Today, more people are surfing the web on their smartphones than on their desktops. What does this mean for fundraisers? It means that it’s time for you to step into the future of charitable giving—mobile fundraising.

But don’t worry—mobile fundraising does not eliminate the traditional fundraising that you’ve been doing well for so long. It can’t be replaced, but here’s what will change. Nonprofits must come to embrace at least one form of mobile fundraising, as their donors are on the go with a mobile phone nearby, always. Nonprofits need to be on the go, too, reaching their donors where they live, work, and play.

Here’s what every nonprofit fundraiser should know about mobile fundraising:

Mobile Fundraising 101

What is Mobile Giving?

For nonprofits, mobile giving is the donation of money to nonprofit organizations through any mobile device, typically smartphones but sometimes tablets. Most commonly, when people think of mobile giving, they automatically envision someone texting to give to a noble cause, like disaster relief. While that is often the case, it’s definitely not the only way to give on a mobile device.

As we mentioned, there are several different ways to use mobile giving, including text-to-give, mobile email fundraising, mobile-responsive donation pages, and more. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most common and useful definitions as they pertain to mobile fundraising.

Remember back in the day before tables and mobile phones? That was when websites were designed with a fixed wdith for desktop computers.

When mobile phones, laptops, and tablets became more popular, the fixed wdth website was still great for desktop computers but not on the new sizes of screens. For the user, the experience was maddening because nothing really looked right on the new sizes of screens that users loved. You could see some of the website but not all of it. Some words were too small to read. Images were distorted and buttons didn’t always work.It was a user’s nightmare.

infographic that shows different devices that show websitesResponsive Design Websites Were Born
It was time to solve this issue. Google helped accelerate the change to responsive websites, as it gave websites better SEO rankings if they were responsive. A responsive website has a layout design that adapts to different screen sizes. It has dynamic content that changes, optimized images, correct spacing based on device, and is reliant on mobile operating systems for functionality. Some of the content might change from one screen size to another; some elements may be removed on certain screen sizes to provide a better user experience. One might say that responsive websites have the user experience in mind and enhance usability regardless of what device it is.

This is somewhat different from mobile responsiveness. Mobile-friendly websites don’t change across platforms like mobile-responsive websites do. You can tell that a website is responsive by reducing the browser size on your computer and seeing if anything changes. Mobile-friendly websites, however, will look and function exactly the same regardless of what device you view them on.

QR Codes:
two qr codesQR codes, short for Quick Response codes, are machine-readable optical images with an array of black-and-white markings, although some can have color on them like the McDonald’s example. They’re similar in function to barcodes, but instead of containing price information, they store a variety of information and often a URL. Most nonprofits that use QR codes tie the codes to their mobile donation pages or mobile-responsive websites.

Tokenization is a specific term that’s used in the payment card world, but it pertains to mobile fundraising in that it helps keep mobile donors safe. It accomplishes this feat by taking sensitive information, like credit card numbers, and converting it into meaningless tokens. These tokens cannot be interpreted by anyone but the payment processor.

2-Factor Authentication:
2-factor authentication is a security measure that helps prevent fraudulent purchases. It’s a way of confirming that people (in this case, mobile donors) are who they say they are. It works by requiring two sources of identification. In the case of mobile donating, a donor will typically be asked for their personal email address to verify their identity. The phone number is the first form of ID.

Yet another security measure, PCI compliance refers to a service provider’s adherence to the Payment Card Industry’s rigorous standards. If you would like more information on the specific guidelines, be sure to check out the official PCI Security Standards website. With all of the common terms (plus some bonus technical terms) in your tool belt, you can confidently go forward and tackle any of the big topics that mobile giving presents.

How Text-to-Give Differs from Mobile Fundraising

This is certainly a topic that comes up a lot. And it’s understandable. “Mobile fundraising” seems like a pretty nebulous term. It’s broad, and it gets attributed to a dozen different giving avenues. More than that, though, it seems to be used interchangeably with “text-to-give,” which can be confusing. But the truth is: mobile giving is so much more than texting to donate.

