Why does compliance matter for church texting?
Following laws, rules, and guidelines set by the FCC and wireless carriers will help ensure your messages are actually delivered to your people, and not blocked or throttled by carriers.
The Too Long; Didn't Read Version
We handle carrier compliance for you. You focus on crafting the most engaging message possible, we handle compliance and message delivery behind the scenes.
For those of you interested in the minutia of compliance, scroll down to read further.
Purpose of SMS Laws and Guidelines
We all hate receiving unwanted, unsolicited text messages. There are federal laws and carrier rules that seek to help prevent that from happening. The federal law is called the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act). More crucial are the carrier rules and regulations set by the CTIA (The Wireless Association).
TCPA (The Federal Law)
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was initially created in 1991 by the FCC to protect U.S. consumers from communications spam - think calls and faxes. It was updated in 2013 to include texting. The major points that matter to a church or nonprofit:
Prior express opt-in consent - You can't just assume customers of your business to be opted-in to receive marketing text messages from you. They must have given you clear written or electronic consent to receive such messages.
Non-profit Safe Harbor Exemptions - The TCPA provides Safe Harbor exemptions for non-profits - a call or text made by a tax-exempt nonprofit is not considered a 'telephone solicitation.' This is welcome news for churches wanting to communicate with their people via text.
How does Clearstream handle this? - Even though there are Safe Harbor exemptions for nonprofits, we still require your church to have permission to contact people you might be syncing or importing into Clearstream. If people are joining through a Keyword or signup form, this is irrelevant, and they are initiating opt-in. More on opt-ins in a second.
On top of the federal law, the TCPA, set by the FCC, carriers have their own rules on how they allow texting on their networks. The CTIA (The Wireless Association) is comprised of all U.S. carriers and acts as the governing body for application to person texting. The CTIA Short Code Monitoring Handbook provides regularly updated rules and guidelines for application to person (your church texting your people) texting.
Following these rules are critical to ensuring your texting programs run smoothly on all carrier networks, and not having to worry about message delivery. The core components of the CTIA rules that pertain to churches:
Opt-in compliance - Opt-in messages must identify who is sending the message (the brand, or in this case, your church name), content description, customer care contact information, opt-out instructions, or message frequency. Clearstream automatically handles all this for you.
Opt-out compliance - "Message Senders should include the opt-out information in the call-to-action, terms, and conditions, and opt-in confirmation. Standardized “STOP” wording should be used for opt-out instructions. However, opt-out requests with normal language (i.e., stop, end, unsubscribe, cancel, quit, “please opt me out”) should also be read and acted upon by a Message Sender, except where a specific word can result in unintentional opt-out. The validity of a Consumer opt-out should not be impacted by any de-minimis variances in the Consumer opt-out response, such as capitalization, punctuation, or any letter-case sensitivities."
Opt-Out Compliance with Clearstream
As noted above, opt-out compliance is a core component of carrier compliance. Carriers understandably want to make sure consumers can easily opt out of messages from organizations. The standard requirement is to always have available keywords such as stop, cancel, quit, unsubscribe, and end.
But what if someone replies to a message saying "Hey, I've moved and don't attend your church anymore. Can you take me off your list?" Or maybe they reply with "Stop. You're making me laugh too hard." Using IBM Watson, we've developed built-in-house machine learning to determine opt-out intent with incoming messages. This means we're able to catch and accurately determine vague opt-out requests that aren't the typical "STOP" messages. What does it mean for you? Not having to manage opt-out requests on your own.
Navigating laws and guidelines for texting in your church can be tricky. As you can see, Clearstream handles nearly all of it for you.