In February 2010, Kaptivate worked with sector partners to launch a timely market survey (use link to access pdf of complete results). This survey sought to gauge the rate of mobile adoption among non-profits as well as to provide insight into the key factors impacting how they perceive the mobile medium. Specifically, the survey asked:
- What is appealing about the mobile opportunity?
- What are the challenges hindering integration of this marketing channel?
- What can be gleaned from the experiences of early adopting peers?
- What is mobile’s potential?
The survey findings reveal strong interest in mobile’s potential but also frustration in getting started. In short, responses were reminiscent of the family car ride: everyone’s excited by visions of the destination but distracted by the arduous journey. So, “Are we there yet?” Well, we’re on the road and we know a few shortcuts.
Interest in Mobile
Survey responses revealed growing interest in mobile fundraising as well as a growing likelihood that non-profits will take the plunge into mobile in the near term. A full 36% of respondents are currently using or planning to go mobile in the next 12 months.
While interest grows, non-profits are also pre-occupied by weighing the pros and cons for mobile. This exercise is especially frustrating for leadership because they simply don’t know what they don’t know. Respondents need more education on the potential, the pitfalls, and best practices. Despite these concerns, a good number (30%) are willing to explore mobile giving but fear their small size precludes their participation. This concern is not baseless. As it turns out, the major wireless carriers require charitable applicants to demonstrate annual income of at least $500,000 to be eligible for text-based giving programs.
In line with these comments, a strong majority of respondents (83%) believed mobile would improve donor convenience as well as reinforce donor engagement (74%) and donor acquisition (69%) activities for their organizations. Although many cited donor engagement as part of mobile’s promise, almost 50% also viewed the current mobile giving options as lacking the ability to cultivate donors.
This impression may be derived from text-based giving where communication exchange is very limited and wireless carriers preclude access to donor information beyond the mobile phone number. As one respondent notes, “our mission is too complex to understand in a text campaign.”
A key objective of the survey was to identify early adopters and solicit their real-world view of mobile giving along with their best practices. Given the extraordinary results for the Haiti relief effort—over $30 million raised—the Early Adopter experience contrasts sharply with this recent success; their initial results have also fallen well below their own expectations. Some responses were despondent: “Honestly we are withering on the vine. Nothing is working and nobody cares.”
The Early Adopters may not have scored the runs they expected in their first inning but they haven’t given up on the game. For many of the respondents with active mobile programs, the opportunity will only get better as they hone their marketing skills in this new medium, and more flexible technology platforms improve the user experience.
Reworking the Roadmap
We can categorize non-profit recommendations on user experience enhancements into three headings:
- Stronger engagement
- Better service
- Enhanced convenience.
If a better user experience builds momentum for supporter adoption, what features make mobile a “game changer” for non-profits? A consensus formed around the following wants and potential uses:
- Better transaction options
- Less dependence on wireless carriers
- More donor adoption
- Social networking
- Cause marketing
- Grassroots advocacy
The promise of “flash mobilizing,” “attracting younger donors,” and “driving traffic to stores,” still excites many organizations and fuels their interest in the mobile opportunity—an opportunity that some are beginning to view as far more than a fund-raising channel.
This survey helped to confirm our perspective on mobile and reinforce our view that the best opportunity and value for non-profits lies in mobile web application technology. Mobile web applications provide the flexibility, control, affordability, and user experience that address the challenges faced by mobile Early Adopters as well as the needs of non-profits aspiring to use mobile media. These applications do not depend on a wireless carrier intermediary—eliminating the restrictions on an organization’s size; expediting the receipt of funds; and removing restrictions on the value or frequency of donations. Moreover, good mobile web apps also avoid dependencies on specific mobile devices (i.e., Apple’s iPhone) and the web-based technology is familiar to users. Perhaps, the most compelling argument for the mobile web relates to its ability to evolve at a pace equal to this dynamic medium. Unlike SMS Text, mobile web apps can adopt new, added value functionality through simple interfaces.
For these reasons, we believe the mobile web represents the next generation of mobile giving and engagement and makes the case for moving to mobile now. To appreciate this leap in capabilities we encourage you to visit one of the mobile web app leaders, CharityCall, and make a fresh assessment of what mobile can mean for your organization.
So, are we there yet? No, but we’re making progress. The survey results reveal a nascent channel brimming with promise but also hampered by the many unanswered questions on how best to use it. There is a real need for education on what the medium can do and not do. For early adopters, and those following in their wake, marketing and promotional insight in the form of options, resources, and best practices will prove crucial to success. Without this guidance, many initiatives launching mobile as a standalone panacea for declining support will end in disappointment.
We should all be excited by the prospect of a mobile channel that can do more than manage a donation transaction. In the coming months and years, this growing media may hold the key for visionaries that want to engage their supporters, parishioners, and alumni and beneficiaries in a mission that has relevance anytime and anywhere.