Season 2, Episode 61

If you’ve been struggling with the idea of how to communicate with your donors during the Public Phase of your campaign, you don’t want to miss this episode.

We are joined by James Martin, founder of Rally Corp. He’s a 3x tech founder and servant leader with over two decades of experience working in the social sector. He helps charities and causes rally passionate supporters with a human-centered mobile communications platform built exclusively for nonprofits.

Listen Now:

Amy Eisenstein:
If you’ve been struggling with the idea of how to communicate with your donors during the public phase of your campaign, you will not want to miss our guest today. We are going to be talking about communicating with your donors using mobile.

Hello. I am with James Martin, a fundraising visionary with 20-plus years of experience bootstrapping nonprofits and tech companies from zero to high seven figure revenues. He’s the founder and CEO of Rally Corp, a father of three, and lives in San Diego with his wife Tracy.

Today we are going to be talking about the public phase of your campaign and how to communicate with donors specifically using technology — including mobile and texting.

James, thank you so much for being here. Welcome to the conversation.

James Martin:
Thank you. So good to be here. Thanks for having me today.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. Why don’t you get us started? Why don’t you talk a little bit about how you encourage nonprofits to think about their strategy for the public phase of their campaign and how they’re going to communicate with donors and solicit donations?

Communicating with Donors During the Campaign’s Public Phase

James Martin:
Yeah, Amy, I appreciate that. Absolutely, as you said, it’s really the public phase of the journey here, and the capital raise sometime around I guess 65, 70% or so of your goal after you’ve had your silent phase. So going public is a big deal. When you go public, it can be quite scary.

So you’re looking for as many opportunities to get in front of as many people as you can and to reduce the barrier or the friction to donate so that folks can just more or less kind of trip over your campaign and fall into it with their wallet wide open.

Amy Eisenstein:
I love that. That sounds good. Let’s have them trip over and fall into it.

James Martin:
That’s right. Let’s have them trip for sure, and fall in a big way, and maybe carry their checkbook with them.

I think we’re looking at different channels and communication strategies, everything from email, phone calls, text. But even driving folks to your website. Chances are, Amy, they’re doing it on their mobile phone. So we’re looking at 50% or more folks viewing your website on your mobile device. They’re scrolling some 300 feet a day with their thumbs with all their different social feeds. So Amy, if you’ve ever gone to bed with your thumbs tired, that’s why.

Amy Eisenstein:
That is exactly why.

Let’s back up for one second and just make sure that listeners know the public phase is, as we alluded to, at the end of your campaign, you’ve already raised 65, 70, maybe even 80% of your dollars, but now’s the opportunity to invite the community and the public to participate and make a gift.

So as nonprofit leaders are starting to think about the strategy for this public phase and this sort of bulk outreach, for lack of a better word, how do you want them to start thinking about it, and what are some concrete and tangible things that they might do to prepare for this upcoming public phase?

Building Relationships to Prepare for the Public Phase

James Martin:
Yeah, outstanding question. At the end of the day, it’s always about relationships. So we’re building relationships. A one-time donor today could be a multiple reoccurring donor tomorrow. Somebody that donates a small amount or a mid-level donor may become a major donor. I think even in my experience working with major donors, they overall at one point are a mid-level or a first-time donor.

What we’re looking for is to as early and as often as possible, capture consent and the intention to build a texting relationship or a mobile relationship with donors. That could be something as simple as just availability where you say, hey, call me, text me, ask your questions. There’s any number of techniques.

We’re not talking simply just loading a list of phone numbers and doing a marketing blast. Technology that came really before Rally Corp, that’s really kind of their approach. It’s just load to list and spam people or blast text messages that were very un-personalized and not very well thought through or segmented.

What we’re looking for specifically, Amy, in this phase, is to have built a relationship with your donors over time. Some of them you’re going to already have contact with, some of them not yet, because they’re POP public and they’re not yet aware of you, and that’s okay.

But the key is to, with all of the individuals that touch your organization, that they give you as much data as they can, including their contact numbers. It may be email. So that when you do go public, you have a way to reach out and update people with where you are on your goal. You can share thermometers and different things like that to allow people to see the progress towards the bigger goal that you’re working towards.

Obtaining Consent to Text Your Donors

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, I really like the idea of capturing consent. Let’s talk a little bit more about how you do that. What are the practical implications for organizations that are looking to capture consent to text their donors? What does that look like?

James Martin:
Yeah, so there’s a couple of ways. The cleanest and the most effective is to have someone text you first. So if you can make it easy for them to text you, even if you’re publishing a phone number on your business card.

On my card, I have a little QR code that triggers a text message with my contact information. So when someone scans that code, they get my contact information added to their phone. That’s a very nice way at a conference. Or I’m meeting somebody for the first time over coffee; I can invite them to add me to their phone. So now future phone calls, text messages, voicemails that I leave them are showing with my caller ID and not just unknown caller. That’s, I think, the first step towards building a relationship is getting my information in their hands as much as their information in mine.

