Of course you’ve seen the appeals for text donations after disaster strikes. They rang out after Hurricane Sandy. And they were issued for other disasters too, like the earthquake in Haiti, or the recent floods in Colorado. No doubt you’ve heard how effective those appeals can be.
What you might not know is that mobile can be just as effective for non-disaster related causes as well.
In fact, 90 percent of mGive clients are not in the disaster recovery business. Our clients raise money for diverse causes, from animal welfare to cancer, from organizations like the National 4-H Council to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Appeals after natural disasters work well. But you don’t need calamity to make mobile fundraising work for you. We can take some of the lessons learned during disaster recovery and apply them to other types of campaigns. Here are four common elements of disaster-related appeals we can adapt and apply to all nonprofit fundraising efforts:
- Engage on a high profile issue
- Have an immediate, clearly demonstrable need
- Issue a clear call-to-action
- Thank supporters swiftly
You don’t need to call out the National Guard to create these elements. You have the power to do this on your own…no hurricane required.
High profile Issue: Yes, disasters get headlines. Clearly, you are not likely to have wall-to-wall CNN coverage of your end-of-year campaign. Wolf Blitzer and crew probably aren’t going to broadcast live from your annual event (and if they do, you likely have bigger problems…).
But that doesn’t mean you can’t make your appeal to mobile highly visible. Simply focus on the basic fundraising principles of targeting and segmenting your audience, cultivating donors and reinforcing your message through multiple channels.
Where do most people hear about text-to-donate appeals? On radio or television. The second most likely place? Social media. The third? At events. Simply put, you don’t need Wolf Blitzer, you’ve got social media. And you’re probably already conducting events.
If you‘ve also been carefully cultivating your mobile list sending them regular, targeted, updates, they will not only be used to hearing from you via mobile, but they are more likely to respond when you ask them to donate. We’ve seen conversion rates go up (and opt-outs go down) after a client carefully cultivated their mobile donors in that manner. Careful and sustained cultivation of a mobile donor file can alleviate the need for Wolf Blitzer.
Immediate Need to Act: The fact that a mobile phone is almost always within someone’s grasp (Americans have their mobile phones within reach 19 hours a day, on average) and the ease of making a text donation makes instant gratification a hallmark of mobile donations. Again, use the principles of fundraising to make this work for you by making clear, compelling calls to action that directly appeal to each audience. And clearly communicate the immediate need for action by touching directly on an aspect of your cause that you know they individually already care about.
Remember, many people are hearing about mobile through social media, so you have the ability to share powerful YouTube videos or other visually compelling content to communicate that need. You aren’t limited to a text message alone, even when communicating through mobile.
A donor’s mobile phone is an extension of everything you are doing online. Social media and websites are increasingly accessed through a phone, not a desktop computer. The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted earlier this year that one nonprofit had seen 18 percent of its “online” donations come from mobile devices, a jump from 2 percent over the previous year. That percentage will continue to go up.
Rather than asking someone to fill out a web form on the phone after they’ve been moved to act by your amazingly powerful content that they’ve viewed through mobile, ask them to make a mobile donation. It’s easier and fulfills the donor’s desire for immediate action.
Call to Action for Text is Clear: Finally, during disasters, the call to action is often a clear “ask” to text-to-donate. The need for immediacy is linked to making a text donation. Make sure your instructions are easy and simple and linked to action. Again, you can use social media, email and your website to direct supporters to make a text donation, and illustrate how to do so. If you are making the appeal at an event, make the call to action frequently and often from the dais or stage. Signs around the venue can help make the call and illustrate how to make the easy transaction.
One of the great advantages of text donations is that 100 percent of the contribution comes to your organization. There may be some confusion about that among donors, so be sure to be clear about this as well.
Thank your donors swiftly: Donors like to know their actions made a difference. In a disaster situation, they may see reports on the news about aid going to those most effected and feel apart of those efforts. But as stated earlier, you likely won’t have the news trumpeting your success, so make sure to tell your donors about the positive good their donations enable. That means not only sending an immediate thank-you message, but also scheduling follow-up messages that remind donors of your appreciation while stressing the impact their donation had. If they know their action counted, they are more likely to do it again.
Mobile phones are a part of our daily lives. We use them to conduct our routine business. No catastrophe is needed to get people to reach for the phones and start using them, and you shouldn’t wait for disaster to strike before you use mobile in your fundraising and donor engagement. Being successful at mobile doesn’t require a hurricane or earthquake – it just requires that you follow fundraising principles. You already know how to do that – just apply your fundraising know-how to mobile.