I didn’t think so.
While text-to-give mobile giving raised about $37 million for Haiti – almost all for the American Red Cross – it’s not generally ready for prime time … yet.
In the meantime, the most practical use for mobile by nonprofits is going to be for advocacy, organizing, and information sharing, especially with the demographics who are more likely to rely on their phones rather than their PCs. Low-income Hispanic immigrants are a perfect audience for the pro-immigration campaign, Reform Immigration for America.
Says Online Director John Brian McCarthy:
“We have over 150,000 subscribers in our SMS network. I can’t give you an average response rate, because it varies so much by the ask and we send so much less frequently than email that it’s tough to normalize – an ask to call Members of Congress might generate 30,000 calls while an ask to call in and leave a voice mail about why reform matters to you might get just 1,000, and an ask to attend a local rally is nearly impossible to track.
“That said, we’ve generated more than 325,000 calls to decision-makers since we started the program last year… Another SMS metric relates to a series of house parties we hosted last October – out of the 1,000 house parties the campaign sponsored, more than half were self-organized by individuals who signed up to host via SMS, with thousands more people texting in to find a house party near them (and that was when we were at just 80,000 subscribers!).”
In the next few years, most of us are going to be spending most of our online time on some kind of mobile device, whether it looks more like an iPhone or an iPad. Mobile commerce tools from Google, Apple, PayPal, and/or Visa will make mobile buying and giving easy, reliable, and significant, at least for people under 40 or 50. (Texting, with its 140-character limit will morph into something that looks more like email or Facebook updates by then.)
With a major disaster (Haiti), a major brand name (Red Cross), and major TV promotion, mobile can bring in the $37 million (around 4 million gifts at a fixed $5 or $10 apiece). Apart from the Red Cross, most organizations raised a few tens of thousands of dollars from mobile – and they didn’t get donors’ contact info to thank them and resolicit them; even getting opt-in to continue communicating is difficult with the current mobile fundraising program, governed by AT&T, Verizon, and the other carriers.
Meanwhile, the average Web site gift for Haiti for the organizations that also did mobile was well over $100 or $150, and they got donor information and email addresses to continue the conversation. So if an organization gets a mobile gift from a person who has given, or would give, a Web gift, it’s a major loss. What’s more, giving via text or Facebook Causes could be a worrisome signal that some younger donors actually prefer to make a nearly anonymous one-off gift to avoid getting on a list for ongoing appeals, according to Chuck Longfield, founder of Target Analytics.
As with Facebook, another channel which isn’t effective (yet) for fundraising, mobile is here to stay. And organizations need to be where their supporters are, discussing sharing, educating, advocating … and cultivating.