I think the cleanest is to have them text you first. Of course, there’s forms. You can fill out forms online and check a box to consent or opt-in to text messaging. But chances are you’re already capturing emails. It wouldn’t take much more effort to also capture a phone number and then to signal whether that is a mobile number with an opt-in or not.

And then simply just sending a text message at the end of a meeting, thanking them for their time or sending them a little video about the conversation you just had or sharing some resource or even thanking them. There’s several ways. Just text them as early as you can and permit them to opt-out if they want to at that point.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, that’s so interesting. Early on, 10, I don’t know, 15 years ago, when did we start texting? I don’t remember it. It seemed very personal and very almost intimate. I would never consider texting a donor 10 years ago because it seemed like it was just for family and friends, but now it really is the broadest widespread communication, just like email or any other kind of communication. I think, really, people do text on a pretty regular basis. They use it for business purposes. It’s no longer exclusively personal.

Super-interesting because I do think of the public phase as more mass marketing and broader outreach, and you’re talking about it in a very personal way, which I like a lot. Let’s talk about both. Before we started live on the podcast, you were talking about texting before and after meeting with a donor. Why don’t you talk more about that? I love that. I’m not sure that development directors are in the habit of texting with their donors, but why not, right?

When to Text Donors in the Fundraising Cycle

James Martin:
Yeah. Well, as you mentioned, in my bio, I’ve always grown my companies and my nonprofits bootstrapped at least for a season. Now, I do at some point raise money and I’ve raised millions of dollars personally. I have to set out with the idea that I eat what I kill as I’m doing everything I can to make sure that I am being as efficient and effective as possible.

So nothing, Amy, is more frustrating for me personally than leaving a meeting that I thought went really well. Even probably a decade now, even from my hand phone, my regular iPhone in my pocket, I’ve always just made it a habit to text somebody immediately following a meeting to thank them.

There’s a moment of reciprocity right after an initial meeting or conversation with someone where they’re still very grateful for your time, and they liked your energy and they appreciate that. So often I’ll just find an excuse to text them and I’ll thank them. And it depends on the relationship and the nature of my relationship with them, of course.

But yeah, just simply texting somebody my contact card and saying:

“Hey, Amy, thank you so much for your time today. It was so great to hear about your journey with John, your son. Here’s a link to my contact card. I really look forward to our next conversation. I’ll follow-up in a week or two per our meeting.”

That kind of thing. It’s saying something early, and often, and I’ll find that they often will reply.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, I think it’s a great strategy for all of our listeners to think about really utilizing text in a more effective way, especially one-on-one.

Mass Mobile Communication with Donors

Alright, let’s move to mass mobile communication, if you will. I appreciate early on you mentioned not spamming people with texts, but let’s talk about what might be an appropriate strategy for nonprofits in a public phase of a campaign to reach out to their community not on a one-on-one texting basis.

James Martin:
On the sending mass messages, and I would just remind your listeners that there’s regulations that protect both email and text messaging, so it’s not as unique as some folks might think it is. We have to be careful at any time we do mass messaging. And really, the same principles apply to segment your list, personalize your outreach to create value, and texting is no different.

We like to think of it more as a human-centered texting, where you are really working hard to make the text message more personalized. Often we work with templates or various playbooks or toolkits even like yours, Amy, where you instruct folks on what to say or the ideas or the content of the actual message.

So, assuming you’ve done the hard work of segmenting your list and creating really as much of a personalized outreach as you can, then it just comes down to deploying really good practices to ensure that you’re sending the messages in a way that land properly.

Consider A/B Testing for Mass Text Messages

In my experience, Amy, I’ll not only segment and personalize the message, but I’ll do what they call A/B testing, where I’ll send maybe 100 text messages and monitor clicks and conversions to see:

  • Are people opening my message?
  • Are they opting-out?
  • What’s happening with 100 people before I send it to 1,000 or 10,000? Or even in our case, 100,000 folks?

I don’t want to blow through 100,000 people without putting a little bit of thought into the effectiveness of my message.

I think it just comes down to slowing it down and doing it, and doing it the right way, and making sure that there’s a human on the other end of your message that can actually respond to people who reply to you. I think that’s a big deal.

Amy Eisenstein:
That is so important. I love that idea of doing some early small group testing, and reminding people that if you do text 100,000 people, you do have to have the capacity to respond to those that respond to you. That’s great.

James Martin:
Absolutely. And they will respond, for sure.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. Of course, I know this is what you do at Rally Corp, and I’m happy for you to talk about that a little bit.

