How to create an outbound SMS message

A detailed guide on drafting and sending outbound SMS messages with Engage

Alyssa avatar
Written by Alyssa
Updated over a week ago

Outbound SMS messages are only available to verified nonprofit accounts at this time. If you have a verified nonprofit account, you'll be able to submit a 10DLC application in order to use this feature in Engage. If you aren't a verified nonprofit on Givebutter, you can still use Engage to send out email blasts to your contacts!

You must complete the 10DLC application before you're able to send out Engage SMS messages.

  • Once you've gotten 10DLC approval and selected your SMS number, open your dashboard and head to Engage in the sidebar, and click on Email & SMS.

  • Click New Message in the top right, then select "Text Message".

    • Choose Start with template to use a built-in templates.

new message button

Available SMS templates include:

  • Donation Ask

  • Event Invite

  • Goal Reached

  • Thank you

If you select a template, make sure that SMS is selected in the next screen, and choose the template you would like to use. Then click Start with template again.

Filtering your contacts πŸ“™

The first screen you'll see is the list of contacts you want the message to be sent to. If you don't have contacts in your account yet, you'll need to import your contacts before you start.

  • By default, all your contacts will be included. To narrow this down, create a new Filter to include a targeted group of contacts.

  • You can create Filters to create targeted groups based on a variety of different criteria, such as:

    • Presets: A selection of preset options, including one-time donors

    • Campaigns: Donors who have given to a specific campaign

    • Contact: Donors who have given a certain amount, recurring donors, contacts since a certain date, or by tags

    • Team Member: Team Members on campaigns based on how much they've raised, the date they registered, or the number of supporters

    • Transactions: Donors who have a Transaction meeting the criteria set, ie. credited to a specific Team Member, over a certain amount, or by date

    • Tickets: Ticket holders of a specific ticket type, status (ie. checked in), or by number of tickets purchased

    • Recurring Plan: Donors with recurring plans by start date, amount, frequency (ie. monthly donors), or payment method

    • DonorSearch: Criteria set by DonorSearch such as rating or annual gift likelihood

    • Contact Custom Fields: Filter contacts by contact custom field information. Filtering options will vary based on the type of contact custom field, ie. "greater than" is an option for number-based answers, and "includes" is an option for text-based answers.

  • These are cumulative filters, so you can select multiple criteria. Tags are a great way to designate a specific group of Donors. Learn more about how to use contact tags.

tags example
  • You can also filter contacts by clicking the dropdown arrow to the right side of the Filter button. This will give you the options of Segments (saved Filter groups) and Presets.

filter split button

Please note that there is an SMS sending limit of 10,000 messages (or one message to 10,000 contacts) per day.

Subscription status ❌

  • If a contact has this red icon next to it, this contact is unsubscribed.

unsubscribed contact example
  • Unsubscribed contacts will not be sent a message, even if they are displayed in your filtered list of contacts.

  • If there are just a few, there's no action you need to do, and you can go ahead and proceed to the next step. If all of your contacts are unsubscribed, you'll need to bulk subscribe your contacts.

Drafting your SMS message ✏️

  • After finishing up your contact list, you'll head to the message composer! It's formatted a little like an email composer, with a preview of what it'll look like on a mobile device. In the top section, you'll see:

    • the number of contacts it'll be sent to (and any excluded contacts)

    • your claimed "sender" phone number

    • a place to type your SMS message

    • any file attachments you'd like to add

  • First, name your SMS message - this will help keep you organized later on! You can do this by clicking the pencil icon next to the title, which will be a draft number by default. (You can also do this after an SMS is sent. The name is not shown to contacts.)

  • Click Message... to type your message. You can also add Emojis! πŸ’›

    • This is limited to 450 characters

    • You cannot add hyperlinks as linked text – you can only add full URLs.

    • If you have chosen a template, your message will be auto-populated. Suggested places to add customization are indicated by [text in brackets].

  • You can input merge tags (also known as dynamic variables) by clicking the merge tag icon.

merge tag icon

Merge tags also support fallback values (defaults) that populate if merge tag data doesn't exist. To set fallback values, go to Engage > Settings > Merge Fields, and click Add new default.

Complete list of Engage merge fields

Contact Details

  • Email Address

  • Phone Number

  • Full Address

  • Address Line 1

  • Address Line 2

  • City

  • State

  • ZIP Code

  • Country


  • Last Donation Amount

  • Last Donation Date

  • Largest Donation Amount

  • Largest Donation Date

  • Total Donations This Year

  • Total Donations Last Year

Primary Details

  • Prefix

  • First Name

  • Middle Name

  • Last Name

  • Suffix

  • Full Name

  • Gender

  • Company

  • Title

  • Birthday

Social Accounts

  • Website URL

  • Facebook URL

  • Linkedin URL

  • Twitter URL

  • You can then add attachments to include in your SMS.

    • Up to 1MB of attachments are supported

    • PNG, JPEG, and GIF files are supported

  • While you draft your SMS, you'll see the preview in the display on the right side update! Please note, you cannot remove the "opt out" message at the end of the message.

example sms message

Send a test SMS message πŸ“±

Once you're happy with your SMS, you can send a test by clicking "Send a test" in the upper right corner of the composer. You can send a test SMS to multiple people if you like.

Scheduling + Preview πŸ‘€

Next, you'll need to decide when you want your SMS message to go out! The options are:

  • Send now

  • Schedule for later (set a date and time)

email schedule fields

The time zone shown for scheduled messages is based on the time zone selected in your account settings. To change it, head to Account > About > Organization Profile > General Details.

  • Below the "Schedule" section, you'll see a preview of your message. If you have yet to send a test SMS to yourself, this is where you'll see a sample!

  • Click the Send SMS or Schedule SMS button in the bottom right when you're done.

send sms
  • Your message will now appear under the Sent or Outbox tabs in Engage.

  • Once it's sent, a look at your outbound message statistics to see how many people have opened your message!

Givebutter sends SMS messages to any valid mobile number, whether it's international or not (as long as the contact is subscribed). The only exception is MMS messages (SMS with images attached). Our provider does not currently allow us to send MMS to international numbers.

FAQ + Troubleshooting πŸ€”

Can I unschedule an Engage message?

Yes! If you have scheduled an Engage message (email or SMS), you'll see a tab in Engage called Outbox. Click on your Outbox, click the three dots [...] to the right side of the relevant message, and choose Unschedule from this list of options. The message will not be deleted – it will be moved back to your Drafts folder.

unschedule a message

My outbound SMS draft is displaying zero contacts, excluding my contacts, or my contacts are all unsubscribed!

If you’re creating a new message in Engage, and your draft is displaying zero contacts or excluding your contacts, this is because your contacts are unsubscribed. Your email or SMS message will not be sent to them, even if an email address or phone number is listed in the contact. Please read our guide on bulk subscribing contacts β†’

My audience primarily uses US Cellular, CSpire, older phones, or older carriers.

In this situation, we would suggest keeping your outbound text blasts to under 70 characters, and preferably plain text (without special characters or emojis.) This will enable your SMS messages to be delivered as a single text message rather than multiple randomized messages.

Is there a limit to the number of Engage SMS messages I can send in a day?

There is an SMS sending limit of 10,000 messages (or one message to 10,000 contacts) per day. If you need to send more messages, please spread them across multiple sending days.

Related content πŸ“š

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