Mobile giving has transformed the way donors interact with the causes and organizations they support, particularly in response to natural disasters and other unforeseen tragedies. Remember being asked to text “HAITI” to donate after that country’s 2010 earthquake? While such usage can be effective, this channel has much broader fundraising potential.
Beyond disaster response, mobile giving can be a critical part of a nonprofit’s long-term revenue model. Read on for a look at why charitable groups shouldn’t miss out on optimizing mobile channels, how some challenges have slowed mobile adoption and the simplest way to steer clear of those obstacles. You’ll also find out how the latest mobile strategies speed donations at the moment of inspiration while simultaneously paving the way for ongoing donor retention.
The opportunity for mobile giving is large and growing.
- More than 90 percent of Americans with smartphones and tablets keep their wireless devices within arm’s reach 24/7. As the remote control of our virtual lives, these devices have influenced nearly all of our habits, including how we make charitable donations. In fact, more than 10 percent of traffic to fundraising Web pages is from mobile devices — up 150 percent from 2011.
- Mobile technology is on its way to being the No. 1 method of accessing the Internet. Almost 80 percent of people with smartphones use them for reading email, a higher percentage than those who use them for making calls.
- With mobile Internet users in the United States projected to reach 113.9 million by the end of this year (up more than 17 percent from 2012), it follows that mobile giving will continue growing.
Leading nonprofits are developing ways to engage potential donors via the mobile channel since it’s so ubiquitous. Take, for example, the American Lung Association, which updated its website and its email appeals for easy-to-read displays on smartphones and tablets. Common steps for simplifying users’ mobile experience include reducing the amount of text entry and eliminating the need to pinch-and-zoom to view the site.
Since optimizing mobile-friendly donation forms, American Lung Association receives nearly 30 percent of its gifts online, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute reports that in 2012, almost 20 percent of the $13.6 million that the center raised online came from mobile sources — up from 9 percent the previous year. And Marine Toys for Tots Foundation reported that 21 percent of its online giving in 2012 came from mobile devices — up an impressive 75 percent over 2011.
These days, mobile giving goes beyond texting alone. Put simply, Text2Give technology was version 1.0 of mobile giving. While texting a keyword to a five-digit code is an easy way for donors to give spontaneously from just about any place or at any time, nonprofit organizations find the back end of the system far from perfect.
Mobile giving is much easier once you take away Text2Give’s behind-the-scenes headaches: third-party processes, limits on donation amounts and delays in gift distribution. More recent solutions have made improvements that streamline the model for both donors and nonprofits. After all, why would you want to limit donations? And why would you settle for an overly complicated system with a high cost per dollar raised (CPDR) that includes middlemen and limits available donor data? It takes more effort to inspire 10 donors to give $10 than to reach one donor who gives $100. Removing limits on donation amounts leads to larger gifts and a higher average donation size. With plenty of room to optimize mobile giving in nonprofit fundraising campaigns, there’s a better way forward.
Leading nonprofits are taking mobile fundraising and data collection to the next level, sidestepping the Text2Give model with in-browser pledge forms. Here’s how it works: smartphone and tablet users enter an email address into a donation form and select a pledge amount — without having to pull out a credit card while they’re on the go. Donors get automated email reminders to complete the transaction at their convenience, at which point the donation form is prefilled with the email address and pledge amount. This pledge process also lends itself to on-the-spot giving: consider the possibilities for connecting face-to-face while using a tablet to collect email addresses at a gala or conference booth or stationed in front of a retail outlet.
Though it’s certainly effective in the moment, this process is about more than one-time donations. Collecting email addresses is the first step in quality donor cultivation – it’s the start of a relationship that a nonprofit can use to transition donors into longer-term giving. As next-generation mobile giving, the pledge process improves return-on-investment by lowering the cost of deploying mobile campaigns, increasing the average donation amount and providing next-day access to funds while also enabling collection of donor information.
It’s critical to use mobile giving strategies to reach donors through the devices they rely upon daily. While “quick wins” seem promising at the height of a crisis that inspires donors to give, potential funding is lost if these supporters are not transitioned into long-term donors. As mobile giving strategies continue to evolve, one thing is sure: such tools are most valuable when they provide a good cultivation pathway.