What Does Mobile Mean for Your Organization?

Photo by Dave Lawler on Flickr
photo by Dave Lawler on Flickr

Consider how to connect with constituents on their terms

by Lori Halley

Are all of the posts and articles about “going mobile” and having a mobile strategy making you manic? While we’ve all come to terms with the fact that we live in a mobile world, what does it really mean for small nonprofits and membership organizations?

What exactly does “mobile” mean today? In a great presentation, Mobile Is the Needle, Social Is the Thread, Kristen Purcell, Pew Internet Project’s associate director of research, suggests:

Mobile …

  • Moves information with us
  • Makes information accessible anytime and anywhere
  • Puts information at our fingertips
  • Magnifies the demand for timely information
  • Makes information location-sensitive

It’s about more than just your website

So while there’s a lot of talk about how nonprofits and membership organizations need to update their websites so they are mobile-friendly or offer responsive design, “going mobile” is more than just about your website. It’s about a new way to interact with, find and consume information. After all, you aren’t just concerned about broadcasting information at website visitors, you’re also building community and encouraging conversation; and enticing supporters to respond to your calls to action. This means you need to think about strategies that “mobile-ize” your connections with your supporters, members or donors, whether that is via email, text, apps or even old-school phone calls, as well as on your website.

I like the way Watt Hamlett frames it in his guest post on the npEngage blog:

“Your organization [needs to begin] thinking about starting or deepening mobile engagement with your constituents who, like me, are rarely out of arms reach of their mobile device.”

Know the possibilities

Mobile isn’t just one thing, it is many. Today, the term mobile covers four primary types of engagement:

  • Mobile messaging: sending text messages to your constituents
  • Text to give: enabling your constituents to text a $5 or $10 donation to your organization, paid via their mobile bill
  • Mobile Web: presenting content and engagement opportunities in a way that is optimized for mobile device browsers, including things like donation forms and advocacy action forms
  • Mobile apps: taking your place beside Angry Birds and Flixster with packaged content or functionality

How should you ‘mobile-ize’ to connect with your constituents?

In a mobile session that we hosted last spring, there were some wonderful tips offered by some nonprofit industry experts to help organizations wondering how they should approach mobile. Here is some of their insightful advice on where to start:

In her post, “4 Questions to Ask Before Going Mobile“, Katya Andresen offers four groups of strategic questions to help guide your thinking:

  • Who are your constituents and what are they like? Are they using smartphones? How do they typically support you? When are times when they might want to take action on mobile, and what types of actions are you hoping to inspire?
  • What resources do you have to commit to mobile? Do a quick reality check. What time, money, expertise and staff do you have to commit to mobile, and what does that say about the scope of project you can handle?
  • How will mobile fit into your other outreach efforts? Step back and look at mobile as a way to supplement, reinforce and enhance your other efforts, including donor acknowledgement, special events and social media.
  • How are you going to measure your efforts? How will you track the return on investment in cost savings or added donations? How about the return on engagement in the form of new supporters, added convenience for supporters, improved advocacy and brand exposure?

In a guest post on “Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog”, Building an Effective Nonprofit Mobile Strategy, Tonia Zampieri offered tips to nonprofits on how to create a mobile integration strategy:

  • Build a mobile matrix. Include every distinct audience you talk to – donors and clients, if applicable. For one nonprofit your list might include teens, single professionals, stay at home moms, etc. Reaching these groups may require different mobile channels – texting vs. mobile web content, vs. mobile-rendered forms, vs. apps – and how they receive your information may be different, too. Creating an easy spreadsheet where matching up different groups with their respective channel of choice will help understand where to focus.
  • Do your homework and pick your most pressing need. To avoid being overwhelmed pick the audiences that you need to engage with most and work on developing a mobile strategy for them.
  • Write copy easily consumed via mobile. In our above example, will your new pamphlet be read right there on the phone or is it best to have it sent via email as a mobile download? Matching content to how it will be best received is key to achieving desired results.

In “Five Ways Fundraisers Can Utilise the Power of Mobile“, Craig Linton (Fundraising Detective) reminds us of the possibilities – aside from mobile users looking at our websites on their smartphones – such as:

  • Sending instant updates via text or email and get people to link through to exclusive content
  • At an event, “You have a captive audience and a chance to tell your story. Imagine a concert where the artist asks everyone to donate … to a chosen charity and they won’t play a certain song until 1,000 people have texted!

Making realistic mobile plans that fit your organization

With 88% of US adults using cell phones; 46% on smartphones; 19% owning e-book readers and 19% owning tablets (according to Pew Internet Project), mobile engagement is here to stay. If you or your Board still need convincing, take a look at Google’s “Our Mobile Planet” presentation (PDF). It demonstrates how smartphones are “indispensable to daily life,” are transforming consumer behavior, helping us navigate the world and much more.

But while your mobile planning will need to address making your website more mobile-friendly or investigating responsive design to accommodate growing smartphone use, you need to start by looking at your constituents and your key communications methods and messages, along with your budget, before making realistic mobile plans.

What steps has your organization taken to address mobile? Let us know in the comments below.

Lori Halley has experience in membership and communications at a number of professional and business associations and charities. This article originally appeared on the NTEN blog.

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