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Why nonprofits should explore mobile marketing

February 16, 2011

By Jenifer Snyder

Haiti was a watershed event for mobile giving in 2010. During that crisis, literally millions of mobile subscribers donated to the crisis in $5 or $10 increments by sending texts via their mobile phones.

Last year, more than $50 million total has been raised through mobile donations.

Slowly but surely, nonprofits are starting to get their feet wet in the world of mobile giving. Why?

Because mobile marketing today is where email marketing was back in the 1990s – when it was still new and much more effective than it is today.

Back then, people were not yet getting bombarded by emails – and thus were still extremely responsive and receptive to offers sent via email.

Today, a 15 percent open rate is considered good for email marketers.

Now compare that to this statistic: Estimates indicate that 85 percent of individuals read text messages within 15 minutes of receiving them.

Yes, you read that correctly: 85 percent. Just think about the kind of response you could get from some of your current marketing campaigns if that were true of emails.

Still not impressed?

Numbers game
Consider this: As many as 40 percent of mobile-giving donors do not communicate with charities using any other method. That means by taking part in mobile donation activities, charities are reaching an entirely new audience of givers.

Nonprofits today have the chance to take advantage of the emerging mobile medium before consumers start to get bombarded by text messages asking for donations. But to make the most of this new medium, you have to be prepared.

Even if you are not planning to launch a mobile marketing campaign anytime soon, you should at least start collecting mobile numbers from your constituents – starting today.

I am guessing that you already collect email addresses on your Web site, via mail donations and in a variety of other ways as well.

When you expand those efforts to ask for a mobile number too, you might be surprised at how many people willingly give you that information, particularly if you offer them an incentive to do so.

The bottom line is that you need to start thinking about how to strategically collect your constituent’s mobile information just as you collect their email information today. And then start communicating with them via their mobile phones.

For instance, nonprofit organizations might text constituents when there is a blood drive in their area – or remind them to check their fire detectors during fire safety week.

Universities could send alumni sports scores or news clips on a regular basis along with donation requests.

As the local ballet company, you could text a coupon to the latest fundraising performance two days before the event to ensure it is a sellout.

For giving
As the mobile donation channel evolves, the possibilities for engaging donors and raising additional funds become even more exciting.

For example, using location technology, potential donors could be texted to give more money during a charitable 5K run every time the runner hits another milestone on the route.

A wildlife organization could develop a mobile application that uses location technology to direct individuals to the closest bird preserve, to give them directions and to provide information on what species they might see upon arrival.

And when you download that application, it might ask you for your mobile number for future communications.

With mobile giving, your organization could also give new meaning to the concept of free giveaways.

Instead of printing expensive return address labels and sending them via snail mail, your free giveaway could be the latest Christmas song downloaded to your mobile phone.

The bottom line is that entering the world of mobile marketing could open up many new fundraising opportunities for your nonprofit organization.

So ask yourself today: Are you prepared to take your donation campaigns to the next level?

Jenifer Snyder is executive director of The mGive Foundation, Denver, CO. Reach her at

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