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How to create an outbound SMS message
How to create an outbound SMS message
A detailed guide on drafting and sending outbound SMS messages with Engage
Sam A. avatar
Written by Sam A.
Updated over a week ago

First, open your Dashboard and head to Engage in the sidebar. If you don't have access to Engage yet, visit the Engage tab in your dashboard and click the Request Access button for consideration.

Once approved, you'll see SMS Numbers appear in your Engage Settings.

an arrow points to sms numbers

Have a look at this detailed guide on claiming a phone number to send SMS messages - you'll need a number before you can create a message!

Note: We have a separate guide on creating an email message in Engage!

Okay, I've claimed a phone number! βœ…

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

    • Choose Email Message to create an email from scratch.

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

      • 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.

new message button

Available email templates

Donation Ask

Event Invite

Goal Reached

Thank you

The first screen you'll see is the list of Contacts you want the SMS to be sent to. (If you don't have Contacts in your account yet, you'll need to import these before you're able to proceed.)

Step 1: Filtering your contacts πŸ“™

πŸ‘‰ Note: 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

  • 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

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.

Step 2: 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

    • how many characters you've used (out of 450 total)

    • a place to type your SMS message

    • any file attachments you'd like to add

SMS sending fields
  • 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.)

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

    • This is limited to 450 characters

    • 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 customized contact variables (also known as dynamic variables) by clicking this icon:

dynamic variables button
  • 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

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.

Step 3: Scheduling and 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

Note: 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 email to yourself, this is where you'll see a sample!

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

send email button
  • 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!

FAQ πŸ€”


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