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Serving and offering programs to younger audiences using text
Nonprofits are always looking for better ways to reach those they serve. For younger audiences, like, Generations Y and Z, texting is the preferred method of communication. So it isn’t surprising that there is an uptick in the number of services nonprofits are offering via text message.From counseling, to emotional support, to crisis lines and resources—all can be offered via text messaging. This enables nonprofits to expand their reach and help more people. There are benefits and challenges alike, but many are finding text to be a life-saving option. Keep reading to find out more.

The benefits to text
Text can provide benefits to both clients and counselors that person-to-person communication cannot. And, people reaching out for help via text can receive the same services as those calling in over the phone, including risk assessment, emotional validation and collaborative problem solving.

For clients
Texting can provide an opportunity to seek help when a phone call isn’t an option. Text may be beneficial to some clients because:

  • Texting feels safe: Those in immediate danger may feel safer texting than picking up a phone.
  • Texting is more private: It can be done in silence anytime, anywhere, and it offers anonymity.
  • Texting looks natural: Texting is a normal, every day occurrence to many and therefore looks natural.

For counselors
For counselors, texting enables the ability to reach multiple texters at once and to introduce other experts into a conversation without transferring or placing a caller on hold. Plus, text exchanges have a way of resuming more seamlessly after a break or interruption since there is written record of previous conversations.

DoSomething.org’s CEO, Nancy Lublin, when speaking on behalf of the organization’s independent subsidiary CrisisTextLine, is quick to point out that the benefits of text can be taken one step further—through data. Due to the real-time nature of text, patterns can be drawn to anticipate problems, inform legislation and develop public policy solutions.

Adopting text and what to consider
As with most solutions, text does have its share of challenges. On the phone, counselors have the ability to moderate what they are saying with the tone of their voice. Things can get lost in translation via text and tones can be interpreted incorrectly. Plus, text messages can be ended more unexpectedly than phone calls as callers are less likely to abruptly hang up.

If your nonprofit is considering integrating text into its communication platform, you may want to check out communications company, Twilio(SM). It has developed a platform that integrates phone and text into mobile and Web applications. It has also launched Twilio.org, which makes its services more accessible to qualified nonprofits via Kickstart® credits and discounts on voice and messaging products. Another resource is the Salesforce.com Foundation. It offers some of its communication technologies to nonprofits at a discount through its Power of Us Program.

Once you launch your text capabilities, make sure you promote them. Imprint short codes with the message, “Help is just a text away” on pencils, stress relievers, lip balm and hand sanitizer. Distribute these items at area schools, churches, recreational facilities, human services centers and more. And make sure to promote your texting capabilities to those who call on the phone or visit in person. Include short codes on your on-hold message, imprint outdoor banners that can be displayed outside your facility and provide staff with T-shirts or buttons that say, “Need help? Text <short code> today.”

Remember, if you’re looking for more ways to provide support to those who need it, you may want to consider offering your services via text. You just may reach someone who never would have called.

“Nancy Lublin: Texting That Saves Lives.” TED.com. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 16 Mar. 2014.

Fishbach, Stephen. “The New York Times Loves DoSomething’s Crisis Text Line.” Mobile Commons. N.p., 04 March 2014. Web. Retrieved 16 Mar. 2014.

Kaufman, Leslie. “In Texting Era, Crisis Hotlines Put Help at Youths’ Fingertips.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Feb. 2014. Web. Retrieved 16 Mar. 2014.

“A Billion Messages for Good.” Twilio.org. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 16 Mar. 2014.


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