Mobile giving, as we said earlier, encompasses any way that you donate to an organization using a mobile device. So if you send out a fundraising email, and your donors give directly through that email on their smartphones–that’s mobile fundraising. If you’re hosting a charity run or walk, and your donors pledge on their mobile devices, that’s considered mobile pledging. Likewise, if a donor happens upon your website on their mobile phone and makes a donation right there on the spot–that’s mobile giving, too! And yes, when a donor texts your organization, that’s also mobile fundraising. Ultimately, mobile fundraising is a horse of many colors, and text-to-give is just one of those hues.

The Benefits of Mobile Giving/Mobile Fundraising

There are several benefits inherent in the mobile fundraising process. For one thing, it’s one of the easiest, most convenient, and most intuitive ways to give. People are already doing everything else imaginable on their phones. We’re using them to take pictures of our children. To check our bank accounts. For directions, for medical advice, for catching up on the news. For lack of a better phrase, phones are our constant companions.

With that in mind, let’s explore the benefits of mobile giving for donors and nonprofits. It’s safe and secure for donors and for organizations. While checks can get lost in the mail, and cash can be stolen, mobile giving is one of the safest ways to give and receive funds.

Measures such as 2-factor authentication and tokenization keep your donors’ information safe and sound. They also protect your organization against spammers and fraud. Increased communication means greater donor retention. 53% of donors who leave an organization cite ineffective email marketing and communication as the reason for saying, “So long!”

With mobile fundraising, your organization doesn’t need to worry about this problem. You can easily establish an open line of communication simply because you’ll be meeting them right where they already are: on their mobile phones. Mobile leaves more room for diversity and, therefore, more accessibility. Mobile giving platforms these days have adapted to the changing climate. What this means on a practical level is that your multifaceted donors are having their needs met–automatically.

In the past, you might have needed to enlist the help of a translator to ease transactions. Mobile fundraising has changed the game, though. A donor who speaks Spanish, for instance, can text their donation in their native language and be sent instructions for follow-through in that same language. Mobile fundraising makes giving more accessible than ever before. It’s easy as apple pie for everyone involved. Not only is mobile giving incredibly easy for nonprofit organizations, but it’s also 100% intuitive for donors.

Your donors are already texting, emailing, and surfing the web on their phones. It’s just a natural next step for them to give to their favorite organization (you!) through those same channels. Mobile gives your organization greater insight into giving habits. Information capture, which automatically records important data about a donor (that they’ve willfully provided, of course), allows your nonprofit to learn a great deal about your donors and their habits.

From this information, you can conduct more targeted prospect research and determine who among your donors is a major gift donor. You can also figure out how to best reach out to your donors based on how they’ve given in the past. In sum, mobile giving provides so many benefits for both your organization and your donors it’s hard to pass up.

Who Uses Mobile Fundraising Technology?

It seems that these days, just about everybody has boarded the mobile giving train. Some of the savviest schools are taking advantage of this innovative way to raise money. And they’re not the only ones. But exactly who uses mobile fundraising technology–and for what purposes?

Let’s look at some stellar examples:
Churches and other faith-based organizations. Many churches use text-to-give technology in order to raise money on a weekly basis. Most churchgoers don’t bring cash with them anymore, so church leaders had to get creative. These days, you’ll find that many churches have instituted what’s commonly called “texting to tithe.” It’s just like text-to-give, but it’s specifically used on Sunday!

It’s the same tithing that’s been around for centuries; it’s just more modern and convenient for today’s culture. Disaster relief foundations. Disaster relief organizations were among the first to use this sort of technology. In the event of a major disaster, texting to donate became the most efficient and effective way for supporters to respond. Because it’s such a quick and easy process–and one that can be done anywhere and at any time–many more donors feel compelled to donate on the spot with mobile giving. Modern disaster relief organizations use the entire gamut of mobile fundraising: from mobile emails to QR codes and beyond.

