Health and Growth

Text Marketing for Churches: A Short Guide

Text marketing is the new email marketing. Here's how to get started and boost growth today.

Text Marketing for Churches: A Short Guide
by

Paul Maxwell

Text message marketing is the next frontier of pastoral leadership.

In five years, text message marketing will be as common as social media marketing was 5 years ago.

The question is:

Will your church be the one to embrace text marketing and grow? Or wait five years to adopt it and be just like every church that created their first Instagram account in 2016?

Here’s the deal:

I know that text message marketing seems this new, invasive way of using data to interact with your church members.

The truth?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

But listen… I get it.

You’re still a little hesitant to adopt text message marketing because you’re worried it will damage your relationship with your members.

That’s a common belief.

But it’s a myth.

And here, we’re going to debunk the myth that text marketing is a suspicious new tool and show three things:

  1. Basic text marketing lingo
  2. Why you should adopt it today
  3. What are the best practices in text marketing for churches

Let’s get started!

Basic Text Marketing Lingo

Before you dive into text message marketing, you need to know the basic lingo that marketers and text message carriers use.

Get this lingo down, and you’ll have a masterful command of this strategy in no time.

What does SMS stand for?

What is SMS messaging anyway?

SMS stands for Short Message Service.

This is the kind of text messaging you were used to in the 90’s.

An SMS message is a 160 character text with no images.

This kind of message is crucial for communicating key information to users.

When did text messaging start, anyway?

The first text message was sent on December 3rd, 1992 from a programmer named Neil Papworth, from his computer, saying “Merry Christmas.”

Not long after, they figured out how to harness this technology as the primary tool for phones to communicate the most information using the smallest amount of data.

What does MMS stand for?

Never heard of MMS? No problem.

MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service.

Send an MMS text to send a rich, long text message that exceeds 140 characters, and even includes key images, rich links, and information-rich copy.

SMS vs MMS

Which should you use for text message marketing? SMS or MMS? In the MMS vs SMS standoff, there doesn’t have to be one winner.

Let me explain.

SMS marketing only allows for up to 160 characters per text, right?

Here’s the crazy think:

MMS marketing technically allows for an unlimited number of characters per text (although carriers often set a cap).

Carriers tend to charge more for MMS, so a good text marketing campaign will use a mix of SMS (key info messages) and MMS (image-rich, long-info messages) to make the most of their budget.

There’s no use sending a high-cost message to communicate what you could say in 140 characters.

So, now that you’ve got a solid grasp on the basic lingo of text message marketing, it’s time to understand why you should implement it, and how!

Why you should adopt text message marketing today

Most of the information you find on the web today is marketing material by a text message marketing service trying to persuade you to use their product.

I’m not going to try to sell you any product right now.

Below are the cold, hard stats about text messaging marketing that you need to know before you make any decision.

These facts prove that text message marketing is the future of church communications.

People actually want you to text them

85% of mobile device users prefer a text over phone calls or emails.

People are used to getting texts.

People don’t mind getting texts.

Processing a simple, well-crafted text message takes less than 10 seconds for the average individual.

The text message queue on someone’s phone isn’t like the email queue.

Everybody knows someone with 8,726 unread emails in their Gmail account (but not you, right?)

Nobody has more than a few unread text messages.

That’s because people read, process, respond, and text easily.

Text message marketing is an easy way for you to insert yourself into the daily information processing system that people have.

Texting feels organic to people

Texting is the most-used mobile device feature.

When people receive text messages, they assume that the persons texting them got their number from them or their friend.

People give more authority to texts they receive than emails (a ton of spam), Facebook messages (mostly pyramid schemes), or even phone calls (telemarketers, anyone?).

A text is the ultimate, uninvasive, supremely personal way to communicate with someone.

You have to overcome the same hesitancy with text marketing your church members that you overcame with asking your crush to be your prom date in high school.

Sometimes, the thing that works best for you also works best for them.

You have to accept the serendipitous possibility that what you want is also what they want.

The idea that people don’t want you to text them is folk lore.

Myth.

Hooey.

A sham.

Fake news.

As long as your text messaging marketing strategy is elegant and essential, your members want you to text them.

Text message marketing can foster not only conversion, but conversation

Text message marketing enables you to reply to each person who sends you a text message.

This means that, unlike email, you don’t have to spend a week going back-and-forth with someone until you figure out what’s going on.

