Two years ago every non-profit in the U.S. starting talking about mobile.  The magnitude of the earthquake in Haiti catalyzed Americans to give;  texting a donation to organizations like the Red Cross proved fast and easy, and total funds raised via mobile made headlines topping $32 million dollars collected in 10 days.

Fast forward and you may be surprised to learn that, while Mobile Giving (a.k.a Text-To-Give) certainly has a respected place in the mobile fundraising mix, it is only one of many tools available to non-profit organizations today.  Based on the experience of Mobile Commons, a company that specializes in running SMS/text-messaging campaigns for non-profit organizations like AARP, the Humane Society, Organizing for America/the Obama Campaign and hundreds of others,  mobile is also very effective when used for ….Top 2 Ways Non-Profits Use Mobile

  • Acquiring new supporters (list building)
  • Motivating existing supporters to take a specific action

Mobile Is A Magnet For New Supporters

According to Michael Sabat, Vice President of Business Development at Mobile Commons, “mobile is extremely good at connecting new supporters to a non-profit through offline media  like TV, print, billboards, live events and bringing them into the organization’s digital universe.  Because people always have their phone on them, it’s very easy for them to take it out and send a text, whereas it’s a bigger disconnect to go to their computer to login to a website or even click off a HULU video they’re watching to fill out their information on the non-profit’s sign-in form.”

Take Chicago-based Shedd Aquarium for example, they wanted to attract new visitors and raise awareness so they partnered with Mobile Commons to test the effectiveness of an SMS call-to-action versus a website call-to-action on a television commercial they were producing.   The organization bought advertising time on four network stations and on one of the stations they aired the commercial with the SMS call-to-action while on the three others they aired the commercial with the website call-to-action instead.

The commercial with the SMS call-to-action generated 325% more responses than the commercials driving viewers to the website!  Of all responses received, more than half came through SMS despite the fact that only 25% of the TV ads included the SMS call-to-action.

Mobile Spurs Engagement and Action

Mobile, particularly SMS/text messaging, is also highly effective in maintaining a supporter’s engagement with a non-profit organization.  The key is to first get the individual’s permission to send them future communications via text messaging (also known as a mobile opt-in).  Once you have that, Michael explains, “sending someone a text message and getting them to take action is the biggest value there is.”   Here, in a nutshell, are Michael’s reasons why:

  • Text messaging is a non-spam channel
  • People always have their phones with them
  • People check text messages almost instantly

Connect these dots, Michael explains, and it becomes clear that “sending a text message to get someone to actually take action really increases the likelihood that the person will take that action.”

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews put this premise to the test when they partnered with Mobile Commons to get more of their supporters involved with their annual Prayer at the Wall event —  a pilgrimage staff and supporters make to the Western Wall in Jerusalem to say prayers sent in by those who could not make the trip.  Their primary goal for introducing  mobile into their existing communication plan was to increase the number of prayers submitted by supporters.

By adding “Prayer at the Wall, Text PRAY to 877877” to all their existing campaign materials (website, outgoing email, online advertising, social media and direct mail) and launching a mobile-optimized website to accept prayer submissions and donations, the organization collected hundreds of prayer submissions, email addresses and raised $60,000 in donations via the mobile website.

Tumblr, a microblogging platform and social networking website, stepped into a political activism role when it used mobile to spur its users to take action against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  On November 16, 2011 Tumblr protested against the SOPA bill by “censoring”  the content on the dashboard of all its users.  They then asked them to take action to stop the law that will censor the internet by linking to a new Protect the Net page.  On that page, users were given some background on SOPA and encouraged to call their local representative.  To make calling the local representative easy, Tumblr partnered with Mobile Commons to leverage the power of mobile and in so doing, they generated nearly 88,000 calls in 14 hours.  Here’s how it worked.

  • Tumblr users entered their phone number and address in a web form on the Protect the Net page
  • They were immediately called at the number they provided through a system developed by Mobile Commons (mConnect).
  • Once they answered, people heard an automated message from Tumblr founder David Karp, reminding them of the key talking points to communicate to their Representatives
  • Users were then automatically connected with their Representatives.  The appropriate Representative was determined by the address the user submitted on the Protect the Net page.

So while Text-To-Give ignited the non-profit sector’s interest in the mobile channel and it continues to be an important fundraising tactic for many organizations, people are finding new and effective ways to use this  “always on and always at hand” device to advance their missions or causes.


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