Colleges and universities
Colleges and universities across the nation have adopted mobile fundraising as a way to collect funds not only from current students but also from alumni.

Many universities nowadays send out mobile emails with email donation buttons built in so that alumni don’t even have to click away from their inboxes to give. Mobile email donating really streamlined the post-grad solicitation process.

Animal rights groups
Animal rights groups are among the most innovative and prolific with their mobile solicitations. There are some groups that have created mobile apps that donate money each time a user walks their dog. In addition to creating apps, many animal rights groups have also incorporated mobile-responsive donation pages into their everyday fundraising efforts.

Of course, these aren’t the only types of organizations that make the most of mobile giving. They’re just shining examples of how this kind of technology can be employed.

How to Incorporate Mobile into Your Existing Plan

Mobile giving fits in really well with most nonprofits’ existing fundraising strategies. Whether you’re running a capital campaign or just keeping up the status quo with direct asks, mobile fundraising is an easy way to boost your efforts on the go. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways that nonprofits work mobile into their current strategies.

Direct asks
For as long as nonprofits have been raising money for great causes, there has always been the “direct ask.” It started with door-to-door solicitations (which, yes, still exist), and now it’s evolved to include mobile email as a standard way of asking for donations.

Peer-to-peer fundraising
Peer-to-peer fundraising has also been a long-standing tradition in the nonprofit community. And again, it began with fundraisers reaching out in person. But the advent of mobile giving technology has made that same process ten times easier and so much more efficient.

Instead of knocking on ten doors, a peer-to-peer fundraiser can send out hundreds of personal appeals through their smartphone and have far greater success in less time and with less effort.

One-time events
One-time charity events, like benefit concerts or fancy galas, have historically relied on checks and paper pledges. But once again, not everyone has their checkbook with them, and pledges are easy to forget about if there’s no accountability. That’s precisely why mobile giving works so wonderfully with one-time events. No one forgets to bring a phone to a concert. And it takes less than a minute to donate via text. It’s a win-win situation.

Recurring events
Nonprofits and churches that host weekly or monthly meetings asking for donations used to have to rely on their attendees to bring cash or checkbooks. Luckily, mobile donating has made that a thing of the past. Now, any time that a recurring event attendee wants to give, all they need to do is take out their phone and click a couple of buttons.

Voila! Donation made!
Specific projects. When nonprofits are trying to raise money for specific projects–for instance, building new community centers–many of them have tried reaching out through direct mail or direct phone calls. And while these methods are still great, they’re not as cost-effective as mobile giving. Put simply, direct mail is 245 times more expensive than mobile email.

Mobile fundraising and specific projects really do go hand-in-hand. They were practically made for one another. As you can see, it’s actually quite easy to incorporate mobile fundraising into your existing efforts. Just think of it as a supplement to the actions you’re already taking.

What Does Social Media Have to Do with Mobile Giving?

Over 65% of all social media sites are viewed on mobile phones on a consistent basis, and 73% of smartphone owners are on social media daily. And more than half of people who engage with a nonprofit on social media end up taking some action. More often than not, that “action” is donating. What do these statistics have to do with your nonprofit? To put it simply, social media posting has a large bearing on the success of a mobile fundraiser–on really any fundraiser, actually.

That’s not to say that if you don’t post on social media that your efforts will be in vain. But most donors who were surveyed have reported feeling that social media made it easier for them to donate. In short, social media and mobile giving are like peanut butter and jelly; they just make sense together. They are great on their own but far better together.

What are the Basics of Getting Started?

Now that you have the majority of the basics covered, it’s time to delve into getting started. First things first, you’ll want to assess your readiness for mobile fundraising. Is your organization set up to incorporate mobile giving into your existing strategies? Chances are, if you aren’t yet, you can easily get there. All it really takes is:

• Figuring out who will be in charge.
• Deciding what type of mobile fundraising you want to pursue.
• Planning for a launch timeline.
• Researching the platform provider that works for you.
• Making sure all your web pages and donation pages are mobile-responsive.

