Can mobile giving help your small charity?

 

              We recently entered the world of mobile fundraising. Well more like we stuck our toe in the water than jumped in and splashed around. Recently our MarComm team suggested the idea of adding a text to give $5 option to one of our signature events. The barriers to entry were fairly low, by that I mean it didn’t cost a lot. I have been unsure whether this approach would work for our type of cause. I do tend to view our organization as a learning organization and felt like it was a good opportunity to learn how to make this type of option work for us. Our peer to peer fund raising initially did not produce game changing support for our charity but over five years the program has grown significantly making it a very viable fundraising strategy. Over five years we have learned better strategies to make this fundraising option effective. As well more of our supporters have become comfortable with raising funds for us this way and seeing it as a way to help our cause.

           Anyway back to why I was skeptical that mobile or a text to give program might work for our cause: when mobile giving was in its infancy, some of the disaster relief organizations had unbelievable success with the approach.  Many other charities jumped on board with dismal results. It appeared that to make mobile giving work you had to have a great deal of urgency to have success with fundraising.  I did come across a recent article in The NonProfit Times that made me think our decision to wade in, might have been the right one. The article refers to a study done by The mGive Foundation. The foundation’s Executive Director describes: “ None of the nine organizations studied are specifically focused on disaster relief but range from environmental and animal to health services.” Okay this caught my attention- charities not involved in disaster relief who were having success with mobile giving. The other thing that really caught my attention and likely a reason a small charity might consider mobile fundraising is a quote by the author: ‘Retention rates for mobile subscribers who opt-in to receive messages or donate via text are on average 80 percent (Hrywna, 2014)”. Personally I might have guessed that the retention rate might have been a lot lower.

          One of our considerations with mobile giving is that we may only capture a donor’s phone number through this type of giving. Only having a phone number makes it difficult to appropriately thank donors and to keep them informed what you are doing with donated money. Jenifer Snyder the Executive Director of the mGive Foundation actually views a mobile number as an advantage. In the article she is quoted as describing:” data and connection point is the mobile number, one of the only pathways that people typically will retain for seven years or more”. When you think of it this makes sense I have had the same mobile phone number for the last 9 years.  Snyder makes a suggestion that may help charities respond to the need to find ways to appropriately thank and keep donors informed.  She suggests:” … organizations can “cross-pollinate” channels, encouraging constituents to opt-in at the same time for using email and text. If an email gets bounced back, an organization can then target them with a text message, informing them that the email bounced back.”  The article does not reference the percentage of text donors who will if asked subsequently opt –in with their email or mailing address, but I guess the point is the charity does have one more avenue to ask donors for this information.

          I personally don’t mind getting the odd text from a company I deal with or a charity I support, however I am not sure I would want frequent text from these organizations. I think a charity should be very cognizant of how frequently they communicate with stakeholders on any particular communication channel. However a least one group that mGive works with had some fairly interesting results with more frequent text messaging. The article illustrates;” The number of messages sent each month by one mGive client directly affected their conversion rate. When sending one or two messages per month, 10 percent made a gift when prompted compared with 21 percent who responded when five to seven messages were sent. The five messages, however, weren’t sent to the entire list but specifically targeted parts of the list,”  Five to seven texts a month seems fairly high to me –however if you used this frequency and had a large percentage opt-out I suppose you would know how to adjust the frequency.

         Mobile giving does offer an alternative or perhaps another communications tool that a small charity should consider. Snyder emphasizes;”   “You’ve got to start taking this channel more seriously.  It’s really not that expensive…but its super effective with 85 percent of texts read within 15 minutes and a 90 percent open rate.” I would caution against viewing mobile fundraising as a silver bullet. For our own team we view it as one of the many ways we communicate with our stakeholders. We also expect over time it will become a more significant source of donations- but not overnight.  I think if this avenue of fundraising and communication takes longer than two years to develop as a significant source of support- I will not be too upset. However overall I would tend to agree with Snyder’s last quote in the article;” Mobile has to be a strategy, someone has to pay attention to that, whether it’s outsourced or done internally. The first year of a campaign is about building infrastructure and getting your following built, honing your message and tone while the biggest turnaround comes in year two.”

References

Hrywna, M (2014) Mobile Donors Stick Around; The Nonprofit Times May 12014 as retrieved from:

           http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/mobile-donors-stick-around/

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