Why Nonprofits Need to Implement Mobile Fundraising Now

Written by Nhu Te for NonProfit Pro June 2017 Edition

Every industry— ours included— is transitioning into a more mobile-focused mindset. We are entering (if we haven’t already) a device-dependent era. Like it or not, the majority of people are attached to their smartphones, tablets, what-have-you. Whether you prefer the traditional way of fundraising (face-to-face), the more advanced way (digital) or a combination of both, we can all agree that technology is taking over the world by storm. While there may be disadvantages to up-and-coming technologies, there are tools out there that help bring nonprofit organizations closer to donors. For instance, let’s take a look at mobile fundraising.

What Makes Mobile Effective?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of things, let’s look at some stats that back up this claim. According to a study by Durham+Company, the use of a mobile device to donate to charities has significantly increased since 2013—a whopping 80 percent. In 2013, about 81 percent of people claimed they used a smartphone or tablet to donate. That number jumped to 93 percent in 2015.

When looking at demographics, Baby Boomers who donated through a mobile device grew from 13 percent to 19 percent in that two-year time frame, while such gifts from Millennials grew from 9 percent to 21 percent.

Transitioning or just making donating to your organization available through mobile would be a smart move for any organization, due to the fact that it’s more convenient. The “2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey: US Edition” from Deloitte found that Americans check their phones within five minutes of waking up and at an average of 47 times per day—that number almost doubles to 82 times among those between the ages of 18 and 24.

David Heitman, VP of communications at Wiland, believes that mobile is the most direct route to donors’ daily lives.

“When a device becomes ever-present like this in the lives of donors and prospects, it’s essential to be there to connect with your message and appeals. This ubiquity of smartphone use is good justification for having a mobile-first strategy for marketing and fundraising,” he said.

Like I said before, one of the things I do on my device is check my email. The mail application might be the most used on my phone. Why? Well, because I get a buzz or a ding every time a new email comes in. It’s second-nature for me to check it. And I’m sure donors are doing the same thing, so it’s important for organizations to implement a good email strategy for reaching their donors, because a bad email can send donors running in the opposite direction.

“For nonprofits using email to reach their donors, mobile is crucial because most emails are now opened first on mobile devices. That puts a nonprofit just a click away from having a meaningful interaction with prospective and current donors for whom they have email addresses,” he said. “This also means that email design and website design should be optimized for mobile. A poor mobile experience sends a bad message about a nonprofit’s professionalism. In fact, something as simple as page-load time can have a huge impact on response.”

When you think in terms of fundraising events, the single most important thing is that the donors have a great experience. If the donors do not have a pleasant experience, they will not donate—or worse, they will not come to another event. Enabling mobile fundraising at your event will aid in giving donors the best experience possible.

“What mobile fundraising allows you to do is streamline the event and just make it seamless for donors to be able to give,” Jim Alvarez, founder and CEO of Gesture, told us in an interview. “[Mobile fundraising] allows a person to give freely and easily. It increases the overall donor experience and by doing so, you’re able to have a much higher retention rate for donors and that’s probably the single most important thing for nonprofits.”

Mobile fundraising also eases the staff’s workload. Before the mobile technology, events were organized and managed by paper and pen. Now, everything is electronic, so everything that you need to know—registration, where people are sitting, how much everyone owes at the end of the night—is all in one place.

Tactics for Success

Feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, is how anyone or any organization can learn and grow. We implement a plan that we think is fool-proof, and maybe it fails—but that’s OK, because we can’t learn to succeed if we don’t know what works for our organization and what doesn’t.

One strategy that you can implement is people-based marketing. With this strategy, you are identifying and reaching individual donors, as opposed to a strategy such as broadcast media.

“For people-based marketing to work, you need data about the individuals you want to reach,” Heitman said. “Then you need technology partners who can help you reach these prospects and donors on their smartphones. Companies, like LiveRamp, have the ability to match CRM or donor data with device IDs, enabling you to deliver ads to specific individuals, at large scale, but in a way that respects privacy by anonymizing the data.”

There is also the issue of how much you need spend to reach various segments of your audience, and that’s when you can start with recency, frequency, monetary. This is where you spend more to reach high-value donors rather than low-value donors, Heitman notes.

“That can then be translated into proportional bidding in programmatic ad platforms. It’s really not much different than the direct mail channel, where you invest more to reach your most promising repeat donors. Now, all the infrastructure is in place to take the same highly personalized approach in digital channels, including mobile,” he said.

One of the challenges of this strategy is the “match rate” delivered by on-boarding partners. Although you may have a great donor or prospecting list, the on-boarding provider may only be able to match half of them to their device IDs. The other challenge is that people-based marketing requires substantial commitment. This commitment requires you “to study the data, test how deeply you can go with various audience segments and compare results with campaign efforts,” according to Heitman.

Hosting an auction is a beneficial strategy organizations can use to raise money and cause awareness, engage and connect with donors and incorporate mobile fundraising. When it comes to auctions, mobile fundraising allows organizations to do three things:

  1. Open their auction up ahead of time. This gives donors more time and opportunity to participate and donate. But it also does not limit the auction to only those available to attend the live event. So now, those who are unable to attend the auction can donate through a click of a button on their smartphones or tablets.
  2. Send their participants notifications. Mobile fundraising allows nonprofits to send their participants—those who are able to attend the event or those participating remotely—notifications on their smartphones or tablets. Alvarez says the greatest way to increase giving is to notify people who are bidding that they have been outbid.
  3. Collect payments at the end of the night. One of the past hurdles of auctions was that when people bid on items at an event, they oftentimes forget to pay for the items, so the nonprofit will have to track them down. Now with mobile fundraising, organizations are able to collect payments with one click of a button.

The challenges that Alvarez and his team at Gesture face with mobile fundraising are:

  1. The squeaky wheel. When presenting to a board, there’s almost always going to be one person (the squeaky wheel) on the board who does not see a reason to change and does not see how implementing mobile fundraising will make a difference.
  2. Attendee participation. Due to the fact that mobile fundraising is mostly done through a smartphone, a lot of charities do not want their guests looking down at their phone the entire night. But Alvarez said that the reality is that people will be looking down at their phones, anyway. “I always remind our charity partners that if they are looking down at their phones that means they are looking at doing some kind of fundraising, and that’s a good takeaway. Your goal as a fundraiser is to raise as much money as possible and you know what, this really works,” he said.

New Era of Giving

Of all donations in 2016, 17 percent were given through a mobile device (vs. 14 percent in 2015 and 9 percent in 2014). On this past Giving Tuesday, 22 percent of all donations were sent through a mobile device.

The way people give has changed drastically and is much different from what it was years ago, and people prefer to give through mobile devices. Like I said before, it’s more convenient. According to the “2016 Charitable Giving Report,” being mobile-friendly is no longer an option. Blackbaud recommends a multi-step approach that includes mobile-friendly email messages, websites and donation forms. The combination of all of these approaches will maximize the giving experience for supporters.

“I think that if a charity is not thinking mobile-friendly, then they are missing out,” Alvarez said. The whole world is going to this device that’s in your pocket, and if you’re not capitalizing on the fact that every single person in the U.S. has one of these, then you’re missing the boat.” NPPro


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