic primary or general election. Primary campaigns pay $50/month. You can sign up for Deck access or book a demo to learn more on our website: www.deck.tools. As always, email [email protected] with any questions and I’ll see you on Deck!