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This is the first in a series of posts about ways you can prepare your organization for the upcoming changes in the 2022 election cycle.

In 2020, nonprofits and campaigns relied on text messaging as a big way to get out the vote—sending more than 13 billion political text messages in the lead up to the election. If you’re one of those nonprofits (or if, like us, you personally received 82,533 of those 13 billion texts), get ready: 2022 is going to look a lot different.

Until recently, cell phone carriers allowed organizations to get people to manually send millions of texts to folks who may not have opted-in (aka “peer-to-peer texting”). In 2020 this helped get tons of voters registered and out to vote…but it also led to consumer complaints about being spammed with too many texts. Now cell phone carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are cracking down by enforcing rules to track organizations and their texts.

2022 Changes: What’s Happening and What to Do About It

The rules cell phone carriers are enforcing—commonly referred to as “10 DLC” (short for “10-digit long codes” which are the phone numbers used to send texts)—have huge implications for the organizations we work with in the 2022 electoral cycle and beyond. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Organizations must register their brand and 10-Digit Long Code (10 DLC) campaigns with The Campaign Registry: All organizations must register their various brands (e.g. c3, c4, PAC) with The Campaign Registry or Campaign Verify—third-party oversight groups that are working with cell phone carriers to track organization’s text messages.
    What you can do: Your organization’s peer-to-peer texting platform (e.g. Hustle, ThruText, Strive, etc.) can work with you to ensure your organization is registered properly with The Campaign Registry. Additionally, each time you launch a new texting campaign, for example for fundraising vs. a voter registration drive, your team will need to identify the campaign accordingly. Different tools have different ways of doing this, so be sure to ask your representative for more information.
  2. Organizations should focus on list hygiene: In the past, campaigns and nonprofits could mobilize volunteers to send peer-to-peer text messages to anyone. With the recent changes, some carriers may begin imposing fines on organizations that send to non-opted-in lists, such as voter file supporters. Additionally, other types of complaints by recipients may block your messages from being sent.
    What you can do: Consider providing more opportunities for people to opt-in to your text messages, being more judicious about the frequency of your message sends, and promptly removing people who opt-out from your list. While we recommend only messaging opted-in lists, if you are planning to text non-opted in lists, be prepared for the possibility of fines and penalties from carriers.
  3. Carriers are using a ranking system to determine limits and priority for text messaging: The Campaign Registry segments registered organizations into different levels based on size, industry, purpose of the messaging, and other factors. These levels then determine how many people can be messaged per second and per day. Those at higher levels will have a higher percentage of their messages sent, and sent first, while those at lower levels will have their messages deprioritized.
    What you can do: Given the fact that nonprofits and campaigns will potentially be competing against large corporate brands for ranking—it is possible that there could be further limitations on our ability to ensure our text messages are delivered down the road. Talk with your digital team about alternate ways you could reach your supporters digitally—starting with relational organizing or social media.

The Bottom Line: Think Holistically

Texting rules are still evolving—many progressive organizations are pushing back against changes that would unfairly hurt organizing efforts, and carriers are implementing these rules piecemeal rather than all at once. 

While this can feel worrying, we suggest using these changes as an opportunity to start a conversation with your team about comprehensive digital 2022 strategy—considering not just texting but ALL aspects of your digital program. One organization we’re working with is thinking through questions like:

  • What would it look like to have our texting program change or shrink significantly? 
  • How might the new rules on email open rate tracking affect your program? 
  • How might we use digital advertising to reach our core audience?
  • How might we use earned media to build our brand and get our message out?

Doing this can help you build a stronger, more resilient program that’s ready for 2022, no matter what changes are up ahead.

Ankur Asthana is a Vice President on the Digital Organizing Team, where he works with organizations to build power to win on a range of issues from securing a living wage to defending reproductive rights. 

Evan Aczon is an Account Executive on the Digital Organizing Team. When he’s not working, you can find Evan soaking up the precipitation on the hiking trials of the Pacific Northwest with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.

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