2 min Read
April 15, 2010

10 ways to embrace mobile @ your nonprofit

I recently joined forces with two other nonprofiteers to co-organize NTEN’s 501 Tech Club New York City, a monthly meetup of nonprofit techies and the people that love them. Last month we dug deep into the topic of mobile communications with awesome presentations from Katrin Verclas of, Jed Alpert of Mobile Commons, and George Weiner of Do Something.Here are some mobile best practices I took from their collective wisdom:

  1. Build your list. Ask for cell phone numbers on all contact and reply forms. Invite Facebook fans and Twitter followers to share their cell phone numbers with you too. As you build your list, be sure to follow best practices regarding privacy and opt-in/opt-out language. The Mobile Marketing Association offers some great advice and suggested language.
  2. Ask your audience. Like with any new technology or communications tool, make sure it is something your audience wants before you jump in. iPhone apps are cool, but will your supporters really use one?
  3. Don’t assume you know who is using mobile. With mobile use growing fastest among African-Americans (who are also the most active users of mobile technology), mobile may be a great equalizer in the digital divide
  4. Expand your definition of mobile beyond texting. Does your website look good on smart phones? Can someone become a fan of your Facebook page on their cell phone or check in to your organization’s office on a location-based network like foursquare?
  5. Consider the medium. A mobile campaign may be more likely to generate an immediate response, but it can be harder to build ongoing relationships with supporters if they view mobile interactions to get information, donate, or take action as one-time transactions.
  6. Don’t think about mobile in isolation. Start by plotting out how it fits in with the rest of your communications. In the 2009 year-end fundraising season, several nonprofit organizations followed an email appeal with a text message to reinforce “the ask.”
  7. Sharpen your short messaging skills on Twitter. While you have 20 more characters with mobile messages, the 140-character limit on Twitter can train you in being succinct. And pithy.
  8. Once you get started with mobile, put the call-to-action everywhere. Like your website URL, if you offer a way for people to connect with you via text, be sure to publish your keyword and shortcode at events, on your website, on your Facebook pages, in YouTube videos, on radio PSAs or podcasts, etc. While you’re at it, consider buying any misspellings of your keywords too. (Not sure what those words mean? Great mobile glossary here).
  9. Put communications best practices into action. When people donate via text, say thank you and build on the connection. Let them know how the campaign did and send them other information (if they opt-in) about your great work.
  10. Measure and test. The beauty of texting is that it is incredibly measurable. Set goal metrics up front, measure throughout, and refine your approach as needed. You can also conduct tests to determine what spurs the greatest response from your list–for example, does a message requesting recipients to text in a response perform better than one that asks them to visit a URL?

If you are yearning to wrap your head around more of this mobile goodness, view the presentations from last month’s 501 Tech Club NYC meetup:

How can your nonprofit use mobile to raise money, engage activists and/or share information?