Tag: online fundraising

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.”


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



Your smartphone is 80 percent of everything Radio Shack carried in 1991


         A little over a year ago we re-designed our website. This year we will be doing some work on improving how mobile –friendly our website is. We re-designed the website to “tweak” our branding a bit, but mostly we were working on the backend to improve our on-line giving features and our peer to peer fundraising pages.  Our assumption was that we would raise some additional funds through peer to peer fundraising pages and overall this would drive more donations on-line. A couple assumptions that we made were that our millennial (and younger donors) would be the major users of the new features and that in general we would be receiving gifts in the $20 to $250 range. We knew we would have some larger gifts but the improvements to our website and software was really targeted at the base of our donor pyramid. Well wouldn’t you know it one of the first donors to use our new on-line features was a couple in their early seventies? This couple typically comes in twice a year and physically hands Marla a cheque. If Marla isn’t around they ask if I am in and they personally give me the cheques. The donation was a $5000 donation which blows assumption number two out of the water. The lesson is everything you think you know about on-line donations and new technologies will change by next year.

             The additional lesson for our team is that we do need to think of our on-line technology as major gift tools, not just as tools to solicit smaller donations. We also need to consider the behavior and habits of our more affluent supporters.  Six thousand smart phone users were surveyed by BBC World news and the findings are interesting. BBC World News found that:

•39 percent of affluent individuals access their smartphone at least once per hour (18 percent higher than the general population).

 •Affluent smartphone users are 18 percent more likely to share their location than the general population.

 •Affluent smartphone users are 4 times more influenced by mobile ads than they are by desktop ads.

Justin Ware suggests;” we at BWF_social have been suggesting clients look at online as a major gift tool, in addition to something to strengthen the annual fund”.  Overall charities need to consider tactics and appeals that are more robust when considering all ranges of gifts that may be solicited on-line. Ware also provides a few more rationales why a nonprofit may want to invest more thought into their on-line appeals to donors. He points out:” studies tell us that online-acquired donors give larger gifts, give more of their lifetimes, and have greater capacity to give.” My personal beliefs are that larger gifts are more likely to be made face to face, but our world is changing and as a society our comfort with online and electronic transactions are increasing. This January we received an on-line donation of $25,000, at a time when I still get pretty excited about $1000 on-line gifts a donation out of the blue like this reminds you how much fundraising is going to change in the near future. As an illustration of how much the world is changing on his blog post Ware has an Radio Shack ad from 1991. You can see in the ad that almost everything they are selling in the ad, now can be replicated by your  smartphone.



Ware, J (2014) Smartphones are Powerful Major Gift Donor Engagement Tools: on the Social Side of

          Giving Blog as retrieved from: http://justinjware.com/2014/03/05/smart-phones-are-powerful-major-gift-donor-engagement-tools/

Is Your Charity Missing out on Billions of on-line donations?

     Okay if you work for a small or medium sized charity –you are probably not missing out on billions, but it is quite likely that you could increase the amount of on-line gifts you do receive.  About a year and a half ago we invested in our website and on-line fundraising software to make it easier to donate through peer to peer pledge pages, share our appeals and content on donors social media pages and to make it easier for supporters to sign up for email updates and newsletters. This year we have budgeted and planned to improve our website so that it is even more mobile friendly and easier to donate from a mobile device. Today through my own email I received a link to an article on the Chronicle of Philanthropy that is a reminder of why this was a good idea.

          The article reports the findings of a study of 151 organizations (100 from The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 400) undertaken by Dunham and Company.  The very short version of the findings is that: “The groups take too long to ask for money and when they do they make it too hard to give on-line.”  The study identifies a few clues to a charity in how to make it easier for donors to give to your organization.  One of the findings was that “Sixty-Five percent of their websites required visitors to click through three pages or more to give on-line.”  Have you ever tried to purchase something on-line and had this type of experience? Chances are you might have given up and decided not to purchase or purchase elsewhere. If your on-line donations require this many “click thru’s “you might want to check out your organizations website analytics. For our own sites we monitor how long people are on our site and on average how many pages they view each month. We are continually trying to impact these numbers. If you are a small charity who has not invested a lot of brain power and perhaps some cash into your website –it is quite possible that the average visitor is not even looking at three pages on your site and if this is the case you can imagine what this is doing the probably of receiving more online donations.

