Good morning.

We are a nonprofit in San Francisco working with adolescents. I would like to be able to send and receive text messages from our computers so my staff doesn't need to use their own cell phones. Is there a program that can do this easily without linking to a smart phone?

Google Voice!

It's what I use to send and receive text messages from my computer. And it's free. has received a lot of praise from what I have read

Maybe I'm just old but isn't a "text message" from one computer to another just email?

Or do you want a chat-message system?  I usually use Facebook for that, but the (huge) disadvantage with that not just that each person has to have a FB account but the accounts need to be friended to each other (you can msg without being friends but FB doesn't always tell you).  Also you need to be logged into FB to see it.

With any messaging program you need to be logged into it to see the messages.

You can also send text messages from a computer to a phone (any cell phone that allows messaging).  There are sites out there that help you figure out what email address a phone number is.  It is almost always the 10 digit phone number @ company dot com (or something else).  But each phone company has a different domain name from their usual one for this purpose.

For example, the email address that will go straight to my Virgin Mobile cell phone is (I changed the number so that's not a real address).

To send from a cell phone to regular email on a computer, just input the email address instead of a phone number when you send a text.  There should be an "options" menu where you can pick an alphanumeric keyboard instead of a numbers only one.  Tip for figuring out the phone's email address: do the message from the phone first then the computer user will see the address it came from.

I realized you asked for computer to computer but sometimes computer to phone or phone to computer is very useful too.


"Maybe I'm just old but isn't a "text message" from one computer to another just email?"

No. Text messages are received on a cell phones text messaging system. The person's phone's vibrates or rings, depending on how the person has set his or her phone, when a text message is received. Since so many people *don't* have smart phones, and because so many young people still prefer text messaging to online messaging systems, text messages remains an important way to get critical information to people.

Many nonprofits need to send many text messages at once. Hence why this person posted.

Adding another possibility to the mix: Celly.

Here is the FAQ:

Here is the "about" page:

It's a LOT to slog through - there's no simple "here's what we are, here's what we do" pitch. But wading through it all, it *seems* to be a tool that allows for multiple text messages to be sent to cell phones at once - and for text message-based groups or "cells" to be created where any member can text members of the group.

In a slide show presentation, there are these testimonials:

We used [Celly] to put out the SOS that Occupy Wall Street was being evicted from [Zuccotti Park]. That text message instantly notified over 5,000 people - and was directly to thank for turning out all those people who came to be witness to history that night.”
Shawn Carrie, member of Occupy Wall Street’s Tech Ops Working Group

“I love how @occupysandy ppl using Celly networks 2 share news in real time, better+faster than news orgs :)”
Daniela Capistrano, via Twitter

“Celly is changing the face of education! With Celly, cell phones have the potential to bridge the gap between the home, school, and social media world.”
Melissa Seideman, History Teacher, Haladane High School, Cold Springs, NY

“Every family, work grp or block of neighbors should have:
Sam Adams, Mayor, Portland, OR, via Twitter

Anyone out there use this tool? Would it be something the person who started this thread could use?

Google Hangouts is the way to go. On the computer, you can find the Hangouts in the webstore: You'll want to have Google Chrome installed on the computers before adding this extension and all staff need to sign in with their Google account. Then your staff with smartphones or tablets can get the Hangouts app and it will all sync. It's super nice. I use it for work daily.

The other thing I would suggest is to look into the open source IM software called OpenFire Server. You can use it in conjunction with Spark - the IM client.

You can install it on any computer/server in house.

This will allow you to have instant messaging all in house - all private. If you have offices elsewhere, it can be configured through VPN or the like to connect them all. It's a super nice setup for in-house IM.

I second using Google Apps's feature called Google Voice/Hangout to send and receive text messages. Once you start a primary account with Google Apps, you can invite other users from your organization so all accounts can be managed easily from one place. Another bonus is that you will have access to spreadsheet sharing which could be great for tracking your phone number lists, message content and analyzing the overall success of this project.

DataRaising Founder


DataRaising | Data management and database training for fundraising professionals

Another vote for using Google Voice (GV) for texting.  You can use on your desktop, or their iOS and Android apps (or the Talkatone app) to text from a smartphone. 

