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The Essential Guide to Going Mobile for Nonprofits

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Updated 9/1/2017: This piece has been updated to include new information and resources.

“Going mobile” is a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard tossed around quite a bit.

You’ve probably waded through all of the blog posts, articles, and comments about mobilizing your organization and coming up with a mobile strategy and wondered what that really means. Sure, you’re aware that the world is becoming increasingly mobile, but how will this affect your organization?

Mobile for Nonprofits

You may already use desktop forms of nonprofit software such as membership management software or volunteer management software. However, according to GeoMarketing, mobile usage will continue to rise through 2018, while desktop/laptop computers are steadily on the decline.

Source

So what do you have to do now to reach your members? How difficult will that be? Does your organization have the resources to do it? How much will it cost, and where do you even begin?

The following guide on mobile implementation in membership and nonprofit organizations is here to help you answer all of those questions. It’s broken up into sections on what it means to go mobile, why your organization should do it, how your organization should do it, what it will cost you, and who has already done it successfully.

Part 1: What does it mean to be mobile in your organization?

Going mobile is more than just having a website—it means a whole slew of things. It’s about reaching and engaging with your members in a new way, and offering your members a different way to receive information.

You also want to provide a way for your members to talk to each other and join in on events and activities.

For your non-profit organization, being mobile can mean any of the following four things:

  • Mobile Web—optimizing your website, content, and donation forms for mobile devices
  • Mobile messaging—sending text messages to your members, co-workers, and donors
  • Online donations/text-to-give—providing a way for your members to donate through their mobile devices via a mobile-optimized online donation form or website, or by texting a donation directly to your organization
  • Mobile Apps—creating your own customized application for your members to download to their smartphones or tablets for easy access.

While those are the main four mobile uses, you may encounter some other mobile options as well. Watt Hamlett, Lead Solutions Engineer with Convio details some of those:

  • QR codes—enabling members to use the camera on their mobile device to snap a picture of a special barcode that then directs them to a mobile landing page or phone number
  • Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)—sending multimedia such as photos or videos via text
  • Augmented reality—taking advantage of the mobile device’s camera, compass, and GPS to overlay content or features on what the user “sees.” For example, Amsterdam’s Allard Pierson Museum highlights virtual reconstructions of Satricum and the Forum Romanum.

Part 2: Why should your organization go mobile?

Here are three key reasons you should implement a mobile strategy for your nonprofit:

●      Improved communication

Going mobile means you can access your members at any time and at any place—this enables more frequent and open communication between you and your members, and between your members themselves.

●      Increased donations

Allowing for online donation pages or portals, or donation apps, makes it much easier for your members to donate—when all they have to do is click a few buttons in order to make a donation, giving becomes easier, and in turn will encourage more people to give

In fact, according to @Pay.com, the Red Cross raised over $43 million for Haiti’s earthquake relief through a “text-to-give” campaign. Over 50% of the text-to-give donors made their donations shortly after learning about the campaign and 23% even gave the same day. @Pay found that in the past year alone, mobile donations have increased by a staggering 205%.

●      More volunteer opportunities and support for charities

Being mobile means that you have more outlets for posting volunteer opportunities and promoting certain charities. People will see them more frequently, as they can sign up for alerts for volunteer opportunities and browse through them on the go.

Part 3: How do you go mobile?

Create a nonprofit mobile strategy

Every nonprofit needs a mobile strategy to get the results that they really want.

Tonia Zampieri of Atlantic Business Technologies, in a guest post on Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog, emphasizes this by saying:

“[M]ost US nonprofits are not addressing mobile technology adoptions by creating a clear strategy to meet demand. Mobile devices today are an extension of our desktop computers, whatever can be done there is heading to their purses and back pockets. This is not a fad. This is our new reality…. whether donor or client focused in your marketing efforts—each and every nonprofit needs a mobile integration strategy to achieve desired results, making the most of limited budgets.”

Here’s how to get started on a mobile strategy:

  1. Make realistic plans that are suited to your organization specifically—first look closely at your constituents, communications strategies, and your budget.

Include every different audience that you speak with—donors, clients, and members. A sample list might look like this: teens, single professionals, stay-at-home moms, health care professionals, and Hispanics. In order to reach each of these different groups, you may need different mobile channels: texting vs. mobile web content, vs. mobile-rendered forms, vs. apps.

