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Ready, Set, Go Mobile

(June 28, 2011) Sparked by the startling success of disaster relief text-to-give campaigns, fundraising using mobile devices is proving to be more than just a flash in the pan--the best success, however, is being seen in methods beyond texting, or even fundraising at all, according to new research from AFP and Kaptivate.

The report, New Directions, shows a growing trend toward nonprofits' adoption of mobile giving and other donor outreach campaigns using smartphones and mobile devices. From 2010 to 2011, the percentage of nonprofits using mobile to fundraise has nearly doubled to 9 percent, and is expected to reach 20 percent by the end of 2011, according to the report released today.

Early adopters of mobile technology are achieving the best results by engaging their audience and have started to move beyond basic solicitations such as through text message. Whereas there was a 24 percent decrease in the number of organizations with active text-to-give programs this year, there was a 27 percent increase in the use of mobile websites.

From Text to Mobile Web

Although much of the momentum toward adoption of mobile giving programs by charities is attributed to text-to-give programs such as for Haiti disaster relief, respondents noted several factors that diminish the  effectiveness of text message appeals. There is not only a limit to the gift size, there is also no option for donors to sign up for recurring gifts, and there is little data available on the donors who give by text, making it hard to cultivate a relationship with the donor moving forward.

Mobile websites, on the other hand, are growing in popularity because they can be used on any mobile device (as opposed to mobile applications specific to just iPod, Droid or Blackberry) and  allow a more seamless integration with other fundraising and outreach efforts. In other words, organizations can ask for recurring gifts and opportunities to become more deeply engaged in similar ways as they do on their regular website.

As technology is quickly evolving to a place where the Internet is always on and accessible, mobile media has become a way to inform and inspire action by people beyond just giving. Although donations may be the end goal of the donor cultivation program, many organizations have moved away from fundraising directly using mobile. In fact, 47 percent of organizations using mobile media do not use it for fundraising, and more than half of study respondents would like to see more integration with social media to further donor engagement.

Other Survey Findings

In addition to this striking move away from text-to-give fundraising and toward a more holistic mobile engagement strategy, the report also noted the following findings:

  • Over 20 percent of respondents use mobile solely to engage supporters and other key constituencies
  • The highest mobile adoption rates were reported by religious and charitable (social service and relief) organizations
  • About 22 percent of active mobile giving programs raised over $10,000, with more than half these successful programs generating over $50,000
  • Over 65 percent of all respondents see the fundamental value of mobile media to be the ability to integrate with social media activities

Finding What Works

Still in its early stages, use of mobile devices to encourage giving and deeper involvement with charities is proving most successful for organizations that aren't afraid to experiment. When high expectations set by the Haiti effort were not met by many organizations, some grew skeptical of mobile's potential. However, interest in mobile media continues to grow, and so do the options for how to use it.

What works best for your organization? How can this fit into your larger strategy for donor engagement? What audiences do you want to reach? The story of how mobile devices will be integrated into charities' fundraising programs is still evolving, and much is yet to be written.

You can download the full report of findings from the New Directions mobile media and mobile giving report by AFP and Kaptivate by clicking here.

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