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Karen Zapp 9 min read

How to Engage Donors with Mobile

Savvy fundraisers know that every time a donor interacts with their nonprofit, the bond strengthens.  The donor becomes a touch more loyal and connected to the charity.  Mobile is a rapidly emerging platform for engaging donors in new and powerful ways.

This single extremely versatile channel of mobile allows you to . . .

  • talk to people (one-on-one or broadcast recorded messages)
  • send and receive text messages (SMS), including mobile alerts
  • send media files (MMS) such as pictures, video and audio that the donor can enjoy on their mobile device at that instant
  • receive donations
  • invite people to view info on your website anywhere, anytime. Mobile users also access social sites while on-the-go such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • use generic applications (apps) to enhance donors/prospects interaction with you; plus you can create custom apps that do anything you want
  • send and receive email; this is done by business people of all ages
  • make any media interactive including direct mail, print ads, billboards, TV, etc.

Sharing relevant content that your donors, prospects, members and advocates value is paramount.  And offering them engaging activities follows close behind.  Mobile gives you unlimited ways to do both.  It’s only limited by your imagination.

But don’t simply chase after the shiny new toy.  Take time to first determine how mobile supports your existing fundraising and marketing strategy.  What exactly do you want mobile to do?  How can it build upon what you’re already doing?  And then integrate it into the mix because mobile is not a stand-alone channel.  It works best when it supports your other channels.


Examples of how nonprofits are engaging donors with mobile

1. TimeToTalk.org and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America

The teens and twenty-something’s of today would rather text than talk on the phone.  This is a challenge for parents who want to talk with their kids about the dangers of drug and alcohol use.  One tool available at TimeToTalk.org helps parents communicate as their kids do . . . via text. 

Not all parents are skilled at sending and receiving text messages.  This is why the nonprofit created a free downloadable guide called “Time to Text.”  It has tips on how to text along with sample messages to send to teens on this subject.

Takeaway: If you’re concerned that your supporters may not be mobile savvy, help them learn.  Simultaneously provide content they want to receive about your org including how the donor is helping to make a difference.

2. West Hollywood Marketing & Visitors Bureau

This nonprofit created an app called “WehoKey” as a free download.  It helps visitors and residents discover new businesses, redeem money saving offers, connect with friends, and share tips and deals.  In the words of the Bureau’s president and CEO, “… this is a mobile marketing app that’s fun and engaging while also stimulating the economic vitality of our city … from a business perspective, it provides a cutting edge marketing platform for businesses located within our city.”

The WehoKey app takes advantage of GPS technology to pinpoint the user’s location (also known as proximity marketing). The user can browse special offers, look at videos, sample music and learn about events at more than 100 businesses.  It also includes numerous social media features so users can easily publish what they like on WehoKey to Twitter and Facebook.

Takeaway: Also think about the people your nonprofit serves.  How can you use mobile to help them even more?  Spread the news about this to your supporters because their generosity helped make it possible.  Oh, and a few examples from nonprofits in developing countries include using mobile phones to alert farmers of threatening weather, alerting people in remote areas of the dangers of soon-to-arrive floodwaters, helping the poor gain access to educational materials, and more.

3. Kids In Need Foundation

The Foundation recently announced it has gone mobile.  Their capabilities include a text-to-donate capacity through SMS, Twitter, and SMTP (an Internet email transmission protocol).  And it also includes the ability to create mobile polls and broadcast messages to send directly to donors’ mobile phones.

What’s their goal?  To engage new donors and to give current donors real-time updates on how the Foundation is doing its job: How the donors are helping the Foundation provide school supplies to students who need them most.

Takeaway:  Mobile is a powerful way to engage and cultivate your supporters.  Sharing success stories is one great example.  Keep looking for other ways to get donors and prospects to interact with you . . . polls, surveys, apps, call for volunteers, etc.

Cultivate and strengthen donor relationships through mobile.  Use it to engage them in new ways, share helpful tips, and to keep them informed of the great work being done thanks to their generosity. 

How can you creatively engage your supporters with mobile?  What potential do you see for mobile helping your nonprofit?

*Karen Zapp is the co-author of Mobile for Nonprofits: Connecting Donors Through the Power of Mobile.  Karen Zapp is a freelance copywriter and marketing advisor for charities and professional associations.

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