How each of these groups receives this information can vary as well. The best way to track this is to make a simple spreadsheet where you match up different groups with their preferred channel—this will guide you in deciding where you should focus your efforts.

  1. Start writing copy that can be easily accessed on mobile devices

Think about how your new pamphlet or piece of information will be viewed—will people read it on the phone, or will it be sent via email as a mobile download? Thinking about how your content will be received and matching it to that is important for getting the results that you want.

  1. Research and focus on your biggest need

If you don’t focus your efforts where they will be the best received, you will end up overwhelmed. Choose the group of members that require the most engagement and gear your mobile strategy towards them.

Questions to ask when developing a mobile strategy:

  • What resources do I have to commit to mobile?
  • How will mobile fit into my other methods of outreach?
  • How will I measure and track my efforts?
  • What are my members like?

Create Mobile Content/Apps

Once you’ve polished off your mobile strategy, you need to get down to creating content, or taking what content you have and making it accessible on mobile devices.

mobile phones

There are many tools out there that can help you to develop mobile apps for your non-profit and/or create a mobile website for your organization as well.

Here are some of them:

Tools for Developing Mobile Apps

Appery.io (formerly Tiggzi)

Appery.io is a cloud-based HTML5, jQuery Mobile, and hybrid app builder for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone (with Apache Cordova/PhoneGap). It is a mobile drag-and-drop platform, and provides interactive online tutorials on how to create an app. It also has customer support and blogs for more resources, and advanced options for the creation of custom apps.

 Cost:  The first app you build is free, and after that it’s $60/month for the Pro package, $135/month for the Team package, and the Enterprise pricing is custom and negotiated.

Buzztouch

Buzztouch is web-based software that allows you to host your apps on their site or on a cloud storage service like Dropbox. They are an open source “app engine” for iPhone, iPad, and Android applications, and used together with the iOS and Android software developer kits.

 Cost:  Free to get started

Titanium by Appcelerator

Titanium helps businesses and organizations to create native iOS and Android apps as well as hybrid and HTML5 mobile web apps.

 Cost:  A free version of Titanium can be downloaded at www.appcelerator.com. The Pro version of the software costs $99/seat/month and the Enterprise version is offered at negotiated rates.

EachScape

EachScape is a drag-and-drop platform that can build and manage custom apps for iOS, Android, and HTML5. It is ideal for large associations and nonprofits , and is also used by the Girl Scouts of America.

 Cost:  Enterprise versions start at around $2,500/month.

Corona SDK

Corona SDK allows you to create high-quality apps and games for phones, tablets, desktops, and even plugin TV devices like Apple TV and Amazon Fire Stick.

 Cost:  Corona SDK is completely free.

Tools for Creating a Mobile Website

MoFuse

MoFuse allows you to build as many mobile websites as you want for free.

 Cost:  Hosting plans start at $9/month

mobiSiteGalore

MobiSiteGalore is a mobile website builder that can be used from both a mobile phone as well as a computer.

 Cost:  Pricing starts at $49/year.

Mobile-enabled membership software

There are many different membership management software options as well that can be customized for mobility, manage your content, and help you with apps.

Part 4: What will it cost to go mobile?

Costs for going mobile vary widely, depending on if you decide to build an app, buy software, or just configure your website for mobile devices.

The least expensive option is to simply configure your site for mobile viewing. Website hosting services such as WordPress and Squarespace offer mobile optimization options.

For more information, check out SitePoint’s list of “10 Ways to Make Your Website More Mobile Friendly.”

Depending on your web development skills, building a mobile app is the second most expensive option, since tools such as Corona SDK offer their app building platform for free.

For building custom apps, there is an app cost estimator by Kinvey—it will walk you through all of the requirements that you have for your app and then calculate how much that app should end up costing you.

Membership management software  —there are many options  available to you that have mobile features and that can be customized for your organization.

Part 5: What are some examples of nonprofit organizations that have gone mobile?

The Humane Society of the United States added a text-messaging component to their campaign against the commercial hunting of seals in Canada, and offered its supporters live updates during the annual hunting period.

The manager of online communications, Grace Markarian, said that about 10,000 people signed up for updates in the first year and about 18,000 subscribe currently. She said:

“Rebecca Aldworth, our director of Humane Society International Canada, and our Protect Seals team are literally on the ice with the seals observing the seal hunt during a certain time period. Rebecca would call me and say, ‘This is what’s going on,’ and I would translate that into 160 characters and shoot that out to people. It was a very powerful, real-time way for people to have a window into the cruelty that was taking place and really understand that it was happening as we speak. It was very personal, because [the updates] were from her right to your phone.”