A few things to note: The texts will come from your GV number and that's where replies will go.  You can have GV send you an email alert when new texts arrive in case you use email more than your cell.  Replies to those emails will show up as texts on the other end.  If someone already has your cell number you'll need to train them to use your GV number instead.  You can set up GV so if someone calls that number it will ring your cell and/or your office (I assume you need to have a direct dial number in the office, not an extension).


On a side note, Google Voice numbers are not available for us Canadians.  I want my own GV number!

A bit jealous of you Americans...

Google voice numbers also usually don't receive texts from outside the USA. Very frustrating, as I use Tracfone, which ALSO doesn't accept texts from outside the USA. And for those of us that work with NGOs outside the USA, it's very frustrating!

Our private school handles it the same way I do.  Every cell provider has an @something.something type extension for their numbers.  At registration, we request the parents' cell numbers and their service provider.  We have recorded each provider's "domain name" so when someone says they are on Verizon, we know they are AT&T users are

If a parent ports their number to a new cell provider or cancels their account, we get an "undeliverable" response back when we send the next message out, so we know to contact them and find out their new info.

You can get the full listing of domain names from

Cydin, you are partially right about the email address thingee.

A long time ago, you could use to SMS people.  It would try all of the domains ( or whatever) and then your email would go through to a phone.  

It's not really "email" as much as email is a way to interface with the SMS system.  SMS texts go back and forth all day without anything to do with email.  It's gateway systems like Teleflip (now dead) and Google Voice which provide us a way to interact with the legacy telelphany world.

make sense?


P.S. +1 for Google Voice.  I send probably a 100 txt a day with that.  Only downside is that it doesn't let me text abroad, and for that, I use Skype (to do an SMS) or an IP-based system like Viber / WhatsApp to save the other person SMS charges.

In January 2015, the Liberationtech discussion group has had a discussion about software or online tools for sending mass sms. You can read the suggestions that have been offered, each marked with the subject "bulk sms", here:

The Program on Liberation Technology "Liberationtech" at Stanford University explores how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be used to promote a variety of public goods. For more information, please visit the Liberationtech home page

Great resource Jayne, thanks for sharing! I also found this TechSoup article on unified communications options, which gives added context re syncing messages across device types.


I am absolutely non-techy--can you tell me if any of the unified communications options can be done without using our phone, internet, and cable provider, Comcast?

I'm trying to find a way for our public library to send bulk "behavioral nudges"--reminders to parents to do different pre-literacy activities with their children--but we have a business account and Comcast says they do not offer bulk texting to business accounts, which seems very weird. Suggestions, please?


Donnis Headley

Donora Public Library

Donora, PA 15033

Dear Donnis,

I haven't worked with this kind of technology, but I found some resources for you. Here's a TechSoup discussion of this subject from last year. Here's an article from Idealware on mobile technologies, including texting. And here's a companion piece from them. Here's a slide show about using text messages (largely, but not only for fundraising). It lists lots of vendors that provide these services. And finally, if you do a web search like "nonprofit mass texting" (without the quotes) you'll find links to lots of vendors.

Good luck, and please let us know what you find.



So, I'm gathering you are trying to send these 'nudges' automatically via some third party (since you mention not using the internet, I'm assuming that is what you mean). 

I don't know how many you need to send or the pricing you can tolerate, but we have been very happy using volgistics for our volunteer management and that company recently added text 'reminder' capability -  We haven't used their text message service yet, but you could (possibly) setup your 'parents' as 'volunteers' and use volgistics. It depends on your use case. Their may be a cheaper solution if you don't need everything else volgistics offers. would seem to be another option worth checking on. And there are other bulk options like - that may work out.

Good luck.  

Hey Donnis, 

I wanted to offer my personal assistance on this. Full disclosure: I run a group-text messaging service called

I recently gave a presentation at tech4good workshop in Orlando and one of the non-profits that uses our service (The Calhoun Historic Library) send out group text messages for things like what you've described. The library also uses it for reminders to their community members and coordinating with the town's volunteer fire department training.

We are an established service in the text messaging realm (released our first version in 2004), we are one of the only service that maintains a 100% marketing free guarantee, and we are one of the best values (read: affordable) options around. We also provide discounts to non profits.

Message me here or email me directly if you have any questions: