SMS Quick Start Guide

Text messaging has becoming increasingly popular in recent years, particularly among youth, and it is being increasingly adopted by non-profit organizations as a valuable communications channel because it is two-way, direct and immediate.

This “quick start” guide is intended to demystify SMS and help get you set up to using text messaging in your work in the shortest possible time. The guide is not intended to serve as a comprehensive look at the use of SMS, but rather a short overview of SMS considerations and an introduction into how it works. For more in-depth information, this guide is supplemented by a resource section to help you as you continue your SMS journey.

Text messages are used in a wide array of non-profit activities, and an increasing numbers of NGOs are adopting SMS in their work. Changemakers used SMS in several African countries as part of a recent outreach campaign, which was particularly helpful in reaching social innovators in rural areas. Changemakers drew upon leader in the field and used their free, open source text messaging application FrontlineSMS.

Here are some other examples of how SMS is being used for social change today:

  • Farmers receive details of market prices and demand for their products before heading off to market.
  • Health NGOs send dietary advice and information to people with eating disorders.
  • Young people living in the slums of Nairobi receive texts alerting them of urban job opportunities.
  • National parks communicate details of dangerous animals, providing an early warning system to reduce human and wildlife conflict.
  • Water sanitation advice and community training updates are sent to municipal counsellors.
  • Patients receive reminders to take their medicine, saving time and money travelling to clinics.
  • Security and emergency alerts are sent to staff and fieldworkers in high-risk situations.
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