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Implications of Mobile Technology for NFPs

2 May 2013 at 11:03 am
Staff Reporter
It’s vital for fundraisers to fully understand the implications of the mobile technology revolution and to adjust their strategies accordingly, says Laura Boulton from the global Not for Profit, Resource Alliance.

Staff Reporter | 2 May 2013 at 11:03 am


Implications of Mobile Technology for NFPs
2 May 2013 at 11:03 am

 It’s vital for fundraisers to fully understand the implications of the mobile technology revolution and to adjust their strategies accordingly, says Laura Boulton from the global Not for Profit, Resource Alliance.

The world is getting smaller, and not just because we can communicate with friends in other continents at the touch of a button. Advances in hardware have meant that powerful computers can be much smaller and more portable these days, dramatically changing the way we use them and expanding their range of uses. It is vital for fundraisers to fully understand the implications of the mobile technology revolution and to adjust their strategies accordingly.

The statistics emphasise the sheer scale of smartphones and tablets as growth industries. The American IT research firm Gartner is predicting that worldwide mobile phone sales will pass 1.8 billion this year and will exceed 2 billion by 2017.

Furthermore, tablets are taking over from PCs as households’ main computers – while sales of PCs are falling year-on-year, 197 million tablets will be sold this year and this figure will grow to 467 million in 2017.

Consumers in Australia are no exception in their enthusiasm for mobile computing. According to Google’s ‘Our Mobile Planet’ survey last year, 52% of Australians owned a mobile phone, up from a third the previous year. 58% used their smartphone to access the internet every day, 94% said they had used it to research a product or service, and 28% had used it to make a purchase. While many of these findings relate to consumer buying habits, they have a clear relevance for charities wishing to persuade donors of the value of their work and increase donations.

The good news is that Not for Profit organisations in Australia are some of the most mobile-engaged in the world. For example, Blackbaud’s 2012 SONI survey found that over 30% have their website optimised for mobile browsing and 26% optimise email messages for mobile browsing. On both counts these figures are the second highest of all the nations surveyed. Elsewhere, 40% planned to use mobile devices to collect funds when outside the office (behind only the US and Canada), and 42% were planning to use QR codes (behind only New Zealand and Canada).

Practical applications

In May, the Resource Alliance is hosting its annual Fundraising Online conference, a virtual event covering all aspects of digital technology and how charities can use it to their advantage.

One of the speakers at this year’s Fundraising Online conference will be Mark Sutton, president of the international web, mobile and social fundraising solution provider Artez Interactive. His firm has just released some interesting research on how mobile devices are being used by participants in North American fundraising events to raise funds from their friends and social networks.

Artez found that event participants who only used the traditional web raised an average of $458, compared to $800 by those using either mobile web or an app, and $1,184 raised by those using both. Significantly, the proportion of donors giving via smartphone or tablet was low, suggesting that mobile technologies were most effective when focused on those engaged individuals who wished to interact with the charity on a regular basis as amateur fundraisers rather than on a one-off basis when making a donation.

Meanwhile, Ida Aalen, Senior Interaction Designer at Netlife Research and fellow Fundraising Online speaker, suggests that the fact donation technology has not yet caught up with the mobile revolution can be challenging to charities. She says that while people are using more and more devices to access the web, their expectations of what they can do on them are getting higher. Yet she has struggled to find a mobile payment solution that she is happy with and which will work on the majority of devices.

Relevance to traditional approaches

Given the rapid pace of technological development and wide range of options, mobile technology is a tricky area to navigate and there is the risk of wasting time or money on badly implemented projects. Bryan Miller’s digital fundraising hype cycle is a useful guide to the range of options out there, but it may also be worth prioritising mobile within existing fundraising strategies rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

A good example of this comes from Jonathon Grapsas, who is the founder of fundraising and campaigning consultancy Flat Earth Direct and who will also be speaking at Fundraising Online. He revealed in a blog post last year the success he had had in using mobile technology to reduce face-to-face attrition rates at Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

He points out that F2F recruits are often in their late-20s or early to mid-30s, of whom around 80% actively use a mobile device. This meant that for Cerebral Palsy Alliance it was crucial to ensure that all content was optimised for mobile, with important messages above the ‘fold’ in the page. Content delivery was automated to ensure that lack of staff resources didn’t prevent a regular stream of communication, and this content was provided through a variety of well-established and mobile-enabled means such as emails, text messages, videos and podcasts.

Such was the success of this strategy that year 1 attrition rates fell from 45% to 30%, demonstrating the importance of mobile technology in improving the all-important bottom line.

About the author: Laura Boulton is head of conferences at the Resource Alliance – a global charity that works with organisations to help build financial sustainability by building skills, knowledge and promoting excellence within civil society.

Fundraising Online takes place in 15 and 16 May 2013. Free to take part it focuses on digital fundraising strategies and techniques. Registrations close on 7 May. 

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