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11NTC: Mobile Invasion

Mobile Invasion: Which Mobile Strategies are Really Working Today examined the state of smart phone usage, how nonprofits have and are utilizing mobile technology, and strategies that nonprofits might consider taking to capitalize on mobile technology. The session presented case studies from the National Park Conservation Association (NPCA) and The Salvation Army to better illustrate how nonprofits have decided on a mobile strategy as well as discussing what has worked and what has not worked.

The statistics and facts presented during the session make a compelling case for why organizations should consider pursuing a mobile strategy. The session cited a recent study that found a 38% increase in the number of people checking email via mobile phone and a 52% increase in mobile searches for news and information. From a nonprofit standpoint it is worth noting that a survey of 1,000 nonprofits conducted by Charity Dynamics reveals that 27.3% of nonprofits are currently utilizing mobile technology in some form and nearly 73% of nonprofits planned to do so in the ensuing six months. The best example to prove the potential for harnessing mobile technology is the outpouring of aid in response to 2010’s earthquake in Haiti, with $26 million amassed within the nine days after the disaster through text-to-giving.

The four mobile options available to nonprofit organizations include:

  • Mobilization of website: An entire website is difficult to mobilize so an organization will need to strategize and consider the goals of what they want their mobile site to accomplish. Organizations need not replicate their entire site and should stick to replicating their website’s most visited pages for their mobile site. A good mobile site will also have a simple design and navigation and avoid use of JavaScript.
  • Mobilization of email/newsletter: A mobile email/newsletter will use a template designed specifically for smartphone browsers. Screen limitations mean any embedded images should be small, calls to action should be placed on top and clickable links should be double-spaced between lines. Additionally, it is worth noting that QR codes or URLs on marketing materials should also lead to mobile friendly landing pages.
  • Text-to-give campaigns: Text-to-give campaigns are not the best idea for long-term fundraising. The campaigns are best deployed when there is a sense of urgency to the cause such as disaster relief. Traditional marketing by way of billboards, print and radio ads may not be particularly effective. Large audiences are more compelled to pay attention and give if celebrities or sporting event partnerships are part of a text-to-give marketing strategy. The Salvation Army had to rethink their marketing strategy after their initial foray into text campaigns and has since found success while the NCPA learned that text campaigns did not suit their cause.
  • Developing a custom application (app): The two main question to ask are how does an app fit into what the organization is about and what is the app supposed to accomplish? The NCPA drew upon their role as an authority on the national parks system to develop a successful parks field guide app which ultimately was designed to grow their email list. The Salvation Army’s app capitalized on and was an extension of their well known Red Kettle fundraising campaign. An important point made through both case studies is the need to temper expectations as it takes time to get one’s supporters accustomed to using apps as a means of engaging with the organization.

The entirety of the case studies can be found on The Nonprofit Technology Network’s 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference page.