Text message marketing enables you to have real-time conversations with people to get them the information they need to get to the right event, give to the right cause, and most importantly, serve the church however God has called them most efficiently and effectively.

Text message marketing is one-on-one

Text message marketing software enables you to log, review, and track each of your one-on-one conversations in order to identify areas of need, supply support where necessary, and overcome any remaining obstacles between your members and their goals.

Mass marketing email often doesn’t enable you to interact with individuals in a way that helps them.

More than that, people know that mass emails often come from a generic address and do not offer the promise of real support.

But text message marketing—even mass text messages—gives people a sense of individual support that invites them to respond, and keeps the information in the forefront of their minds.

Open and click through rates outperform email

The average open rate for email is 22%, and average clickthrough rate for email is 6%, taking over 90 minutes to respond.

For text messages, the average open rate is 97% and average clickthrough rate is 36%, taking on average less than 5 minutes to respond.

Put simply, text messages are the best way to get the right people the right content and to ensure that they actually look at it.

Best practices in text message marketing for churches

We’ve established the power of text message marketing, but as a wise uncle once said:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

If you abuse the power of text message marketing, people will let you know.

People will get angry.

Text messaging is an intimate means of communication, which means that any text message marketing campaigns must be crafted to be delicate, subtle, laser-sharp in their focus, and crystal clear in their relevance.

In other words, whenever someone receives a text message, people should know:

  • Who the text message is from
  • What the text message is communicating
  • Why the text message was sent
  • Why the text message was sent when it was sent
  • Why they specifically are receiving a text message

If your text message doesn’t communicate these elements clearly, it will come off as spammy and invasive.

Use these best practices to make the proper use of text message marketing to endear recipients to your message and to make them eager recipients of future messages.

Make sure users opt-in

The Telephone Communications Protection Act means your users must opt-in (this means that you can’t just enter their number into your system—they must personally enter their number into your system through a form or sign-up sheet so that they know they indeed are opting in for a text message.

Make sure that you do two things on all your church communications forms:

  1. Add the “Phone Number” field to the top of your giving form to increase the amount of people who give you their number
  2. Include an “Opt-In” for text marketing right beneath the phone field so that people know when and why they will receive texts from you.

This will set you up to communicate with your church through text in a powerful way that helps them feel respected.

Only communicate vital, actionable information

Do not send encouraging bible verses to every person’s phone every morning.

Do not ask every small group participant to bring a dish to the Monday night potluck.

Do not send random texts to members asking for donations.

These are all church versions of “U up?”

Make sure that your church’s text messaging communication strategy serves your members.

By sending only strategic text messages, you retain credibility among your members as a sender, they are more likely to take messages seriously if you only send important information to the right people, and you prevent people from getting a bad taste in their mouth from your church because of an overzealous communications strategy.

Segment your audience so the right people get the right content

One way to make sure you only send important, relevant information to the right people is by segmenting your list.

Send small group information to small group people.

Send potluck information to potluck people.

Send administrative information to administrators.

Very often, text messaging is the best way to get the right information to the right people.

But if you haven’t segmented your phone contact list into logical list of users who have different needs, interests, and desires, then text message marketing software will be more of a liability to you than an asset.

Using a text message marketing software for your church without segmenting your members is like opening up a high-end sushi restaurant in farm country Wyoming—it doesn’t matter how quality your sushi is if your execution isn’t informed, intentional, and for the right people.

Use text message marketing to serve your members first, not your brand

All of these guidelines—why you should use text message marketing software and how you should use it—can be boiled down a single piece of advice:

Use your text message marketing software to serve your members, not yourself.

The more you use text message marketing to make your users’ lives easier, the more inclined they will be to open, click, and participate.

If they get even a whiff of spam, they will start deleting your texts before opening them, or worse—blocking your number.

Like all tools in church, don’t use text message marketing narcissistically.

Use text message marketing to serve, as Christ would have used it.

Over to you

Don’t bury your head in the technological sand any longer.

There’s no excuse not to be a text message marketing early adopter.

Remember:

  • People actually want you to text them
  • Texting feels organic to people
  • Text message marketing can foster only conversion, but conversation
  • Text message marketing is one-on-one
  • Open and click through rates outperform email

More than that:

  • Make sure users opt-in
  • Only communicate vital, actionable information
  • Segment your audience so the right people get the right content
  • Use text message marketing to serve your members first, not your brand

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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Text Marketing for Churches: A Short Guide