How Local Nonprofits Can Use Mobile to Beat Goliath

This Mediapost article has some good news for brick-and-mortar businesses: the skyrocketing rise of mobile may actually be good for business.

As mobile grows, these businesses have trembled at the prospect of smartphone carrying customers showrooming their stores for better selection and prices online. While true in some cases, the author contends that mobile is helping to bring customers closer to physical businesses.

If this is true for physical businesses, what about for physical nonprofits? Can mobile bring supporters closer to local nonprofits and help them beat the out-of-state nonprofits that have muscled their way into their communities with brand and money? I think it can. The key is your proximity to people. It matters. Plan your mobile strategy accordingly.

Focus on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. have a natural connection with mobile devices. For example, over half of Facebook users access the site via mobile. According to marketer Jay Baer, you should spread your social media efforts across multiple networks. "Even though you can’t rely on any one particular message in any specific channel to reach your audience," explained Jay in a recent post. "You maximize the likelihood that SOME message in SOME channel will reach each audience member." I call it surround-sounding your supporters. Take a can't miss approach to communicating with them, and, of course, tell the local story that only you can tell.

Don't stop with social media updates to current followers. You also want to reach new supporters. Give Facebook ads and promoted tweets a try. A great resource on Facebook for nonprofits is John Haydon and his book Facebook Marketing for Dummies.

Embrace mobile search. People are searching more on more on their mobile devices instead of on desktops. The difference is that searches on mobile devices tend to be highly localized and users are focused on the very top results. For instance, if people clean out use their closet and use their phone to search for a place to donate the unwanted clothes, users are focused on the first three or four listings. A local clothing bank should focus their efforts here.

Hubspot has a helpful article on how organizations can dominate local search. Many of Hubspot's points are applicable to mobile search as well.

Use responsive design. Responsive design is just a fancy term for being able to clearly view web content on any device. When you don't use responsive design you're just turning away potential supporters. Woody Allen said that 80 percent of life is just showing up. Bigger, national organization aren't better than local ones, but they do a better job of showing up - being there when people are looking for them, or when they're not looking but should be. Using responsive design means you show up every time!

An easy way to adopt responsive design is to focus on social networks, which are naturally optimized for mobile devices.

Adopt two strategies. One for smartphones, one for tablets. Smartphone are the ever-present, utilitarian tool that people use to get things done on the go. Tablets are portable entertainment centers that amuse and educate. If I was opening a new museum near Boston's Freedom Trail I would take steps to ensure I appear at the top of mobile search results on tourists' smartphones. Conversely, I would also get busy generating plenty of content on social networks, a blog and Youtube channel for people to consume on their tablets.

What do you think of the impact of mobile on local nonprofits? Does proximity matter? Does mobile give them edge, or do larger, out-of-state nonprofits still have the upper hand?