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6 min read

A Guide to Mobilizing Volunteers with Text Messages

March 1, 2024

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According to a 2023 VolunteerPro study, 34% of volunteer managers say their top priority is recruitment while another 13% say it’s boosting volunteer participation. No matter which one you prioritize, there’s a simple way your organization can further both your recruitment and participation goals—just look to the device in the palm of your volunteers’ hands.

Text messages, or SMS (Short Message Service), have been proven to increase the rates at which volunteers sign up and follow through with their participation. Texts are fast, personal, and easy for recipients to read and respond to, making them the perfect way to reach volunteers.

Whether you want to engage more supporters in advocacy or find new volunteers for an upcoming event, text messages can help you reach your goals. In this quick guide, we’ll explore four strategies you can use to make the most of this impactful channel.

Segment Volunteers Strategically

Just like any other communication channel, text messages work best when they’re tailored to specific audiences’ interests and preferences. Make your texts to volunteers highly relevant and personalized by creating a variety of volunteer segments within your database or text marketing app.

For instance, you might use the following segments to promote an opportunity to volunteer at a food bank:

  • Those who volunteer at the food bank regularly
  • Volunteers who participated in other opportunities recently
  • One-time volunteers
  • Donors who haven’t volunteered yet but have donated to the food bank in the past
  • Local supporters with young children who may be interested in a family volunteering opportunity
  • New donors who indicated on your welcome survey that they want to get more involved

Each group wants to volunteer for different reasons, so your texts should be tailored to speak to each segment’s unique motivations. While you highlight the value of introducing children to community service in your texts to supporters with families, for example, you could send this text to the segment of one-time volunteers:

Taylor, we loved having your help at the food bank last year. Are you interested in helping out again this weekend? Our team would love to see you!

Make your text messages as personal as possible using the information in your database to get the best results. Show volunteers that you care about them as individuals and want their help at your next volunteer event.

Give Them Clear Action Steps

Once you have volunteers’ attention, your texts should give them next steps that are straightforward and easy to follow. Include short, compelling calls to action (CTAs), and provide volunteers with links they can use to take the next step.

Common actions you may ask volunteers to take in a text message include:

  • Signing up for a volunteering event. Provide a link recipients can use to sign up, or simplify the process further by letting them sign up directly over text. For instance, prompt them to text back a word like “RSVP” to register for the event.
  • Filling out a waiver. If you need registered volunteers to fill out a waiver before they participate in an opportunity, texts are a great way to remind them. Briefly explain why they need to fill it out and provide the link so they can do so quickly.
  • Signing and sharing a petition. Send urgent CTAs to advocacy volunteers about petitions that need more signatures. Provide them with easy ways to share the petition after signing, such as a link to an Instagram story they can repost on their own profile.
  • Requesting a volunteer grant from their employer. According to 360MatchPro, 40% of Fortune 500 companies offer grants to nonprofits that their employees regularly volunteer with. For volunteers who may be eligible, remind them to submit their volunteer grant requests on time with a quick reminder text. 

Don’t forget to thank volunteers with another text after they take each of these actions, and record their participation in your database so you can suggest similar actions in the future.

Encourage Volunteers to Text Back

Mogli’s SMS marketing guide explains that one of the top benefits of texts is how easy they are to read and respond to. This makes them naturally well-suited to one-to-one conversations that help your organization build relationships with volunteers. 

To pave the way for these conversations, address volunteers by name and use a friendly tone in your messages. Write messages that encourage them to respond with any questions or comments they may have. Then, be prepared to continue the conversation to strengthen individual connections and learn more about specific volunteers’ interests.

For instance, take a look at how the following example opens the door to further conversation with a volunteer who recently donated:

A phone screen showing a thank-you text message and a response that reads “Happy to help!”

If your organization receives a response like the one above, you could continue the conversation by updating the volunteer on your fundraising campaign’s overall progress or inviting them to volunteer at a summer camp for young girls interested in STEM.

Whether volunteers have a question about a virtual opportunity or just want to let you know that they can’t make an event due to a last-minute schedule change, any text they send back to you is an opportunity to develop your organization’s relationship with them.


Incorporate Texts Into Your Appreciation Strategy

Appreciation is a key part of any successful volunteer marketing strategy, and texts can elevate your approach. For instance, imagine that a first-time volunteer receives an immediate, personalized thank-you text after their first event, followed by a handwritten card sent a week later. This multichannel approach will make much more of an impact than an email that gets lost in their inbox or looks like an ad.

To show volunteers your appreciation, send short thank-you texts after events, during advocacy campaigns, and to celebrate birthdays and volunteering milestones. 

Then, go beyond baseline appreciation and show volunteers that you value their input by sending interactive text surveys. Asking for feedback demonstrates that volunteers are an impactful part of your organization, gives them a say in your volunteer program’s development, and provides you with actionable feedback you can use to improve your offerings. 

By leveraging a text marketing app, you can create dynamic automated surveys that volunteers can take right from their messaging apps. Plus, solutions that integrate with your CRM (such as a Salesforce text app if you use Salesforce for Nonprofits) can add volunteers’ answers directly to your database, making it easier for you to leverage their preferences for personalization in the future.


Mobilizing volunteers isn’t just about filling positions—it’s about building relationships and engaging supporters well enough that they devote their time to your cause long-term. Keep relationship-building at the heart of your nonprofit’s texting strategy, and this impactful channel will help you create and maintain a strong base of loyal volunteers.

Guest Contributer

Written by Guest Contributer

This article was written by a VolunteerMatch Guest Contributor.