           Brad Davies was the project director for the study and he is quoted as suggesting: “It is easy to assume nonprofits are missing out on several billion dollars by not making their –online giving experience as easy and dynamic as possible.”  The good news is that a charity can impact this probability of receiving on-line gifts. The authors also report;” They found that the 10 organizations that gave donors the best online-giving experience raised about 25% more money online on average than others.” (If you want to know who these top 10 were you can check the link below)



Flandez,R (2014) Most Charities Fail at Online Fundraising Basics, Says Study; Chronicle of Philanthropy    

           website as Retrieved from: http://philanthropy.com/article/Most-Charities-Fail-at-Online/144401/



Five Keys to Maximize the Impact of your Charity’s Social Media Channels



           Emerging research tends to suggest that social media may be impacting the donor behavior of different demographic groups. For example Dixon & Keyes (2013) describe:” Today the internet and social media have permanently disrupted the traditional donor engagement process. On-line giving-with each new way for organizations and donors to interact come increasingly complex entry points into the traditional models of donor engagement, greater variation in movement along the pathway to deeper engagement, and more opportunities for a person to be influenced by forces outside an organizations control (p.24)”.

          Five consistent themes seem to be apparent as key factors to enabling nonprofits to become more successful in their use of social media and online tools to increase public support. These five themes include:

1.            Charities should use social media tools in concert with each other maximizing the reach and development of networks

2.            Charities should use more of the features of each social media site to be more interactive with the nonprofit organizations followers

3.            Charities should engage in more two way interactions with followers

4.            Charities should abandon traditional marketing or advertising approaches in favor of approaches which capitalize on follower’s ability and willingness to engage their own networks.

5.            Charities should develop materials and appeals that the nonprofit organization’s own network is more likely to want to share with their own network.

           Although each of these tactics does represent a need to devote resources it is fortunate that most of these strategies would not seem cost prohibitive to a small charity. Additionally, although focusing on all five strategies may be ideal it seems probable that focusing on one or two might create significant improvements on a small charity’s ability to engage current and new supporters. It would seem advisable that a charity systematically over time address all five tactics in a staged manner. The research seems to suggest that employing one of the less costly tactics, such as using more of the features on their social media sites may create enough positive outcomes to support devoting resources to further develop other tactics. What is further encouraging about the findings of this research is that small charities should be able to use social media and online tools to equalize the playing field against some of the larger or international charities. Investing resources in advertising campaigns or direct marketing approaches presents the risk for a small charity to create a loss of valuable resources or at very least a return on investment that would not justify the cost. However with social media channels a small charity can make incremental investments that are more modest than some traditional approaches and reap benefits before making additional investments. As Quinton & Fennmore (2013) suggest  social networks: “could provide charities with a fertile environment to help build cause driven communities and further incite friend to friend or peer to peer fundraising” (p.37). The suggestions and observations identified in this research may help small organizations to create and develop this fertile environment. Although charities may need to use different approaches to effectively utilize social media to increase their visibility and raise additional funds, these approaches are still fairly consistent with some of the most important components of traditional fundraising. Successful approaches have focused on engagement and relationships the use of new tools must still focus on these basic concepts. It is likely that organization’s that are unable to learn how to use these tools to develop and enhance relationships through online networks will suffer the same fate as organizations that have been unable to develop and enhance face to face networks. It seems unlikely that these virtual networks will completely replace face to face relationship development but charities will over time create strategies to use their online capabilities to further enhance these face to face relationships as well.




Dixon, J. & Keyes,D.(2013) The permanent disruption of social media. Stanford Social

          Innovation Review, Winter, 2013.

Quinton, S. & Fennemore, P (2013) Missing a strategic marketing trick? The use of online social

           networks by UK charities. Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing.V18:36-51.