Youth leadership non-profit improving student engagement through SMS

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5 min read | July 11, 2021

Youth Opportunities Association (SA) Inc (Youth Opportunities) is a South Australian not-for-profit organisation that facilitates personal leadership programs for young people. They aim to provide participants with the skills and attitudes they need to become confident, motivated, and successful individuals. To date, over 13,000 young people across 80 schools have benefited from personal leadership training.

Youth Opportunities is an Act Today customer and has been using MessageMedia’s SMS service through Act! since December 2015.

Act! is a customer relationship management (CRM) software application that is used to keep track of client and prospect details in a single database that can be shared by multiple users. SMS4Act! is an integrated text message solution that allows users to quickly and easily send text messages to one or more contacts from Act!. The message is recorded against the contact’s record along with any replies.

Leading the way: Helping students develop strategic leadership skills

Youth Opportunities needed a more efficient and effective way for trainers to communicate with students. Trainers were using personal mobile phones to call or send text messages regarding program logistics to students, which was extremely time-consuming.

RELATED: Find out how SMS can enhance educational outcomes and remote learning for students anywhere.

Additionally, phone calls take time and are less likely to be answered, resulting in the need to make more calls. Nina Pullen, Youth Opportunities Training and Program Administrator, said that the main issues regarding this practice were in relation to communication effectiveness and efficiency.

Most trainers have a workload of about three programs ― with each program containing about 18 students. The process of sending an individual SMS from a personal phone was very time-consuming, and therefore trainers would only send the most important information to a student.

Nina Pullen, Training and Program Administrator, Youth Opportunities

SMS4Act: Seamless CRM integration for text messaging

In 2006, Act! integrated text messaging functionality into its software application, allowing users to quickly and easily send texts to one or more contacts directly from within the application. The message is saved against a contact record along with any replies.

When we first heard of SMS4Act! from our Act Today account manager, we were immediately interested. SMS4Act! allows us to contact as many students as we need to without messaging costs or time being an obstacle.

Nina Pullen, Training and Program Administrator, Youth Opportunities

Youth Opportunities use SMS because they know that it is the most effective way to contact students. “We work with Year 10 students and this means that text messaging is the number one preferred communication method,” says Pullen.

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SMS communications enables continued support and engagement with students

Youth Opportunities now use SMS for a wide range of messaging to students.

The number one use of SMS for our organisation is for any logistics regarding the delivery of the Personal Leadership Program. This includes reminders to students to bring required forms, or to inform students of a change to the time, day or venue of a session.

Nina Pullen, Training and Program Administrator, Youth Opportunities

SMS is also used as a follow-up if a student has missed a session or needs extra guidance. When students miss any content or need help understanding a concept, they have the ability to complete extra bookwork.

SMS is very effective in outlining which exercises a student can complete in their workbook. Because the student has the information recorded on their mobile, they can access it often and refer to it whenever they need to.

Nina Pullen, Training and Program Administrator, Youth Opportunities

Students are set weekly challenges to practise what they have learned each week in the training room. Trainers then send an SMS with an encouraging message to the students reminding them to step out of their comfort zone by completing these challenges.

After completing the personal leadership program, students are contacted regularly by the trainers to follow up on program concepts and deliver affirmations of future success. Pullen adds, “With SMS4Act!, it’s easy to send an SMS to entire cohorts of students who have completed the program to continue positive change.”

Youth Opportunities has partnered with community members and is able to utilise these connections to host events such as Army Day, career expos, and recruitment opportunities that allow hundreds of past graduates to further their career development. “SMS4Act! allows our organisation to keep past graduates up to date with these exciting events,” says Pullen.

SMS communications meeting student needs

Generation Z use text messaging as a primary method of communicating and tend to respond better and faster to a text message than any other form of communication. It’s important therefore for non-profits, educational organisations and trainers to “do everything possible to meet that preference.”

RELATED: Find out how a cancer charity boosted event attendance by leveraging text reminders.

Goal congruence is essential in order to set students up for success. Pullen believes her students like to communicate via text message.

SMS4Act! allows trainers to meet communication needs of our students and it makes the process easy and cost-effective. The addition of SMS has led to time savings of hundreds of hours.

Nina Pullen, Training and Program Administrator, Youth Opportunities

Trainers are now able to send any length of messages to an individual or an entire group of students as well as multiple programs, quickly and easily all through the integration for SMS4Act!

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