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Sending an SMS or Twitter - Mobile Potential for Not for Profits

6 July 2009 at 5:15 pm
Staff Reporter
The last decade has seen a massive increase in the use of mobile phones and it's become the dominant communication device in our lives today. But in the UK, nfpSynergy has found that the charity sector is yet to embrace the technology to its advantage.

Staff Reporter | 6 July 2009 at 5:15 pm


Sending an SMS or Twitter - Mobile Potential for Not for Profits
6 July 2009 at 5:15 pm

The last decade has seen a massive increase in the use of mobile phones and it’s become the dominant communication device in our lives today. But in the UK, nfpSynergy has found that the charity sector is yet to embrace the technology to its advantage.

An online survey has found that a large proportion of charities are not using mobile phones in their communications and fundraising work even though the majority of the charity sector recognises the potential of using mobile phones.

nfpSynergy carried out an online survey in late 2008, titled ‘How are charities using text messages and mobile phones? It found the charity sector has not yet been convinced by the mobile phone services available.

Out of the group of charities who took part in this survey – and invariably they were the most interested in the concept of mobile phone use within the charity sector – only 22% of the respondents are using mobile phones in both fundraising and communications, 20% are using it just in their fundraising work and only 15% are using it solely in communications.

This leaves a large proportion (41%) of charities, not using mobile phones in their communications or fundraising work in any way at all.

nfpSynergy says this is a large number of charities to be dismissing the concept of the mobile phone. So while mobile phone use is a technique that has infiltrated the charity sector to an extent it says there is still massive opportunity for it to grow and expand in use.

The survey also found that there is optimism within the charity sector regarding the possibilities for communications and fundraising that the mobile phone provides.

Some 78% of the survey respondents said they collected mobile phone numbers from their contacts to store in their database.

When asked if they are looking into the potential of using mobile phones, 48% answered that they were looking at the potential in both communications and fundraising, 15% said they are enthusiastic about using it solely in fundraising and 8% said just in communications.

Overall the nfpSynergy survey found that 71% of the respondents recognise the potential of using the mobile phone within their charity work in one way or another. Amongst those who are using mobiles and those who are considering it for the future, both parties hold more optimism about the idea of using mobile phones for fundraising than for communications.

The survey results are contained in a report which is the result of nearly a year’s work by nfpSynergy, CAF and the UK Institute of Fundraising.

The use of the internet on mobile phones is also a function that is evolving fast. Although the mobile internet is still not used by the majority of mobile phone users, it is predicted to take off in the future, as internet speeds and connections continue to improve with technology and the demand for access to the internet increases.

Third Generation mobile phones (3G phones) were the first to offer mobile phone users easy internet access because of improved spectral efficiency.

And the idea of using the social networking site Twitter to raise funds via a mobile phone is also gaining traction.

In January 2009 the National Trust for Scotland became the first UK charity to use Twitter as part of its campaign to raise funds for a new museum for the poet Robert Burns.

The nfpSynergy Report says the main appeal of Twitter was the low cost of setting the campaign up. The Trust also liked the fact that donations resulting from the campaign would go directly to them.

The campaign surpassed the National Trust’s expectations both in terms of the funds it raised and the awareness it generated across the globe.

Describing the impact the campaign made, Scottish Digital PR expert Craig McGill says they had thousands of people contact them as a result of the campaign across a much wider demographic than they anticipated.

McGill says they envisaged the campaign would skew largely towards people under 24 but got a lot of feedback from people much older than this, especially in the States.

The Report says Twitter proved the ideal campaigning tool for the charity for a number of reasons. It helped them reach a young audience; it used technology accessible to anyone with a phone or computer; it was popular with people not keen on texting or email, and it was easy for supporters to set up a Twitter account.

It also provided the additional benefit of enabling the National Trust to monitor anyone doing an online search for Burns and tell them about the campaign.

The Report says the National Trust also raised more funds from the campaign than it expected. It surmises this could have been due to the fact that people in the UK feel more comfortable donating via PayPal than by text.

McGill says it takes a few keyboard strokes to set up an account and merely involves paying the cost of WiFi access. From then on it’s a case of managing the account and spotting opportunities to fundraise and raise awareness and generating content accordingly.

The full report can be downloaded at

Other links:

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