Once you’ve got those ducks in a row, you can begin following the subsequent steps:

#1. Update your contact information: Accurate donor info is crucial to your campaign’s success. Make sure that all of your email addresses and phone numbers are up-to-date with surveys and general database cleaning.

#2. Set realistic goals for your campaign: Donors respond best to concrete, attainable goals. People want to feel that they’re working toward a specific outcome. That’s why it’s especially vital that you set a tangible goal for yourself and your campaign before you get started.

#3. Tap key influencers to help you launch: Having a vote of confidence from a trusted pillar in the community is a surefire way to get a mobile fundraiser started off right. Use the principles of peer-to-peer fundraising to your advantage to leverage your existing donor base.

#4. Market your mobile fundraiser at a live event: Few situations lend themselves better to mobile giving than live events. People are all gathered together, and they’re primed to give by the atmosphere.

#5. Thank your mobile donors in more than one way

Throughout your mobile fundraiser, you should be thanking your mobile donors. When they donate to your cause via text, they should receive an automatic “Thank you” back. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t also want a handwritten thank you letter.

How to Maximize Mobile Giving

1. Make your mobile giving process donor friendly.

Nonprofits that want to maximize their mobile giving should first focus on creating a donor-friendly experience. Think about it: if the process is complicated or time-consuming, donors are likely to abandon your donation form before giving. One of the most time-consuming parts of an online donation form is filling out contact and payment information.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can speed up your mobile giving process:

  • Limit your donation form to one page. Filling out a form on a mobile phone can be frustrating, especially if we have to swipe, scroll, and pinch to reach the fields we need to enter. By having the form fit on one page, donors are able to see every field, allowing them to estimate the completion time.
  • Include only necessary fields. A key cause of donor abandonment—when a donor leaves your donation page before contributing—is wasting your donors’ time. While having multiple questions about donors can augment your supporter profiles, it can also make your supporters question why this information is necessary. Stick to the essentials like name, billing address, and credit card number.
  • Provide donors with the option to create an account. What if there was a way for donors to skip filling out their payment information every time they give? Creating an account is the solution. When a donor creates an account, all their information is saved for future donations, reducing the donation time.

This last suggestion is particularly important because, if handled incorrectly, it can actually increase donor abandonment. When a donor gives for the first time, setting up an account can be time-consuming and doesn’t directly benefit the donor experience unless they give again. Moreover, the hassle of remembering another set of credentials just to make a donation can further frustrate some donors. As such, organizations need to use tools that make the account creation and login process quick and simple.

2. Include Preset Donation Amounts in Your Mobile Donation Form

We’ve already talked about the effects of making your mobile donations more donor-friendly, but preset donation amounts can also simplify the donation process as well. Instead of entering an amount, donors are able to click on the donation they want. But the advantages don’t stop there! Research shows that including gift amounts in your donation forms can increase the average donation.

How does including preset donation amounts improve your fundraising potential? Preset donations can achieve this because of two reasons:

  • Donors are more likely to use the preset buttons rather than entering a custom donation amount. Let’s say that a donor wants to give $20 to your organization, but when they land on your mobile donation form, they only see preset amounts for $10, $25, or $100. The donor is more likely to click the $25 amount because it’s quick and close to what they originally wanted to give. Thanks to your preset donation amounts, you just received $5 more!
  • Donors assume that the preset amounts are what “everyone” is giving. Imagine that a donor wants to give to your organization but doesn’t really know how much is enough. With the donation amounts already set for them, the donor will conclude that these are amounts the average supporter gives and decide to donate the highest donation within their means.

When selecting your giving levels, it’s important to include various amounts so that every supporter has a donation they can choose. For instance, have a range of high and low numbers such as $5, $20, $50, $100, and $150.

