4 Ways Nonprofits Can Get Started with Mobile (and 4 Ways They Shouldn't)

I'm writing this post in Kansas City where I presented at the Philanthropy Midwest Conference on How Mobile is Changing Nonprofit Fundraising and Marketing.

I put a lot of work into this presentation, as I really wanted to share some useful advice with my listeners on how to get started with mobile. I had four main suggestions to get nonprofits started on mobile NOW without going broke or crazy.

  1. Mobile starts with you. I bet you own a smartphone but what do you use it for besides email, music and Angry Birds? I use mine to track the analytics of my blog and e-newseletter, to pay bills and deposit checks, to buy my Starbucks latte, to unlock discounts in QR Codes, to make to-do lists, to sign contracts and invoice clients. The list goes on and on. My point is that you can you yell "Charge!" in the mobile revolution when you're spending most of your time on a desktop. I challenged my listeners at PMC to take my Wicked Awesome Mobile Challenge. Mobile only for one week! Stop reading about mobile and start using it.
  2. Master Email first. The bad news is that you mostly use your smartphone for email. The good news is that most people are just like you. That's why before considering SMS, apps and location-based services you should master email on mobile devices. Is your email subject line powerful and fewer than 35 characters? How about reducing that five paragraph email to one? What about larger links for fat-fingered readers?
  3. Step up to QR codes. Half of you are probably cursing me right now. (Sorry mom.) But QR Codes are easy to use, free and they can teach you a lot about mobile best practices such as avoiding bloated images and Flash. Let's not forget the growing link between the physical and digital worlds that will continue with NFC and augmented reality over the next few years. QR Codes are the stone wheel that will ultimately propel a virtual revolution.
  4. Focus on social media. Five years ago nonprofits were obsessed with their websites. The latest craze is building mobile websites. Sadly, it will attract even fewer visitors than your traditional site. Go where the people are. Focus on engaging supporters on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or your blog. I'm not saying you shouldn't have a mobile site. But devote the bulk of your time, energy and resources to engaging supporters on social media sites.

Here are a few of the mobile practices I'm second guessing.

  1. SMS. Text based promotions make great sense if your nonprofit serves teens or is seeking donations after a major disaster. But for most local nonprofits building a SMS subscriber isn't worth the effort.
  2. Mobile donations. Their time will come - of that I'm convinced. But the time isn't now. However, it's not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the different mobile payment options so you're ready when the mobile wallet is mainstream.
  3. Apps. Apps don't have to be expensive and complex, but persuading people to use them can be.
  4. Location-based services. The last time I checked one percent of social media users were actively engaged (defined as checking-in two or more times a week) on location-based services such as Foursquare. I'd focus on the other 99 percent.

You have to decide on what areas of mobile to focus. Your current supporters, or the people you want to call supporters, can guide you. Don't try to predict what their mobile habits will be a year from now. Follow what they're doing now and they'll lead you to the future.

CauseTalk Radio Ep10: Atlantic BT Talks Mobile, Nonprofit and $25k Contest

In this episode of CauseTalk Radio, Megan and I talk to Tonia Zampieri, Mobile Strategist, Atlantic BT about how mobile technology is changing nonprofit communications and cause marketing partnerships. We discuss having separate mobile strategies for smartphones and tablets, and some interesting new research on the connection between emotion and mobile ads.

Tonia also walks us through a new contest being sponsored by Atlantic BT that will give one lucky nonprofit a mobile makeover worth $25,000!



I generally don’t recommend QR codes for web pages. You might as well use a plain old hyperlink. But if you’re planning to listen to CauseTalk Radio on the go, scan the above code with your mobile device and you’ll always have a direct link to our podcasts on iTunes.


Atlantic BT Contest Site

Making People Cry Isn't a Good Nonprofit Mobile Strategy

Making People Cry Isn't a Good Nonprofit Mobile Strategy

I write a lot about the important role emotion plays in cause marketing. If you don't lead with emotion, you're toast. I also talk a lot about mobile technology, which will be a key driver of cause marketing in the years ahead. But here's the rub: emotion and smartphones may not be a good mix.

That's my conclusion after reading a post by Mediapost's Steve Smith on research by A .K. Pradeep, founder and CEO of Nielsen NeuroFocus, on the connection between brainwave analysis and ad response. I won't repeat what Steve has done a fine job of summarizing, but I will share what I like to call his Famous Last Words - that thing we should remember after all else is forgotten.

As screen size decreases so does the viewer's emotional response to what they are watching.

