Taking political texting to the next level

How we built an SMS fundraising program that rivaled email

Showcased Capabilities

Marketing

John James was running in one of the most competitive Senate races in the country. That means there were a lot of eyes on race — and a lot of dollars spent to stop him. In order to match the overwhelming amount of funds pouring in from outside groups and Democratic Super PACs, we needed to make sure we capitalized on every marketing channel we had — including SMS.

Example of political fundraising text messages from the John James for Senate campaign

How we did it

We leveraged our existing email house file and a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) prospecting program to acquire new users. In addition to basics like including an option for users to opt-in on landing pages, we also sent targeted email campaigns to our house file asking our users if they wanted to receive texts from John James and encouraged them to join our program.

We operated an inbound SMS program, which allowed users to join our SMS house file by texting "John" to a SMS long-code. Once they texted "John" to our number, they received a personal thank you text and were entered into an SMS welcome series.

In order to reach users who hadn’t opted in via SMS, we used an outside peer-to-peer vendor prospecting program. Using peer-to-peer allowed us to contact users who had not opted in yet with a petition, survey, or donation ask. This strategy allowed us to build our SMS house file and get users who hadn’t opted in to engage with our content.

Our content strategy centered around John’s frequent media appearances, breaking national news, and end-of-month fundraising deadlines to drive the content for our SMS fundraising program. Staying topical and reacting as fast as we could were crucial to delivering results and raising money.

WE GOT RESULTS

Using engaging and current content, we were able to raise just under $1 million dollars from 28,000 SMS donors — including over $66,000 on a single text!

We turned a list of opted-in cell phone numbers into a fundraising channel so profitable that it even outpaced our unprecedented email fundraising program at times.

Words for the wise

SMS fundraising shouldn’t play second fiddle to email — it can be just as, or more, effective than email fundraising in the right circumstances. Approaching SMS as a serious channel of communication and not just a cheap way to score a quick buck is crucial.

Invest in your SMS program early on, take the time to talk to your users with a welcome series, keep them in the loop on your candidate’s latest media hits, and engage them on the issues they care about.

Don’t just ask supporters for money in September and expect them to convert — developing a responsive and healthy SMS list takes time and effort. 

And remember - keep your content current, your characters limited, and your segmentation sharp!