Are charities missing out on opportunities to make the most of mobile?

Are charities missing out on opportunities to make the most of mobile?

Zoe Amar | 19 July 2012

Zoe Amar reports back from the Lasa Mobile Technology Summit and highlights the latest trends and best practice in charity mobile fundraising campaigns.


Following my blog last month about whether mobile is a magic bullet for fundraisers, I wanted to report back from Lasa’s mobile technology summit on 17 July, sponsored by JustGiving.

It was attended by leading charities and mobile experts, who discussed some of the key mobile issues facing the sector, from fundraising to accessibility to the increasing number of charity staff working on their mobiles and other devices.

I’d like to share some of the key learnings and best practice about mobile fundraising from the summit.

One of the speakers, Paul de Gregorio, who is Head of Mobile at Open Fundraising, was fairly optimistic about charities’ use of mobile fundraising.

He pointed out that there had been a huge increase in the number of charity mobile fundraising campaigns over the last 18 months. Paul highlighted a number of recent trends in this area:

  • Good mobile fundraising sometimes involves a combination of innovation and some traditional channels. For example, SMS has reinvigorated press and outdoor advertising as fundraising channels, which were previously mainly used in emergency response campaigns. And the cost of acquiring new donors via these channels is competitive. There has been an explosion in charity SMS campaigns on tubes, trains and buses recently as charities seek to maximise the benefits of ‘dwell time’ on transport when potential donors are looking at their phones. 
  • Many charities- especially the larger ones- are doing well in one off supporter acquisition using mobile, and ‘mobile is mainstream’ for many working in fundraising these days. Donors are also now used to donating via text, thanks to JustTextGiving.
  • The next step for charities is to invest further in ongoing supporter communications, such as mobile friendly websites, and short but timely information sharing messages. As we all know, most people have a phone, and many read their text messages within an hour. Save The Children’s website is often cited as a good example of a mobile friendly site. However, many charities do not yet have mobile friendly e-newsletters, and could be missing out on opportunities to receive donations via this channel.
  • Similarly, once charities have recruited donors via mobile, they need to plan the next steps in communicating with them. Even if a donor in this situation turns down the opportunity to make a regular gift, Paul’s experience with clients has shown that these donors may still donate again in the future. These donors may also support your charity in other ways too, e.g. by attending events. So this indicates a new model for charity fundraising databases, where you may not know the name or address for donors, just their mobile numbers, but where there is potential to develop valuable long term supporter relationships.
  • Charities can learn lessons here from the corporate world. Paul recommended Marks and Spencers’ SMS alerts. Marks and Spencers send short, timely messages about special offers and key information for customers. Crucially, they don’t overcommunicate, but build relationships through regular contact.

The event closed with a plenary session where delegates and speakers suggested what charities could be doing better with mobile. At Lasa we will be exploring how we can potentially take some of these ideas forward.

We’ll be examining this and many more digital issues using research and our upcoming tech events this autumn and into 2013.  You can keep up to date with these on our events page and by following our technology team on Twitter. And do check out our audioboos from the event and view the Storify

Zoe Amar

About Zoe Amar

Zoe Amar MCIM, is Head of Marketing and Business Development at Lasa. Zoe is a regular blogger for The Guardian and Charity Comms amongst others and speaks frequently at charity events. Zoe is on the management team of volunteer run communications agency, Bright One and is a Chartered Marketer.

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