Think about the implications for nonprofit marketing. You've worked hard to create a strong emotional message with your nonprofit videos but on smartphones it will fall on blind eyes.

So, if you can't make people cry on their smartphones, what should your goals be?

Get their attention. Just because you can't engage people emotionally on smartphones, that doesn't mean you can't get their attention. You might need to grab them with something totally unexpected, or emphasize another component such as audio. The background music to a video, among other things, may play a bigger role in getting and keeping a user's attention.

Timing is everything. The impact of emotional messages depends on where and when it's viewed. This makes sense to me. When I had the chance to add a QR Code on a pinup sold at the register I didn't link it to a video on my nonprofit. Who has time to watch a video when you have to lug the groceries out to the car? Instead, I linked it to a question and answer page on the program so people could quickly find out to what they just gave a buck to - a common question/complaint after shoppers donate at the register. But you might be more successful with a video if the QR Code is on a cause product that people can scan after they get home and have the time and inclination for a good cry.

Focus on tablets. Nielson's research shows that some of the emotion lost with smartphones is restored on their big brother, tablets. Nonprofits may want two mobile strategies. One for tablets, the other for smartphones. That latter may require a more practical, utilitarian approach. If sales of Apple's iPad 3 are a good indicator (3 million sold in 3 days compared to the 80 days it took the first iPad to sell 3 million units) the word mobile, at least for nonprofits, should mean tablet.

Of course, Nielsen's research isn't the final word on emotion and mobile technology. A lot depends on what emotion is being engaged .

I'd love to talk about this more, but my 9-year old just sent a video to my phone that he says will make me LMAO. Gotta go.

Are You Ready for Mobile Cause Marketing?

"Fate leads those who are willing. The unwilling it drags." - Seneca

I've been thinking and talking a lot about mobile and cause marketing lately. Mobile seemed to be a big buzz word at SXSW earlier this month and I know firsthand there was lots of talk about it at Nonprofit Technology Conference the following week. Over the two days I was there, the only sessions I attended were on mobile. A lot of chatter about mobile devices!

Frank Barry got me thinking about mobile again this morning (Frank does that from time to time) with this infographic. Mobile is pervasive, inescapable and dominant. Like a tidal wave heading for our shores, there's no running or hiding from it. As cause marketers we have to man and woman up!

But many of us are still playing in the sand oblivious to the impending wall of smartphones, apps, check-ins, texts, and mobile web sites bearing down on us.

As cause marketers we need to resize our thinking for mobile and prepare for the future.

1.  The change begins with you. I'm surprised by the number of aspiring cause marketers I meet that don't even own smartphones, or choose to use them like regular cell phones. You can't lead your organization's mobile efforts if you've never looked at a web site or replied to an email on your smartphone. While people nod their heads when I say mobile is important, they strangely don't believe that this revolution applies to them.

2.  Get busy. Think about everything you do as an organization and what needs be optimized for mobile. A little daunting, huh? Take a breath. A speaker at NTC talked about this (beginning at slide 19) and identified four key areas to rethink for mobile: text campaigns, mobile web sites, applications and email campaigns. This is great place to start.

3.  Start using Foursquare. Sure there are other location-based services to try: SCVNGR, Facebook Places, Gowalla, Loopt, etc. But Foursquare is the Facebook of location. So if you're pressed for time or interest, stick with Foursquare. Check-in to locations, click on "Specials," add pictures, leave tips (something I've only begun to do thanks to a push [more like a shove!] from Estrella Rosenberg.) Focus on becoming more comfortable with how location marketing works for businesses and where cause marketing is playing and could play a key role.

4.  Get social NOW! "Wait a minute!," you might be thinking. I have to embrace mobile and jump on social media too?" Yep, here's why. Social media is the ying to mobile's yang. They belong together. 50% of the people on Twitter use Twitter mobile. People watch 200 million Youtube videos a day on their mobile devices! Mobile devices are social devices. If you're not going to pick up a bat and glove and play along with people, don't even bother showing up for the game. Or sit in the stands as spectator.

5.  Stop talking about your fricken web site. I do believe that web sites are important. I don't believe they are the digital holy grail for your cause. Without innovation, engagement and portability it's an online billboard that doesn't change or engage, and the people that do see it generally just ignore it. Get over your web site.

We all have limited time and resources. The cause marketing of tomorrow requires that you give your full attention to mobile, location and social media.

The mobile wave is hurtling toward you. Will you float or flounder?