Mobile Giving ‘Shock and Awe’

Moving From Disaster Relief to Mainstream Giving

03/31/2010  |  DOUG PLANK

January 2010 became not only the dawn of a new decade — but for those of us in fundraising, Mobile Giving proved itself as an easy and useful tool almost overnight. I call it the “shock and awe” of fundraising.

In one month, due to the Haitian tragedy, donations via Mobile Giving totaled more than $40 million dollars. Equally impressive and significant is that these $5 and $10 gifts are being made in 60 seconds or less and totaled approximately six million donations as of the writing of this article.

In one month alone, Mobile giving experienced more than a 1,000 percent increase in dollars and donors compared to 2008 and 2009 totals combined.

Newest Giving Tool Since Online Giving

Online giving raised its head in the late 1990s and during the ensuing 10 years went from a few hundred thousand dollars to a figure approaching $20 billion in 2009. Given the ubiquitness of mobile devices — some estimate mobile phones will outnumber computers three to one in 2011 — the question becomes not if, but when, will mobile giving exceed online giving.

Due to the already proven fact that mobile giving provides an easy and affordable entry point for acquiring first time gifts or additional donations from your current donor base, it seems this new tool should be adopted quickly by educational institutions.

Why? Because texting isn’t just for kids anymore

The fastest growing segment to use texting is age 35 and above. Therefore not just high school and college students, but consider the reality that prospective donors — your alumni and parents of K-12 and college students —are the new quick adopters for mobile texting and donations. Your current and prospective donors, such as alumni, are connected via mobile to their friends, office, faculty, etc. The social sites Facebook and Twitter are also accessed via Smartphone, and Mobile is replacing computers at a very fast pace. Educational institutions need to recognize this and act fast to incorporate mobile into their fundraising and communication tool box. Consider the following:

  • MSNBC reports that there will be more Smartphones than PCs by 2011
  • P.C. Magazine reports that e-mail is no longer the most effective way to communicate
  • According to Nielsen Mobile, texting already outpaces voice calling
  • There is a generational shift from large donations from a few to smaller donations from many.

Educational Uses for Mobile Tool

So how should those in education consider utilizing mobile devices? Given texting is outpacing e-mail, educational institutions need to start building their mobile list now. Unlike e-mail addresses, most individuals have only one mobile phone number, so it’s time to start requesting and collecting those mobile numbers. I recommend you add the opportunity to collect cell numbers to every printed and online form you use to collect names and addresses — including pledge cards and via your call centers.

Understand that unlike e-mail, mobile broadcasting (texting) to a list is controlled by a strict process whereby people asked to join a mobile list (for updates, news, team scores, etc.) must opt-in — meaning give permission to add a donation charge to their mobile bill and or to receive text broadcast communications from you. This prevents spam and places in the donor, friend or students’ hands, the permission trigger allowing you to communicate with them via text. I view this as a good filter because it means we need to “earn” the right to communicate via them via their mobile device. 

In addition to use for development fundraising purposes, we’re seeing some educational institutions using texting to communicate with prospective and current students. So how might you consider using mobile?

Building Your Mobile Development List

Alumni development — increase your participation rates and dollars raised.

Annual fund — you can schedule recurring carrier billed mobile micro gifts or Macro gifts of any amount via Mobilecause’s Text2Donate service. Unlike Mobilecause’s Text2Donate program, most ASP’s (Application Service Providers) do not provide a way to easily collect gifts of any dollar amount through the mobile device. However, at Mobilecause, we are seeing increased success in mobile initiated and credit card billed campaigns that are realizing individual mobile gifts in the hundreds of dollars and some at more than a $1,000.

Special events — use mobile devices to increase audience participation at events (sporting, concerts, in classroom, online) while building your mobile list at the same time. Utilizing the ability to conduct polls or questions that are posted live and dynamically change as people text in responses — called Text2Screen

Volunteer development — via text broadcasting you can issue an immediate request for volunteers or seek response for those interested in getting more information about volunteer opportunities. A mid-west Big Brothers Big Sisters program has successfully conducted all their volunteer campaigns via text for more than a year.

Call to Action for Education

Mobile is here to stay and each year is becoming even more ubiquitous. People may not have a pen, check book or even cash on them when an opportunity (a call to action) is heard or seen. However, most do have their mobile phone and could easily respond by texting a keyword to a short code, i.e., HAITI to 85944 to make a $10 donation. Or texting a keyword to 27138 to get more information.

Given the significant economical and communication changes we have been faced with these past couple years, the raising use of social sites by media and non-profits alike, and most important the fact that those served by education at all levels — the students, parents, alumni, donors, friends, faculty and staff — each have mobile devices, isn’t it time to add Mobile Strategy to your next meeting agenda?

Start with a few simple questions — do we have mobile numbers? If so, how many, and are they integrated into our data base system? Do we have a mobile strategy? If so what is it? What is the cost of raising money via mobile versus our traditional means? 

Begin the dialog and you’ll find numerous, very cost effective ways to implement and utilize mobile tools for your educational institution. Don’t be caught unprepared by the “shock” of not using mobile. Instead, prepare for “awe” by starting now to engage a mobile strategy for your educational institution.

Doug Plank is an executive with 28 years of professional leadership and administrative experience in cause-related and non-profit institutions including higher education, social services, medical and faith. Plank has helped raise more $600 million for education and cause related institutions. He is the CEO and co-founder of Mobilecause and can be reached at www.

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