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At PBP we provide technical support and expertise in advocacy, outreach, organization, and implementation for partners working on PB processes. In our Participation Lab we regularly pilot and test tools and procedures to help partners succeed. In the next few months we’ll be sharing tools for using Outreach, Information Management, Digital Voting, and more. Today we share an SMS Tip Sheet  for those of you considering adding an SMS element to your outreach.

Thanks to the Rita Allen Foundation and the Democracy Fund for support that makes this project possible.

Thinking about using texting in your participatory budgeting process outreach?

Using texting may help you engage PB participants, especially youth, in all stages of the process: idea collection, delegate or facilitator recruitment, and the vote in particular. However, it’s not simple to do well. Text messaging, also known as SMS or texting, is one tool the Participatory Budgeting Project has helped organizations use as part of their PB outreach strategy. Below are some tips to use it effectively.
SMS in PB outreach

The basics: What using SMS in outreach looks like

  • Collect names and numbers of people who are willing to get texts, or plan to provide an existing list of names and cell numbers.
  • Select an automating service to send texts for you, based on your goals, budget, and capacity.
  • Write the content of the texts, mindful of the deadlines, meeting dates or vote dates you want to engage people around and provide in a text.
  • Set up the order and rules for what triggers a text or series of texts to be sent, called the flow.

Before you start:

  • How much staff time can you devote to your SMS? Start early! Learning a new tool takes time, and you’ll need more time than you may think to do SMS right.
  • Cost. SMS done well isn’t cheap – find a budget and get all cost info before you sign up.
  • Who are you aiming to reach? Get focused for maximal success, and start reaching out if the people you want to reach are not in your existent leadership network.
  • Know your other outreach plans. SMS complements in-person and email outreach to help you better reach some communities, but is not a replacement for all other strategies.

Things to Watch Out For:

  • Ensure that your text content is relevant and readable. It should come out of input from the communities you want to reach out to, whether that is leadership internal to your organization or with your external partnerships.
  • Do you want to receive our messages TEXT YES > Opt-in confirm TEXT YES > Do I seem like creepy spam TEXT YES Craft your opt-in and language so you don’t come across like spam. Our team in Boston found it’s important to sound like you’re a person and not a bot.
  • Experiment and test! One staffer said they wished they had sent more texts. But, be mindful a that there is a “sweet spot” between a useful number of messages and annoying message chains. This amount depends on your specific community of recipients and outreach goals.
  • Don’t forget to get started early 😉

Check out the tip sheet now!

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