In the U.S. alone there are 280 million wireless users.
Studies show that 45% of all U.S. adults own a smartphone built with a mobile operating system that allows for more advanced computing capability and connectivity. Consequently, one in three people in the U.S. use their mobile device as their primary tool to access the internet, rather than a laptop or desktop computer.
This trend in mobile web use is only expanding. Natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy and the Japan and Haitian earthquakes have vastly increased people’s awareness of the potential for making mobile donations to their favorite causes. As a result, old models of fundraising are giving way to new forms that are driven by technology and its applications for donor engagement. Mobile devices are at the core of how people are connecting with their favorite causes. In other words:
Mobile phones have become the new donation checkbook.
It has therefore become increasingly important for nonprofit organizations to recognize that each mobile phone owner is a potential donor.
An exact profile of a mobile donor remains difficult to compile, but on a quarter-by-quarter basis, reports show that Fridays and Mondays, particularly in the mornings, are most popular days and times for such mobile giving activities. Studies also show that text donors are usually female and well-educated, possessing at least an undergraduate degree. Recent surveys have also found that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, particularly those who are ages 35-49, are active in making mobile donations.
The biggest donor pool may be the millennials though. The 2013 Milliennial Impact Report shows that Generation Y – people born in the early 1980’s through the early 2000’s – actually prefer to give via technology, relying heavily on social media and mobile technology to provide them with instant access to donation opportunities.
Several new technologies and payment systems such as PayPal have made it possible for nonprofits to capitalize on these trends and benefit from micro donations that were previously too costly to process. Just last week, Google launched One Today, a mobile application for nonprofit projects. With a quick swipe of their finger, mobile users can give $1 to the featured project of the day right from their cellphone.
Because quality mobile giving options and platforms are already in place, nonprofits do not need to re-create the wheel to tap into the trending, virtuous cycle of mobile giving; instead, they need to approach it as they do their other fund development activities: By keeping in mind their mission and their marketing strategy for promoting their organization as a whole.
Furthermore, while it is important that nonprofits understand mobile technology and integrate successful tools, it is equally important for organizations to remember:
Texting isn’t all about giving: It is about engagement.
Certainly mobile fundraising might add to an organization’s overall revenue, but first and foremost mobile campaigns should match up with the foundation of an organization’s vision for interacting with the public.
Along with educating board members on key facts, like the reality that mobile giving does not detract donors from making donations through traditional fundraising channels, developing deeper online and mobile donor engagement strategies should be a first step.
Among the important questions that must be asked and answered before initiating a mobile fundraising plan are the following self-inquiries:
- What channels of influence will your organization use to prompt mobile donation?
- How will your nonprofit use cross-channel marketing activities to support your text-to-give campaign?
- What mobile giving increments will your nonprofit promote?
- What will your organization’s standard donation threshold for mobile giving be?
- What follow-up communications will your nonprofit offer after a text-to-give donation?
Research shows that people still need to have a strong sense of urgency to use texting to donate. Considering the right way to develop and promote this in terms of mobile giving is vital.
Mobile fundraising may not be the right development model for every organization. The last thing a nonprofit should do is to diverge from the basic story they are sharing about their organization and its needs simply to initiate a text-to-give campaign. That is why the first rule should always be, as an avid mobile user might text:
2 thy own selves b true
Adrienne Lewis-Wagner is a freelance fund development consultant living in Michigan. Her blog The Prospect can be found at