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You've decided that you want to run a texting-for-health program at your school. Where do you start?

Choose your audience

Think about your school, is there a certain population of students you want to reach? Maybe you want to focus on a small group, such as students who visit your school-based health center to receive drug counseling. Maybe you want to reach a large group, like all seniors.

If you are hoping to reach a small, focused group of students, you will likely want to create topic-specific messages that speak directly to those students. If you decide you want to reach a larger group, you can create more generic texts on a variety of subjects (see Write the Messages for more.) Your audience will also determine where you recruit students for your program.

Find a text-messaging application

A text-messaging application is a service that allows you to send messages to many people at once. To send messages, you will likely use a web-based interface that will allow you to store contacts, monitor enrollment and responses, create groups (segment your audience), and schedule messages to send at certain times.

There are many text-messaging applications out there. Selecting one will depend on your budget and what features you want. For example, some offer two-way text messaging. Some offer more options for sorting contacts and scheduling texts. A quick online search will help you locate several viable options.

Another option is to see if the company or organization that owns your school-based health center already has a text-messaging application that they use. You might be able to use that system for free.

Lessons from Ballard

For our program, we selected Call 'Em All because it has a simple online interface and it is cheap—charging only $0.09 per every two texts.

Estimate staff time and budget

To run your program, you will to need to:

  • Pay for the text-messaging application
  • Craft, organize, and send the messages
  • Identify staff to work on the program

Text-Messaging Application

Text-messaging applications usually charge per text that you send. Depending on how many students you wish to enroll and how many times a week you want to text them, you can calculate estimated costs. If your calculated costs are just above your budget, consider reaching out to the PTSA or holding a fundraiser. It is worth checking with your parent organization to see if they are already using a texting program to reach clients because they may allow you to use theirs for free.

Staff

If your texting program is simple, you will likely be able to utilize current staff to run the program. Another option is to have an intern or TA run the program. If you want to go more in-depth with your program, you may need to hire someone.

Lessons from Ballard

We chose Call 'Em All because it offered low rates of $0.09/2 text messages. If you have 100 students enrolled for the whole year and send two text messages a week, the total would be $324.00.

Timeline

How long do you want to run the program and when? It will depend on your audience, how many messages you have, and your budget. Also think about how many text messages you want to send a week. Based on our research, we recommend two messages a week.