Mobile Fundraising for Non-Profits

by Reece Anderson

Published on August 14, 2014

image article Mobile Fundraising for Non-Profits

My hand was aching pretty badly after the 400th envelope…Only 300 more to go! It was November 2011, and end of the year fundraising was in full swing for resource development professionals like myself. The trends for direct mail campaigns were not looking good, but like every other fundraiser at the end of their campaign, I couldn’t afford not to try everything.

A couple of months later, I sat down to compare the success of our direct mail campaign with previous years. A few things stuck out to me immediately:

  • Despite our increased number of mail outs and postage costs, our direct mail campaign had been shrinking by about 10% consistently for the past 5 years.
  • The age demographic of donors who actually mailed in their check were overwhelmingly 65 and up.
  • More and more of our givers who did receive a hand addressed letter, business reply envelope, etc…were going online to make a donation rather than put a check in the return envelope.

It is nothing new for us to hear that fundraising trends are shifting to more mobile engagement. But what does that really mean for your non-profit, and how does it fit in with your annual campaign events and schedule?

In 2012, we made a few adjustments hoping to catch up to these changes. We immediately set up our online giving page to allow recurring donations. I read that Millennials more than anyone else prefer small monthly recurring gifts rather than making a big “end of the year” one off donation. They also are more interested in the “cause” than the peer recognition and tax benefits that their grandparents enjoy. After launching the new donation page, we immediately started driving more traffic to our site and encouraged people to support us with a monthly gift of _____ rather than asking for a one time gift. As the analytics reports came in from social media and email links, we realized that we had a big problem. Almost all of our visitors were clicking our links and visiting our site from their mobile device rather than a desktop. Our site was not optimized for mobile device and I’m sure we lost a lot of potential gifts because of it. Even though optimizing your site for mobile is a must, it still won’t give you the results you are looking for on a silver platter…

The second mobile strategy we incorporated was “text to give” fundraising. This allows anyone with a cell phone to text a keyword to a dedicated number and make a one time small donation (usually $10). I had seen the Red Cross use this method many times following a natural disaster and in theory it was brilliant! However, the $99 monthly subscription with a one year contract made me regret text to give during the months where we had no special events or social media campaigns in full swing. I needed at least 50 participants each month to make it worth our time and investment. To add to that frustration, the short codes did not work for every mobile provider and we missed out on countless $10 donations because of that.

The Holy Grail of Mobile Engagement (Drumroll please…)

Your non-profit needs to have an app. I’m not talking about a 3rd party donation app…I mean your very own custom, branded, local app! You need an app that will allow you to integrate and link with your current online giving provider while also having the ability to send out push notifications, upload stories, share successes and campaign milestones with your donors, and have other basic information available as well. Even if you have a mobile website set up, how will your donors be able to track your progress? Through an email blast? (Who even says email blast these days anyway!)…Having your own mobile app will:

  • 1)Give you a more mobile friendly platform than your online giving page has
  • 2)Be more convenient to access than your website
  • 3)Allow you to have more intimate and powerful communication tools than email lists and a few social media pages
  • 4)Make sharing your stories and successes easier and more compelling
  • 5)Help you retain more donors and volunteers by keeping them in the loop with upcoming events

This is one of the reasons I helped co-found

I didn’t have 1,000’s to spend on a custom app, and I didn’t want to spend any money or time on a cookie cutter app that I would have to push through to Apple and Google myself. “Ain’t got no time for that!” What we are doing at is providing you with an opportunity to build your own custom app for free! Upload your own logo; drop in features such as events, giving, blogs, info, etc…and then sign up for an extremely affordable monthly subscription once you are satisfied. We will then push it through to Apple and Google automatically. There you have it! That is why we are doing this…From one fundraiser to another, you can’t afford not to try it.