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What Does Mobile Mean For Your Organization?

Lori Halley 22 March 2013 0 comments

Are all of the posts and articles about “going mobile” and having a mobile strategy making you manic?  While we’ve all come to terms with the fact that we live in a mobile world, what does it really mean for small nonprofits and membership organizations?

What exactly does “mobile” mean?

What exactly does "mobile" mean today? In a great presentation (hat tip to Joe Waters), Mobile is the Needle, Social is the ThreadKristen Purcell, Pew Internet Project’s Assoc. Director, Research suggests:


  • Moves information with us
  • Makes information accessible ANYTIME and ANYWHERE
  • Puts information at our fingertips
  • Magnifies the demand for timely information
  • Makes information location-sensitive

It’s about more than just your website

So while there’s a lot of talk about how nonprofits and membership organizations need to update their websites so they are “mobile-friendly” or offer responsive design, “going mobile” is more than just about your website. It's about a new way to interact with, find and consume information. After all, you aren’t just concerned about broadcasting information at website visitors, you’re also building community and encouraging conversation; and enticing supporters to respond to your calls to action. This means you need to think about strategies that “mobile-ize” your connections with your supporters, members or donors, whether that is via email, text, apps or even old-school phone calls, as well as on your website. 

I like the way Watt Hamlett frames it in his guest post on the npEngage blog: “If your organization is thinking about starting or deepening mobile engagement with your constituents who, like me, are rarely out of arms-reach of their mobile device,” …

Know the possibilities
“Mobile” isn’t just one thing, it is many. Today, the term “mobile” covers four primary types of engagement:

  • Mobile messaging: sending text messages to your constituents
  • Text to Donate: enabling your constituents to text a donation of any amount to your organization, paid via the mobile payment checkout service of their choice
  • Mobile Web: presenting content and engagement opportunities in a way that is optimized for mobile device browsers, including things like donation forms and advocacy action forms
  • Mobile Apps: taking your place beside Angry Birds and Flixster with packaged content or functionality

These methods improve your communication with supporters and widen the options for online donations from your donors. Just imagine: you’re hosting an event for your supporters and call over the speakers, “Text 123 to make a donation.” The donations start pouring in, because you made it so easy for your supporters to make a donation right then and there with your text-to-give campaign.

As another example, your email reminders are pretty effective for communicating with your supporters, but sending a text message their smartphones will make sure they see your message. Push notifications will show up on your supporters’ phone when you decide it is time to collect pledges, pay dues, or send out any other targeted message. 

Mobile communication and donation options open up so many new possibilities for your organization to better communicate with current supporters and to reach out to new donors. Make sure you are doing everything you can to connect with them!

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How should you “mobile-ize” to connect with your constituents?

In the Nonprofit Blog Carnival round-up about “Going Mobile”  that we hosted last spring, there were some wonderful tips offered up by some nonprofit industry experts to help organizations wondering how they should approach mobile. Here is some of their insightful advice on where to start: 

    1. Who are your constituents and what are they like? Are they using smartphones? How do they typically support you? When are times when they might want to take action on mobile, and what types of actions are you hoping to inspire?
    2. What resources do you have to commit to mobile? Do a quick reality check. What time, money, expertise and staff do you have to commit to mobile, and what does that say about the scope of project you can handle?
    3. How will mobile fit into your other outreach efforts? Step back and look at mobile as a way to supplement, reinforce and enhance your other efforts, including donor acknowledgement, special events and social media.
    4. How are you going to measure your efforts? How will you track the return on investment in cost savings or added donations? How about the return on engagement in the form of new supporters, added convenience for supporters, improved advocacy and brand exposure?
  • In a guest post (on Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog) - Building an Effective Nonprofit Mobile Strategy - Tonia Zampieri (Atlantic Business Technologies) offered tips for nonprofits for creating “a mobile integration strategy”

1. Build a mobile matrix. Include every distinct audience you talk to – donors and clients, if applicable. For one nonprofit your list might include: teens, single professionals, stay at home moms, health care professionals and hispanics. Reaching these groups may require different mobile channels – texting vs. mobile web content, vs. mobile-rendered forms, vs. apps – and how they receive your information may be different too. Creating an easy spreadsheet where matching up different groups with their respective channel of choice will help understand where to focus.

2. Do your homework and pick your most pressing need. To avoid being overwhelmed pick the audiences that you need to engage with most and work on developing a mobile strategy for them. ...

3. Write copy easily consumed via mobile. In our above example, will your new pamphlet be read right there on the phone or is it best to have it sent via email as a mobile download? Matching content to how it will be best received is key to achieving desired results.

Every organization has different audiences requiring different priorities and needs.

  • In Five Ways Fundraisers Can Utilise the Power of Mobile, Craig Linton (Fundraising Detective)  reminds us of the possibilities – aside from mobile users looking at our websites on their smartphones – such as:
    • Sending instant updates via text or email and get people to link through to exclusive content”
    • At an event, “You have a captive audience and a chance to tell your story. Imagine a concert where the artist asks everyone to donate …to a chosen charity and they won’t play a certain song until 1000 people have texted!

Making realistic mobile plans that fit your organization

With 88% of US adults using cell phones; 46% on smartphones; 19% owning e-book readers; and 19% owning tablets (according to Pew Internet Project) – mobile engagement is here to stay.  If you or your Board still need convincing, take a look at Google's Our Mobile Planet presentation (PDF). It demonstrates how smartphones are: "indispensable to daily life; transformed consumer behavior; help[ing] us navigate the world; and much more.

But while your mobile planning will need to address making your website more mobile-friendly or investigating responsive design to accommodate growing smartphone use, you need to start by looking at your constituents and your key communications methods and messages, along with your budget, before making realistic mobile plans.

What steps has your organization taken to address mobile?  Let us know in the comments below.

Image source: "Seamless pattern made with mobile" from BIGSTOCK

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 22 March 2013 at 8:30 AM
Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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