Texting Technology for Nonprofits: Apps and Services

I want you to talk about the technology that’s necessary, and without naming any of your competitors, just talk about what nonprofits should be looking for when they’re thinking about the technology or an app or a service. How would they go about doing this, and what should they be thinking about and looking for, and what kind of questions should they be asking as they’re investing in this kind of service?

James Martin:
Yeah, great question. Whether they use my company, Rally Corp, or anybody else, really isn’t the point here. I want them to use mobile. I think if your audience is using mobile, they’re really on the cutting edge of thinking about where their audience is and how their audience communicates with their friends and family and other businesses. So why not us?

I think that mobile as a strategy is an important thing to think about. Whether you are using it for more of an acquisition play where you’re acquiring opt-ins and permissions and getting that donor data and permission to text people early, or whether you’re using it more in the connect with folks during a campaign or expanding your capital campaign through the public phase.

What they should be looking for specifically, of course, is compliance. Does the platform maintain compliance both with what’s called 10DLC, or registered 10-digit phone numbers, or toll free? They should be looking at whether the platform responds to the commands that are pretty universal. We’re not talking simply just texting people from your phone or trying to find ways to do it on the cheap. There are great penalties for not doing it in a compliant manner, and you want to make sure the platform’s compliant.

AI in Texting Platforms

Beyond the simple letter of the law, you want to look at the spirit of a law. There’s some platforms like ours … We use a lot of artificial intelligence (AI) or natural language processing to automatically detect meaning. So you talk about responding to 100,000 text messages; replies, that’s a big deal. So you want to make sure the platforms really thought about that.

  • Is it able to detect that someone does not want to receive a text message simply because they responded with an emoji, maybe? That’s how they want to tell you to stop. Can the system figure those things out?
  • And do you have a support team behind you that can help you think through the use of text really beyond just sending an SMS?

Anybody could blast a text message. We’re looking for platforms and organizations that actually understand what it’s like to raise money, to have lived on the front lines in the social sector where it’s not just nonprofits plus other markets. It’s very unique the work that we do in the social sector. I think it needs to be highly specialized. So templates, playbooks, toolkits, workflows, training webinars, office hours — things like that that support you in your thinking about texting.

I could go on and on, Amy. Obviously I’ve got a bias here, but I’ll end with this:

When it does come to texting, you really want to think about how you can build a persona on your donor or supporters’ phones, where they know who you are, and your phone numbers and your keywords don’t change.

No matter what your backend CRM or donor platform is, you want to make sure it’s universal and that it can plug into all of your systems so that you’re not texting people from your email program or from your CRM or from your fundraising platform from three different phone numbers. Because really, Amy, if I opt-out of one, I should be opting-out of all. And if you don’t have that integration, you are not compliant.

So you really want to think about a tool that plays across the spectrum and integrates with everything that you’re currently doing, both campaigns and tools, of course.

Amy Eisenstein:
Great. That’s super helpful.
Alright, I’m going to give you 30 seconds to plug Rally Corp, and then I’m going to ask you for some final thoughts and pieces of wisdom for our listening audience. Tell us about Rally Corp, and then your final thoughts or recommendations for listeners.

James Martin:
Yeah, Amy, I appreciate that. So rallycorp.com. I’m james@rallycorp. Of course, if you’re US listeners, you can text James to 24365. That’s 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Just text James. You’ll get a contact card that includes my personal cell phone. I figure it’s only fair, Amy; if I have their number, they should have mine. Feel free to reach out with questions. We are passionate about helping organizations think through strategies to rally people around a cause and to do that.

Actually, Amy, I won’t give my whole origin story here, but we spent 18 months as a company before we landed on mobile. We were a vision first, strategy second, and then out of that came the tool and tactics. So we were actually 18 months as a company before we even landed on mobile. And I’ll have to tell you, I was resistant as the CEO and Founder. I was like, “Nah, let’s not do texting. Let’s do something else.” But we just kept looking at the data and realizing texting, if you want to mobilize people, pun intended, it’s got to be on their phones. We’re passionate about helping people acquire and capture people and keep them engaged to your mission over time.

Amy Eisenstein:
Excellent. That’s what part of campaigns are all about and certainly in the public phase.

James Martin:
One hundred percent.

Final Thoughts

Amy Eisenstein:
Alright, so final words of wisdom or recommendations for listeners. What’s the one action you’d want them to take?

James Martin:
I think getting some help. Getting some input. Having a conversation, whether it be with a consultant, or using your Toolkit, which I absolutely love, and follow your podcast here. I think there’s just a lot of resources out there that are really top notch, and you don’t have to go at it alone. Just ask questions and have an open mind and explore. Just make sure that the folks that you’re talking to have the experience and the heart to help. It’s a big job raising money, especially leaning into something like a capital campaign, *that can be very scary and you don’t have to go at it alone.

Amy Eisenstein:
Excellent. Thank you so much for joining us. I learned a lot and I hope our listeners did too.


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