The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, South Florida Chapter held its annual Bike MS: Breakaway to Key Largo cycling event last March, raising over $1 Million through fundraising efforts of the cyclists, volunteers and donors. Bike MS was established in 1980 and is part of the national fundraising efforts to raise funds for research and treatment of those affected by the disease and has become the largest organized cycling series in the U.S.
Need for Real-Time Communication
Coordination and communication with over 1100 riders, 350 volunteers and staff over 2 days can be challenging. Elizabeth Arce, Bike MS Specialist in charge of rider outreach and communications had worked with the South Florida chapter for several years and was looking for a way to reach riders and key volunteers in real time, in case there was an emergency or change in schedule, or simply to remind them of things like breakfast times and meeting places.
“Years ago, weather forced us to cancel the second day of the tour. The staff and volunteers had to drive from hotel to hotel and knock on every door to let riders know about the cancellation,” said Arce. “The team had eventually moved to a text messaging provider, but they only allowed pre-scripted messages to go out. I needed real-time mass text messaging – so I could communicate instantly to our riders and our key volunteers.”
Mass Text Messaging for Riders and Volunteers
Arce and her team selected TextMarks for real-time mass text communication. They created the call-to-action “Text BIKEMS to 41411” and promoted it on posters, signage and social media. Riders received reminders about meal times and shuttle departures and were able to receive notifications if any emergencies were to occur.
The Bike MS team was also able to reach key volunteers in charge of safety, S.A.G (Support and Gear) drivers and vehicles — all very important behind the scenes and hands-on volunteers — during the weekend of the ride.
Modern, Proactive and Easy Mobile Messaging
“The key benefit of using TextMarks group text messaging was being able to communicate to our riders though their phones and instill the confidence that we are current with our communications,” said Arce. “Even though it is a large tour with over 1400 people, they are all connected to their phones 24 hours a day. Also, since a lot of people ask the same questions over and over – we were able to be proactive about our messaging. We push it out to them through text, and it lets them know we care.”
One rider, Jonathan Berman, summed it up this way: “The texting that you set up was wonderful. The fact that the SAG number and event reminders were sent by text message was awesome.”
“TextMarks was very helpful in working with us,” said Arce. “My account manager walked me through everything and showed me how easy it was to use. I was able to show other people how easy it was too. I didn’t receive any complaints about the complexity and opting-in thanks to TextMarks’s expertise and guidance. I’m looking forward to using it again next year.”