Additionally, you can take your giving levels one step further by including what your organization will be able to do with that amount of money. Including this information is a popular donation solicitation strategy among fundraisers from all sectors of the nonprofit world because of how effective it is!

For example, an animal shelter could say something like, “$10 allows us to provide one dog with food for 5 days,” and “$20 allows us to provide a dog with food for 10 days.” Supporters that come to your donation form with a gift amount in mind might alter their decision if they see that a larger donation can provide more value to your cause.

Most nonprofit fundraising software comes with the functionality to add donation amounts directly on your forms, so you should be able to implement this feature without switching platforms.

3. Design a Mobile-Friendly website and Donation Form

We can’t stress this enough: people are looking at organizations and causes to support via their mobile phones. That means your organization needs to make its search more convenient, and that starts with a mobile-friendly website. Potential supporters need to be able to browse your website on any device. You want to make it easy for them to find your donation form when they’re ready to give.

Depending on your organization’s size and technical team, you might need to hire a web design consultant or use a website builder. DNL OmniMedia has a comprehensive list of website builders to help make your website mobile-friendly. Once you’ve determined how you’re going to develop your mobile-friendly site, it’s time to implement best practices to make your content readable on any device. We recommend that every organization:

  • Use a responsive layout. A mobile-responsive website adjusts to the screen size it’s being viewed on. The website’s layout may change, and elements may be hidden to make the viewing experience more enjoyable for mobile or tablet users.
  • Limit the number of images in mobile layouts. Images can help donors develop an emotional connection to your cause and add character to your website, but too many images can hinder the mobile viewing experience. Using smaller images that fit within the screen works better because the donor can see the entire image without scrolling.
  • Keep your navigation simple. You never want to overwhelm your donors with too much navigation. That’s why you should stick to your organization’s key pages. Donors will be directed to your core content and can easily click on the page they want.

4. Diversify your mobile giving promotion.

A common misconception about mobile giving is that the only effective promotion occurs online. That couldn’t be further from the truth!

If organizations want to truly maximize their fundraising, they need to promote mobile giving online, via direct mail, and at nonprofit events.

  • Online: From social media to email to a nonprofit’s website, there are endless platforms on which an organization can promote mobile giving. Since it’s likely that donors will learn about your organization and donate all from their mobile phones, promoting this donation method online makes the most sense. When your organization promotes mobile giving online, it’s important to keep your message engaging, direct, and to the point. As donors browse through their email or social media newsfeed, you’ll be competing with their friends, other nonprofits, and companies for their attention. When writing emails or social media posts, organizations should keep these strategies in mind:
    • Emails should be addressed to the donor
    • Include images in your social media posts
    • Open up your post or email with a sentence that draws the reader in
    • Link to your mobile donation form or provide instructions on how to give via text message
  • Direct Mail: It may feel counterintuitive to ask your donors who prefer direct mail to go online and contribute, but research shows that 35% of donors prefer to respond to direct mail by donating online. While you can’t easily incorporate links into your fundraising letters like you can with email or social media, you can still promote mobile giving. Here’s how:
    • Include your text-to-give number and instructions in the header of your letter.
    • Use a QR code to direct donors to your mobile donation form.
    • Provide your social media handles so donors can connect with you online.
    • Have a clear call-to-action at the end and beginning of your letters.
  • Nonprofit Events: Last but certainly not least, organizations can promote mobile giving at fundraising events. This method has been a tried-and-true way to encourage supporters to give in the moment. Let’s face it: no one goes anywhere without their mobile phones, and the same goes for fundraising events. For example, if you’re hosting a charity auction, you can have the emcee explain how your mobile giving or text-to-give process works and even put visuals on display to show the process. Additionally, promoting mobile giving at an event is the perfect way to launch your new fundraising platform. Guests have the opportunity to test out your process with volunteers close by to help anyone that can’t figure it out.

John Killoran is CEO of @Pay, an exciting new fundraising technology that makes it easy for people to donate in two clicks from text, email, web, and social media sites.

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