Go Mobile: Using Smartphones to Elevate Your Fundraising

In a true sign of the times, a New Jersey lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would ban texting while walking. As any casual observer might attest, handheld communication devices are nearly as ubiquitous as footwear in today’s world.

Mobile devices can be a huge asset for fundraising.According to the mobile giant Ericsson, 90 percent of the world’s population over the age of 6 will have a mobile phone by the year 2020. Talking, texting and sending emails have made mobile devices a global mainstay, but lately they are becoming more popular for functions like paying bills and, increasingly, donating to popular causes.

For nonprofits, mobile technology represents a golden opportunity to boost the effectiveness of their fundraising campaigns. This is especially important in reaching the increasingly well-heeled millennial generation. A recent study by the consulting firm Achieve noted that 87 percent of millennials donated to a charitable cause in 2013, and a majority contributed more than $100.

If your organization is new to mobile fundraising, here are some guidelines to help make your campaign succeed.

Try text messaging

Text messaging, an often ignored mobile fundraising channel, is popular, economical and can be extremely effective. Texting has the advantage of “cutting to the chase,” so to speak. By design, texts must be kept short and can’t do much in the way of design gimmicks, aside from directing readers via a link to an online fundraising page.

The method has proved itself over time, too. In 2010, the American Red Cross launched a mobile texting campaign after the Haiti earthquake that ultimately reeled in $43 million in donations. All people had to do was send $10 by texting the word “HAITI” to the shortcode 90999. The donations appeared on people’s mobile-phone bills.

Boost your email open rates

A lot of mobile users will get your fundraising appeal via email. To make email more effective, the first step is to boost its likelihood of being opened. The key here is to grab the user’s attention by crafting a concise, compelling and somewhat clever subject line. Pare it down to fewer than 35 characters and, according to the email service MailChimp, avoid the words “help” and “reminder.”

Speaking of email automation, services such as MailChimp, ConstantContact, Campaign Monitor and others can go a long way toward making your messages more attractive and effective.

Make sure you’re mobile-friendly

Whether you conduct an email campaign via email, Facebook, Twitter or some other social-media network, your goal is for viewers to arrive at your online donation page. To turn “viewers” into “donors,” you’ll need to make this page mobile-friendly. This means that the page appears as well on a mobile device as it would on a PC or laptop.

Nothing is sure to exasperate a viewer more than a page whose elements don’t display properly or one that requires complicated scrolling. Here again, your copy needs to be ultra-concise and you need to ensure that when the page opens, it’s formatted for easy reading. You’ll also want to make it easy for users to enter a credit-card or bank account number, once they actually decide to donate.

Integrate mobile into special events

The spread of mobile technology enables organizations to combine all of the activities that go into a fundraising event with online giving itself. For instance, participants in a walk or bicycling event will often prepare for the event through weeks of training and exercise — and an organization’s mobile site can guide participants through this process. These participants can also use social media to keep their friends and followers up to date on their progress in preparing for an event. This helps to attract more online donors.

The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation took this concept one step further by creating a mobile application for Android and iPhone users. To gain access to the app, however, event participants must commit to raising $1,000 for one of the foundation’s marathons and triathlons. This ensured that the resources the foundation expended in creating these apps was money well spent.

Use QR codes

You often see quick-response (QR) codes when you go shopping. These are those small, black-and-white codes that look a bit like a crossword puzzle. QR codes can appear on your organization’s posters, brochures, merchandise and even in your videos. Each code is unique and viewing it on a smartphone will take the user to your organization’s webpage or donation site.

If you haven’t already developed such a code, this is an element to consider adding to your fundraising toolbox. The cost of developing and testing a QR code is also relatively modest, and there are plenty of online guides and tools to use to guide you through the process.

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