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Peer-to-Peer SMS Tool

Shadow Messaging is a multi-channel contact platform that includes peer-to-peer texting and email, as well as a call tool.

Compare toHustle, Relay, CallHub, Rapid Resist


Tool type: Peer-To-Peer SMS tool
Meant for: Organizers, Volunteers

Problem it tries to solve:

How can I text volunteers and voters at scale with a tight budget?

Use case:

An organizer texts their volunteer targets to knock doors the following weekend, and the volunteers can always respond back to the same phone number to get in touch with the organizer. The campaign can see the track the interactions in VAN.

Biggest drawback:

There are still some small bugs to be worked out.

Does it sync to NGP VAN?

Yes – read and write.



The base price for pay-as-you-go plans is 2.5 cents per message sent and received. Messages are sold in blocks of 1,000 messages ($25.00 per block).

The Basics: Shadow Messaging is a web- and mobile-friendly peer-to-peer SMS tool that allows users to quickly send out text messages from a local phone number. The tool also has a light CRM functionality that allows users to cut lists and retarget.

User Flow:

  • An organizer or volunteer is sent a Shadow Messaging login to their Gmail account. From there, they can log in via Gmail on their desktop or mobile and will see lists assigned to them specifically, team lists, and public lists for the organization they’re affiliated with.


  • Shadow Messaging is cheap. We’ll talk more about this in the pricing section, but Shadow Messaging is much more affordable than Hustle or Relay — which makes it easier to scale to the organizer level without taking on insurmountable cost.

  • User accounts can be assigned a permanent phone number. Unlike Relay, Shadow Messaging allows organizers to use a consistent local number to reach out to volunteers — which allows volunteers to always have access to the organizer, thus making the peer-to-peer SMS experience less ‘cold.’ Users can change this number at anytime if they choose — but it will not go away unless they choose to change it.

  • Multiple types of analytics reports are available. From opt out reports to non-responders to survey responses, Shadow Messaging does a good job of giving users a full view of their data.

  • Shadow Messaging has multi-channel functionality. Shadow Messaging is the only peer-to-peer SMS tool currently available that also supports 1:1 email and phone banking.


  • Shadow Messaging VAN sync is write-only. The current version requires CSV exports from VAN to upload lists into Shadow Messaging. However, survey responses, contact history, and other dispositions are synced instantly into VAN.

  • It requires a Gmail account to login. The tool uses Google to authenticate users, so any volunteer or staff member who wants to use it must log in with a Gmail account


  • Shadow Messaging pricing is based on 3 factors: the number of phone numbers you rent every month to send texts, the number of outgoing texts you send and incoming texts you receive, and the number of records you upload into the system.

  • Phone numbers cost $1.25 per month to rent.

  • Outgoing and incoming texts cost 2.5 cents each. 

  • Database usage follow the following pricing: Free for the first 5,000 records, $25 per month for up to 10,000; $50 per month for up to 100,000; $100 per month for up to 500,000; and enterprise pricing for above 500,000 records. 

VAN Sync:

  • Shadow Messaging is currently write-only — meaning it can automatically record responses from campaigns in VAN, but in order to text a list, you must export a CSV in VAN and upload it into Shadow Messaging.

Who we would recommend this tool to:

  • Large scale organizing programs with liberal state data permissions. While Shadow’s cost allows the tool to scale to let organizers use it for whatever purpose they need to without overwhelming a campaign’s budget, it currently requires organizers to have export access in VAN.

  • Year-round organizing programs. Shadow Messaging allows organizers to keep the same phone number if they wish month after month. For organizations working in the community organizing field or the IE side where they have volunteers outside of election cycles, that kind of consistency is crucial.

Who we wouldn’t recommend this tool to:

  • National distributed organizing programs. If your goal is to use SMS to build for large events via distributed volunteers, it is probably not ideal to have dedicated phone numbers to volunteers, especially because you pay for every number you rent.