HSUS also sends virtual petitions via text and email and their supporters can “sign” these petitions virtually by texting a word to a specific phone number.

The American Booksellers Association was one of the first associations to build an iPhone application. It features monthly bestsellers, recommended book lists, store finder, and a book search as well.

Their latest rendition of this app includes information about scheduled events, including their biggest event, the ABA Winter Institute.

Save the Children has optimized their website for mobile so that it can be accessed on mobile devices—they have a simple layout, and a donate button so that people can donate straight from their mobile device if they wish.

Bonus: Resources for Membership Organizations

Want to learn more? Here are some great resources that you can refer to whenever you need more information:

Blogs

  • The Flurry Blog—they offer several solutions for mobile apps, and their blog is full of great insights and tips for going mobile.
  • Appcelerator Blog—the Appcelerator Blog offers advice on developing your own mobile apps.
  • —mGive is an organization for helping nonprofits with mobile fundraising for global disaster and crisis relief. They have a great blog with tips and advice on mobility and fundraising for your nonprofit.

Conferences

Guides

Other resources for nonprofits

Have you already gone mobile at your nonprofit and have tips for other organizations? Have you found any other resources and tools that have helped you out? Add them in the comments below!

On the Capterra nonprofit technology blog, we work to provide you with the guides, tools, and resource lists you will need to bring your organization up to speed. If you enjoyed this piece, then be sure to check out these similar blog posts:

Looking for Membership Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Membership Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Nick Morpus

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Nick Morpus is a Content Writer for Capterra, a free resource that matches buyers and sellers of business software. He has a background in politics, economics, and journalism, which he dedicates his off-time to contributing his thoughts to other political sites. In his free-time he enjoys reading, drawing, photography, playing guitar, writing, and cooking.

Comments

[…] More than half of all emails are opened on mobile devices. Mobile email refers to emails designed specifically to be viewed on mobile devices—maximizing accessibility, readability, and actionability. […]

Great article Leah! As many people know, with Google’s recent algorithm change, going mobile is no longer an option, its a necessity.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is about much more than just updating your association’s marketing website, it’s about meeting the changing needs of members. Many members want a mobile friendly experience to join/renew/sign up for an event/donate/read a newsletter, etc. As a result a ‘responsive’ or mobile friendly strategy needs to consider all member facing interactions with your organization online, not just the marketing website.

Check out this image showing an event signup page on a non-responsive page vs. a responsive page: http://silkstart.com/before-after – if you scroll to the middle of the page you will be an iphone and you can move the button left and right to see what signing up for an event used to look like, and what it looks like now on our responsive platform. -Big difference.

[…] case that doesn’t convince you, according to Capterra’s article,“The Essential Guide to Going Mobile for Nonprofits,” nonprofits that offer mobile options for donors generate up to 123% more individual donations per […]

[…] mobile device of choice. The world is going mobile, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. You’ll find people using mobile devices just about anywhere you go – especially your nonprofit w…. Most nonprofit leaders understand this, and that’s precisely why they invest in mobile-friendly […]

[…] Is your website mobile and tablet friendly?  The Essential Guide to Going Mobile for Nonprofits […]

Really necessary for business to know the approx price of developing mobile apps . If you want to convert your business idea into mobility and don’t have any knowledge regards cost, targeted audience, targeted platforms then this is the right blog…

[…] fundraising. In a Capterra Nonprofit Technology Blog article published back in 2014 entitled “The Essential Guide to Going Mobile for Nonprofits“, author Leah Readings talks about the importance for Nonprofits to be more mobile because it […]

Couldn’t agree more; we’re in a mobile first era. Texting and mobile giving are so powerful that it’s amazing these technologies are still so underrated in the nonprofit community. SMS, for example, is truly a Cinderella technology for nonprofits and social enterprises.

Texting is cheap, fast and easy. Has almost zero barrier to entry. And is built into every phone. People in lower-income communities, not just in the U.S. but around the world, have been utilizing SMS to give to charity.

We’ve been helping nonprofits use mobile messaging to raise funds since 2008. We offer a text to donate service that is affordable and effective.

Research shows that many nonprofits will raise more overall with a mobile donation program in their marketing mix than they will without one. Check out the infographic: https://www.gmg.cm/blog/do-sms-donations-work

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